Sunday, November 26, 2017
A few years ago, NPR had a show entitled “Songs You Just Can’t Hear on the Radio” and today we are going to remember acts of valor you just don’t see on the news anymore. We are in the season of gratitude and we are thankful for the ordinary heros in our lives. Some of us, who are lucky, even have them in our families.
Like Dale Beatty who lost both of his lower legs when a roadside IED blew up the Humvee he was driving in Iraq. He gets home with two prosthetic legs to Statesville North Carolina and a couple of guys in his church decide that they need to build him a home that is accessible for someone with a disability. They pitched the idea to the local builders and the next thing you know people were donating money. Dozens of people got involved in a conspiracy of goodness, the house got built, the people decided to keep the movement going and “Purple Heart Homes” was birthed and to date there have been some 38 modified homes built for soldiers that have returned home with disabilities.
Sometimes to be a hero, you don’t have to start movement to channel the zeitgeist of your time to change the world. You just have to be ready when a good challenge presents itself.
Like Temar Boggs and Chris Garcia, both aged 15. They were at home watching TV when an emergency flash came over the screen that advertised a missing child in their neighborhood. They rain outside, hopped on their bikes, and rode to the corner where the child was last seen. Just a couple blocks over they ran into a car that was driving suspiciously so the teens rode towards it as fast as they could. The door opened and five year old, Jocelyn Rojas was let out of the car as it sped away in the distance.
The two teens accompanied young Joceyln back to her Mother and the police who were still ineffectually searching the area for the child.
Or Keenia Williams, a 22 year old, single mother who was driving with her one year old in Colorado when she saw a tractor trailer in the rear view mirror swerve to avoid two stopped cars in the road causing it to roll side over side. The driver was thrown from the cab and fuel was spilling all around him. Keenia ran straight at the driver and found Michael Finnerty, aged 52, who had climbed away from the fuel before he passed out in pain.
Keenia lifted him under his arms, pulled him to her car, put him in the back seat and covered him with her coat as the truck lit on fire in the distance. The fire department said she surely saved his life.
And we remember the ordinary heroes that modeled the character that we need to do the right thing, whether or not someone is watching because it is the right thing to do. Perhaps you saw the piece this week written by the Managing Editor at the Wall Street Journal, Brett Stephens.
He remembered a time when he was 7 years old and went to visit his father at his office in New York. He is alone in the office with his father’s secretary when he decides to pat her on the bottom. It just so happens she had a ream of paper in her hand and she turned and swatted him, thump, on the head with that ream of paper. Pretty hard.
Hard enough that young Brett went to his father’s office to report this potential child abuse. His Dad listened to the story, explained that this was disrespectful behavior on his part, and marched young Brett into apologize to the secretary.
Brett went on to comment on his reaction to the scores of stories we’ve been hearing lately about sexual harassment and he remembered when his Dad finally had the dreaded talk with him as a young teenager about sex. He was trapped in the car.
But it left a life-long impression on him. His father was short on mechanical details, but long on describing how you hope to find a life partner who is someone you respect and want to become genuinely intimate with.
He spoke to him about how to romance a partner and cultivate a reciprocal giving with each other. In other words, he gave his son a spiritual vision of what we hope our love relationships become.
If you have a vision of the goal you are shooting towards, it is a lot easier to figure out what is right and wrong on the way to getting there. And we all benefit when people integrate their love lives and their sexual selves. What a blessing to have a model like that for the younger generation to follow.
I think of Coach Kieran O’Brien. He had a player that was hurt his Senior year in high school. The young man was a leading scorer on the football team and his injury sidelined him for the rest of the season.
The boy became dejected and decided to quit the team and move on to the next thing in his life. Coach came to see the boy, talked to him about leadership because he had been one of the leaders for the Offense. He explained to him that the team needed him on the sidelines, inspiring the other players, continuing to lead even though he was hurt.
He talked to him about not just winning the game and being the star but winning in life and showing up and being counted and following through even without the lime light.
I heard that story 25 years later from an executive that had recently finished a prolonged re-organization of his business and it was far from clear at the outset that it would be successful or even the right thing to do. But he persevered and he was talking to a group of his peers about how important the lesson of perseverance had been in his lived life, not the one that was reported on in the celebrity pages of the paper.
I think about people that live redemption like Shiela MacCrae who was married and discovered that she couldn’t have children. She married young and her husband responded immaturely. He had an affair with another woman. She got pregnant. He left Shiela for this other woman to raise their child.
How wounding a blow. And all of Shiela’s brothers and sisters were starting their families. It was a tough few years for her fighting off low self-esteem, loneliness and that sense that life might pass her by.
She meets another man, in a more mature phase of her life, and they fall in love, passionately so. There comes this moment when it feels like this relationship might be all in, and she has this secret that she has been carrying around with her for these years.
And before she can even get it out, she starts to cry so her boyfriend pulls over to the side of the road. He is thinking that she might break up with him. And she blurts out, “I can’t have children”. He is wide eyed that this is the news.
And he just blurts back, “Honey we will adopt”. With that he sort of proposed, just after she warned that she wasn’t marriageable. I was at the wedding of one of their four children, each from a different nation. The family photo is a kind of United Nations display of sorts. And you can only speculate about what the next generation afterwards will actually look like.
But it is worth remembering because these people take the very thing that makes others feel like they are cursed and turn it into the source of such fundamental blessing. That we can do and we call those actions divine because it is so like God to transform that which hurts us into the portal of personal and family growth.
We need ordinary heros in our lives. We need others to point us in the direction and remind us of what is possible if we live out of positive grace.