11 July 2013

Some Thoughts on Heroes

Our culture tells us that a hero is someone who pulls a child from a burning building. Or perhaps someone who single-handedly foils a bank robbery. Or even someone who scores 50 points in a basketball game.

I don't think that these feats begin to scratch the surface of true heroism.

A hero is someone who consistently sacrifices his own ambitions, dreams, and sleep for  the good of others. A hero is someone who stays when it would be much easier to leave. A hero is someone who serves even when it is costly or unrewarding.

When a father chooses family time over Halo, that is heroism. When a mother chooses to bake cookies with her daughter to the neglect of her Pinterest boards, that is heroism. When I choose the well-being of my wife and sons over another hour at work, I like to think that is heroism, too.

I started writing this post on June 16, which was Father's Day. I guess that my mind turns naturally toward heroics on that day, since my father is one of the most heroic men I know. His whole life has been poured out in service to his wife, his children, his church, his students -- in short, anyone who needed help.

Dad is a kind, thoughtful, sympathetic man. He loves to do good work, to solve problems, and to give his family what they need. He is intelligent but not puffed up, skillful but not proud, and full of wisdom without giving an air of superiority.

I remember riding into town with Dad when I was an undergrad at the university where he taught. We would park a couple of blocks off campus and walk together down side streets toward his office. As we went along, I would talk about all of the exciting new ideas I was encountering in my classes. Dad always listened carefully, treating me as though my unoriginal thoughts mattered immensely.

I still remember one of our exchanges very vividly. I was talking excitedly about Zeno's paradox of Achilles and the tortoise, which Dad didn't have a lot of use for. After patiently hearing me out, he said, "Son, I can tell you love to think about these ideas, and that's great. Just remember this: People are always more important than ideas."

To say that people are more important than ideas is noble. To consistently live it, even when the people are ugly and ungrateful and have serious problems, is heroic.

I'm very thankful that this particular hero is my father. I can't imagine a better one.

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