Where Do We Go From Here?
I love what I do. Every week for the last eight hundred and twenty eight weeks, I have had the blessing to talk to and write about heroes. Some of them have been witnesses to some of the greater moments in the history of our community, our state or even our world, but the vast majority of the heroes I write about are the ones who excel in what they do in everyday life. Their admirable triumphs of the human spirit should be guides to each of us.
We are in trouble, but we are not dead. There is hope. On Tuesday, the voters of our country will elect a president and quite frankly - a new Congress or at least one which will work together for the good of the majority of Americans. We can only hope that the leaders we choose will be great ones, dedicated to restoring all that is right and good about America.
Webster’s Dictionary primarily defines a hero as “a man (or a woman) admired for his achievements of noble qualities.” A hero is usually defined as “one who shows great courage.” Just about any soldier, sailor, airman, or marine whoever put on a uniform will tell you that they are not heroes. “I was doing my job, my mission, my duty. The real heroes don’t come home,” they will say. Any of us who struggled through laboriously long epic novels in high school English will remember that a hero is also a central figure in a literary work, an event, a period, or a movement.
Finally, a hero can be the object of extreme admiration and devotion. These are our idols. Too many times we look for our heroes on the gridirons and diamonds or on the screens of multiplex theaters. Please don’t get me wrong. We need these idols. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having or being idols. I recommend that you seek them out and be one yourself. But, we should not count all of our heroes as the ones who have numbers on their back, or those who have fat wallets from being good looking or having a good singing voice.
For centuries, the people of Laurens County have always come through for each other in times of crises. Catastrophes come and go. Our spirits bend, but they never break. Whether in times of war or peace, storm or drought, or life or death, we are there. We have to be. It is the only thing we can do.
You don’t have to look on television or go on the Internet to find a hero. They are not just featured in history books or on the walls of museums. Many people turn back the clock or look far away for their heroes. In point of fact, heroes are around us, every day and all the time.
When I was a boy, we were taught by our elementary school teachers who our heroes were. They showed us pictures of policemen in neat blue uniforms and firemen with bright red helmets. These are the men and women who walk into incinerators and confront the bad man’s bullets. They are still our heroes. And, they will always be.
What we did not stop to realize is that the very ones teaching us who our heroes should be, were actually heroes themselves. I direct you back to Noah Webster’s lexicographers, “A hero is one admired for his achievements of noble qualities.” What could be more of a noble profession than that of a teacher? A lawyer? A doctor? A minister? I think not. Who taught the lawyer, the doctor and the minister how to read and think in the first place?
Today’s teachers are vastly underpaid and woefully under appreciated. They are forced to endure the ridicule of the indifferent and endless, senseless, and useless government mandates which keep them out of the classroom and sitting at their desks filling out reports. Yet, every day they show up for work - many with a smile and the bulldogged determination to reach the mind of a child. They are there every day, sometimes mustering their courage not to scream and walk away, but always with one thing in mind: the children, and yes, even the heroes of our future.
When I was a child, boys played cowboys and Indians and army. They are your heroes they said. We shot the bad guys just like our heroes did on our black and white televisions and on the big screen at the Martin Theater. We pretended we got shot and died.
Then the pretending stopped and real boys were being in killed in Vietnam. All of sudden we had a whole new group of heroes, but somewhere along the way, too many people forgot to thank them and welcome them home. It’s not too late; when you see a Vietnam vet, shake his hand, hug him and say “thank you.”
Today, boys are still marching off to fight wars started by men. It seems as if it was only yesterday when Thomy Foskey and Brian Palen were marching with the Fighting Irish Band during the half time shows. They and many of our young people are our heroes, fighting a war halfway around the Earth. There are many, many more. Let us pray that all our young men and women come back home, soon and safely.
Four years ago, I had a conversation with singer Gary Puckett, who sold more records than Elvis and the Beatles in 1968. Puckett closes his show by shaking the hand of every veteran in the audience and singing one of his signature songs Hero. He told me that he has to sing that song, which he wrote praying for the safe return of the guys in Vietnam back to their homes, their families and their momma’s chocolate cake. “They deserve to be thanked,” said Puckett, whose own father suffered profoundly from his time in a German POW camp.
Laurens County is blessed with more than its share of organizations who care about those who can’t help themselves. There are groups and clubs out there who band together to give others a boost with money, food, clothing, or if nothing else, a shoulder to cry on and great big hug. Give what you can to these people who care. With inflated gas and grocery prices and skyrocketing costs of just staying healthy and alive, their donations have decreased. Give, if only a little. If every person in this county gave one dollar to twenty-five organizations, more than a million dollars could be distributed to the needy every year. That only amounts to drinking about twenty fewer bottles of soft drinks and drinking water instead. It won’t hurt. You won’t miss it, but your waistline will.
Everyone has had a hero. Many of you have been heroes. You know a hero when you see one. When we see them, we stand up and cheer. Sometimes we smile and wave in admiration. But, the real heroes are the ones who make you and me cry. They are the ones who triumph over adversity, the ones who reach for the unreachable star, and the ones who never give up on their dreams.
Trouble is, we need more heroes. But you can’t just go through life looking for a hero. Are you looking for a hero? If so, go to a mirror, take a look, and see the best hero of all. Then, just go out and be one.
Put these on your “to do” list. Feed the hungry. Comfort the sick. Pray for those who suffer. Teach. Give. Volunteer. Serve. Hug your child. Don’t ask yourselves, “Do I have the time?” Don’t say, “I don’t have the money.” Just do it.
Being a hero is not very hard. You don’t have to hit a walk off home run, score the winning touchdown or get killed in a battle. It is actually very simple. All you have to do is to give all of yourself to someone else, just when they need it most.
God Bless America
Scott B. Thompson, Sr.