As we chatted the sun was slipping behind the mountains, bathing my westward facing office in a warm, golden glow. Is that a fitting metaphor, that amid all the sordid news of culture, the heroic figure is like the fading light of a long day?
One surely hopes not.
The conversation turned to the passing of St. Louis Cardinals’ legend Stan Musial who died over the weekend at the age of 92. He was a hero to many children and adults of another era.
His biographer, sportswriter George Vescey, attempted to sum up the character and charm of the one who was affectionately nicknamed “Stan the Man” in this way, writing a day after his death:
In those days before cable and the Internet, Musial was an icon because of clear-channel radio, from the Midwest to the South to the Southwest. His aura faded over the years, partly because of the inevitability of time, and partly because he lacked some kind of sizzle.
He was a family man who put up his own Christmas lights on his ranch house in a modest neighborhood. A friend of mine recalled going to a department store and seeing Stan and his wife, Lil, testing the mattresses, bouncing up and down.
Lukasz Musial, a Polish immigrant who worked in the zinc mills, was never comfortable in this new land, but his son (Stan), sweet and athletic, found mentors, men who taught him how to dress and shake hands and look people in the eye. He wanted to have a good life…
Even some of today’s baseball fans may not be familiar with Stan Musial, and given his age, it’s not all that surprising. But it's interesting to note Mr. Vescey's observation, that it's because of Musial's lack of "sizzle" that he faded in many people's minds.
In many ways, it's inevitable given human nature. We're drawn to the unusual, the sensational and the noise of even scandalous news.
Yet, heroism can be very quiet and very ordinary. In my book, a hero doesn't have to make headlines. A hero just has to do the right thing at the right time for the right reasons.
It's true that heroes often wear uniforms, not just sporting garb, but also military, fire and police, and they all too often don't get credit for preventing the worst of things from happening.
Heroes are everywhere. You just need to know where to look to find them.
Heroes walk the halls of hospitals. They are dedicated and skilled doctors and nurses, and they are volunteers who come to sit and pray and bring communion. A hero in a hospital may not provide a cure, but they offer hope.
Faithful pastors and missionaries, those who tell others about Jesus, are heroes. In a culture quick to criticize standards, standing in a pulpit and sharing God's perspective isn't always popular. It takes guts to preach the Gospel.
And they may not wear a uniform, collect a paycheck or don a robe, but some of the heroes of the highest order are moms and dads and grandparents, who quietly go about their selfless work of nurturing and training the next generation.
Parenting has a lot of ”ups” … picking up, putting up, lifting up. And unlike a lot of heroes in the headlines, most moms and dads don’t make millions – but they make memories that money can’t buy, memories that children will carry into adulthood. Memories that will soothe and comfort when things turn tough, which they will from time to time.
In my view, Marvel Comics would do well to capture and lionize the true character and strength of a mother. Likewise, fathers, who have the power to either hold families together or tear them apart. My boys enjoy Captain America and Ironman -- but I keep reminding them that their unmasked mom is actually far more powerful and wise.
So, yes, some say heroes are a thing of the past. I disagree. What about you? Are there people you encourage your kids to admire and look up to?
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