September 8, 2012

On Heroes

What is a Hero?

The dictionary defines a hero as someone who is 'distinguished by exceptional courage and nobility and strength' ... For me, I think that our heroes are those men and women that inspire us to be better people.

When we are very young, our heroes tend to be more fantasy than reality. From superheros who can fly and are stronger than the bad guys, to those real people we idolize and who, in our young minds, have superhuman abilities. These heroes, especially the real-life ones, often assume gigantic proportions in our earliest memories, and if we are fortunate, give us a role model to follow as we develop our own unique personalities.

As a child, some of my favorite stories were about the heroic adventures of the Knights-Of-Old, rescuing fair damsels and saving the down-trodden from the evil dragons of the world. I learned to read at 4, and my world was, from a very young age, one of books and ideas.  My very first real-life hero was a figure that seemed ripped from the pages of a medieval story, and set down in 'modern day' America.

Uncle Bub to the rescue!

My father was gone a lot when I was little, and while I always loved him, he was somewhat of a mystery to me ... but my Uncle Bub was always there; not just for me, but all of us 'kids' ... To this day, I'm not sure why he went by Bub (His real name is Eldon E. McDaniel), but I think it had to do with being a brother or 'bubby'.

As a teenager, Bub was never too busy to host an impromptu game of 'gang-tackle' or show us 'little guys' how he held his razor when he shaved. Once my cousin and I, we must have been 5 or 6 years old, got in trouble for playing fireman in the exhaust of the car as it warmed up ... (yes, cars USED to smoke a lot, especially when they were cold). Grandma and grandpa read us the riot act and we had to sit in time out while the other kids had lunch ... Uncle Bub was the one who sat down and explained to us that the smoke was actually dangerous (we could get FIXIATED, which was bad, or even DIE, which was worse), but then he snuck us each a sandwich anyway ....

As a young man, Bub joined the Marines and became 'Mac' ... and the first time I saw him in his uniform I was thunderstruck. He really WAS a Knight-In-Shining-Armor! Then he even rescued, and married, a fairy-tale princess .... My new Aunt Kathy was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen (and I swore to myself that if Mac was ever lost, as he was out there slaying dragons, that I would step up and marry her myself

Needless to say, Mac probably doesn't remember being a super-knight in my mind, but he was, and the little lessons I learned from watching him have helped me to be the man I am today. His examples, even if I did make them bigger-than-life in my own mind, made me want to be a better person and one that he would be proud of ... and the day that I got a letter from him that said he WAS proud of who I was becoming, did more to influence my self-esteem than all the spelling-bee championships and participation trophies in the world.

Are you someone's Hero?

Don't underestimate the power of love in the life of a young person. If you try to live a life that you can be proud of, there may just be a young person who looks up to you.  They won't see the pimples, and they won't care about the trouble you once got into ... You will be, to them, the epitome of virtue, valor and goodness - in short, a hero. Please don't treat this lightly, but try to set for them the finest example you can of what it means to be a good person ... the world needs all the good people it can get.

I guess if I can leave you with just one message, it would be this: Idols and stars, whether they are on the stage, the radio, the field or the big screen are wonderful, but they aren't heroes. Fame is not a precious commodity, but true heroism is ....

Heroes, in the end, are those who, by their examples, create within us the need to be better people, the desire to be more like them, and the sense that with honesty, honor and dignity, anything is possible ....

This one's for you, Uncle Bub ... But I gotta say that I should have stopped emulating your example BEFORE I ended up with this stent in my heart ... lol. I hope you won't be offended if I stop at 1 heart attack, and I don't try to break your record ...

   From Grandpa's Heart ....