Maybe it's just me, but it seems as though our current culture is faced with a very stated, pronounced shortage of heroes these days. About the only heroes we encounter are the ones relentlessly filling up the big screen, ad nauseam. So perhaps heroes aren't real? Maybe they're only a fantasy conjured up in our minds, or the subject of comic book figures brought to life by costly Hollywood blockbusters?
How do we define a hero? What actions or behaviors constitute heroism? Are such accolades reserved only for wartime service? Devoted first-responders?
Webster's offers the following:
he-ro (noun) 1. a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements,
or noble qualities.
I think back over my own life, and I ask the question, who have been 'my' heroes? While both my paternal Father and Step-Dad both had their individual redeeming qualities, I don't consider either one of them hero material. My real Dad was obsessed with status, wealth, and possessions. My step-Dad liked drinking.
Heroes aren't concerned about recognition . They don't advertise their accomplishments. They perform their deeds unselfishly, without notice or fanfare. It's never about them. Their focus is always on the welfare and benefit of others.
Maybe that's the problem. Our society, for the most part, has a penchant towards narcissism. We're always working an angle, wondering, what's in it for me? How can I benefit? Does it make me look cool? Life becomes an endless 'selfie.'
So few are genuinely and authentically concerned about the needs of others, of serving without the thought of reward or recognition.
I have had two heroes in my life. The first one I encountered while serving as a sailor on a submarine in the US Navy. We were home-ported in Pearl Harbor HI. For the first two years of my enlistment, I had played sailor, indulging in all the activities one typically associates with being a 'swabbie,' less the tattoos. But while in Hawaii, I began to revisit a faith in God I had discovered back in high school. I started attending church again, and ended up at First Baptist Church of Honolulu, where I met the Associate Paster, Glenn Connell.
For the next several years, Glenn poured his life into mine. He invested in me. He encouraged and discipled me. Those memorable years on Oahu will always be some of the most powerful and formative.
Glenn went on to pastor churches in Tempe and Yuma AZ, and recently retired. Admirable outstanding achievements? Over 40 years of faithful ministry. Noble qualities? Lovingly devoted to his wife, Lynora, for 45 years! Though Glenn never pastored a big mega-church, or authored a best-selling book on how to be the best or better, he just quietly and consistently poured out his life and love for Jesus into people like me, and countless others, having untold impact in the lives of so many! That's a hero!
My second hero resulted from my marriage to Janice. Her Dad, Don Munson, is a man of very few words. But when he speaks, it's always with quips and quotes chock full of seasoned wisdom. Sayings like "This too shall pass" and "If you got it now, you wouldn't have it to look forward too!" or my personal favorite, "Have a better breakfast, have a better day!"
Don grew up on a farm in upper State New York, and recounts his childhood duties of milking cows and shoveling manure every morning before walking 10 miles in the snow to school! (Well, maybe not 10 miles in the snow, but you get my drift)
When I first met Don, he was the Branch Manager for the Kirsch Company warehouse in the Bay Area. For most of his adult life, he had been in various capacities of leadership in his local church - a Sunday School Teacher, a Deacon, an Elder, etc.
You've heard the saying, "He has the patience of Job?" Well, that is Don, but on steroids! I've never met anyone with a more gentle, sweet, kind spirit than Don Munson. He never ever loses his temper, or is short, or says anything even remotely critical about anyone. You read about the fruit of the Holy Spirit in Galatians Chapter 5, but you can see it in action and by example in Don's life, and by the way he treats others. He's not perfect, mind you. He doesn't like spicy food. He watches way too many westerns and Gunsmoke reruns. But he's the closest to perfect I've ever known!
I wonder, if someday, one of my own kids might ponder such similar thoughts. Would they consider me to be hero material? Probably not. Too many character flaws. Impatient. Well-intentioned, for sure, but lacking execution and consistency.
I can only hope that they too will have the good fortune I've had, of knowing Godly heroes like Glenn and Don, and be encouraged to become a hero themselves to their kids!
Lord knows we desperately need more heroes!