In today’s society like in the past, kids have heroes. This is a good thing. However, in modern society it seems the process of selecting heroes has become rather muddled or confused. Fame should not necessarily make a person a hero. We have experienced this from both sides: first as parents of two sons who chose heroes while growing up, and now with two sons who have distinguished themselves as outstanding athletes who are often the object of hero worship.
Please hang in here with us on this one so there is no misinterpretation of what we are attempting to say with this article. We do believe that both our sons are worthy heroes. Both are moral and admirable people with a strong sense of family. It is just alarming to see how so many people have selected them. Many children have been taught to or at least allowed to select their heroes/role models based upon nothing more than skill at a game. Few of these kids know much about their heroes beyond this particular skill. If children had been taught some criteria or standards for selecting role models, it would be different.
Allow us to illustrate with a personal example. Barbara’s Father, Dick Matthews, died suddenly last week. His five grandchildren delivered the eulogy at the funeral. It was obvious to all in attendance that “Grandpa Dick” was a hero to all five. As they spoke of him through their tears, they all mentioned his hero status in their eyes and used words like loyal, dedicated to his wife, hard-working, honest, a man whose word was his bond, as well as describing a fun Grandpa who always had a smile a mile wide.
Dick Matthews was quite a fellow. Nobody could outwork him outside his home. He built houses for a living but he also ran a 120-acre farm and did odd jobs on the side as was needed for extra money. If necessary, I’m certain he would have taken a night job to provide for his family and he did all of his work cheerfully, and with a bounce of purpose in his step. Inside their home it was a different story. In his house, Dick was the king and Maxine, his loving wife of 56 years, waited upon him hand an foot. It was not a “modern” romance but rather one from a previous generation and it worked beautifully for them. Dick earned a living and Maxine kept up the home.
Then, ten years ago, tragedy struck that loving couple and Maxine was stricken by a severe stroke. Overnight she became in need of around-the-clock care rather than being the caregiver. Without the slightest blink, Dick became that 24-hour, 7 days a week caregiver and on top of it he began to do all of the housework! He did all of the laundry, cooking, cleaning, shopping and everything else Maxine had done for all the years of their partnership of love.
A year ago, while out to breakfast alone with Dick, I was struck by the enormity of the change he had made on behalf of his loving wife and I asked him how he made such an amazing change so suddenly and so cheerfully. His answer really affected me that day and it will always be in my memory. He looked back at me, got tears in his eyes, and then quietly said, “One day 56 years ago, I said ‘I do’…”
At his funeral each of his grandkids said that one thing they had learned from Grandpa Dick was to honor commitments! They each got the message.
We as adults need to hold people like Dick Matthews up as heroes to our children! We all know people in our families and in our neighborhoods that are so worthy of being heroes to our kids. We must not be so careless as to think that kids will seek out these remarkable but often quiet people; we need to teach them what a real hero is and point out some in their immediate surroundings. Sure an athlete makes a flashy hero and many are worthy of the status, but let’s be careful to teach our kids what makes a person worthy of hero or role model status.
Make tomorrow “Hero Day” in your family and talk about what makes a real hero!