Phragments from Phyllis: Who are your heroes?
A couple of Sundays ago the sermon at church was on heroes, and the question asked was, "Who are your heroes?"
I reflected on the question, and I must say that my heroes have been far more personal, rather than national, international or historic figures. "Merriam-Webster" defines hero, in part, as "a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities" or "one who shows great courage."
But what form does that take?
Here are a few heroes in my life:
- Rev. Louis Vines was the minister in my church growing up. In 1948 he started a small, mostly blue collar, church in Portsmouth, Va. Under his tenure, Fairview Heights Baptist Church grew by leaps and bounds in so many ways.
As I made my way through college studies that included a lot of doubt regarding my place in Christianity, he supported my need to question and tried to guide me into a better understanding. By their example, his wife and he showed our church community how to live in the world with an eye on maintaining a right relationship with God.
- My father grew up in the Depression and managed to make a success of his life. Leaving the Moonshine and drinking of his family behind, he saw a better life and, at 13, went to live with a successful farmer as a hired hand. When he was old enough (he may have lied about his age, actually) he entered the U.S. Army and went to Europe in WWII, running communication lines for Eisenhower all the way from Normandy to Berlin.
On his return home, he began farming on his own, met and married my mother and eventually saw an even better life through what he had learned in the Army. He moved to Virginia and became an electrician.
He spent his life making sure that my life was better than his had been - insisting that I do well in school, making sure I went to college - the first in our family - and being the spiritual leader in our family and in our church. He demanded much of me, and he got it. For example, if I got a 97 on a test, he'd ask, "Why wasn't it a 100?" It made me work harder.
- My mother also grew up in terrible circumstances. Her siblings and she were scattered after they were taken from their mother - two in orphanages, one in the SeaBees, one married at 16 and my mother and her sister in foster care. She was beaten at 4 because she fell asleep in the field when she was supposed to be picking cotton. She, too, worked to make a better life for me and always tempered my father's stern manner with her kindness.
- Mim Woodring taught me a great deal about perseverance. I watched her continue to get up and out and contribute to the community even when daunted by her body - two mastectomies, three broken hips (and surgery to remove the hardware after one of those breaks), a debilitating surgery to her spine that never quite accomplished what it was supposed to, leaving her with limited mobility. She let none of that slow her down.
- Along the same lines, I have to add Brennan Simkins to my list. I have, through Care Pages and Facebook, watched as this little boy - and his family - endured untold agonies through various procedures, four bone marrow transplants, a number of near-successes and then disappointments.
He served as the guinea pig for cutting-edge technologies in an effort to save his life - and perhaps the lives of many others through what doctors learned in those procedures. I look at his smiling face and often wonder, if I were in the same boat, would I have long ago given up? It takes a very special person to have that kind of determination, not only to endure but to survive and thrive with a smile on his face and a song in his heart.
- I must list my children. I look at what is happening with so many families where the children have somehow decided that the world owes them their livings. I admit I, too, probably overindulged my kids. Yet, all three are now on their own with good careers. All three are not afraid to love. I am thrilled to watch Mac as he plays with his niece and nephew. I am delighted to watch my three grandchildren growing up and see how their parents care for them. And it warms my heart to see Cat, Liz and Mac with their respective soul mates - Scott, Vince and Joy. They have chosen well.
- Finally, there's my husband, Tom. He has always been the requisite "good provider," and he was always there for our children - and now our grandchildren. He just got back from a mission trip to Honduras, and I again see that inborn compassion that makes his heart ache to see children like Cade and Payton whose only shortcoming in life is abject poverty over which they have no control.
He returned with a renewed desire to do what he can to help. For as he says, "But for the grace of God go I."
And what do all these people have in common. In my view, they all show me God in the world, "the Christ in you." As part of Micah 6:8 reads, "What does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?"
Think about it. Who are your heroes? Who are the people you aspire to be like?
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