I can’t think of a very clever title right now. I’m exhausted. I just spent about two and a half hours in a Boy Scout, Eagle Scout Board of Review. I am happy to announce the young man did exceptionally well and I’m very honored to have done this.
For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been brainstorming or brainstumbling around with a post on heroes and heroism. Don’t know why….I just try and always have a couple of posts in the back of mind so that I can write about something at any given moment. Maybe I should have tackled this yesterday as opposed to boring you with an inane post on how exhausted I was. By the way, I slept twelve hours last night. Yeah, you read that right. Twelve beautiful hours. But I did have a terrible nightmare. Don’t care. Twelve hours.
But I’m talking about heroes so let’s talk about heroes.
When I was a child, I worshipped Flipper. While the other kids were G-Force (Japanese anime cartoon), Buck Rogers, Luke Skywalker, Princess Lea, Superman, Batman, or Wonder Woman, I was Flipper. And I saved the day. Every time, I was the hero because who couldn’t resist having a dolphin for a super hero. Best part about my super hero….I didn’t have to wear my underwear on the outside.
But in reality, I still have heroes, people I aspire to be like. People whose qualities are amazing and humbling and beautiful.
Like Dave Preston, whom I lovingly refer to as Big Daddy. Dave served as a Seabee in the Vietnam War, served during the Tet Offensive of 1968 (I think…sorry if I got the year wrong). He served without thinking of himself but because he wanted to serve others. To me, that’s heroism, when you choose to give of yourself even when the outcome could be death, pain, or something horrible. Dave has told me stories about watching the glowing fireworks of the tracers until he started hearing bumblebees zipping by his head. They weren’t insects. They were bullets. Going right past his head. From inside the compound because the Viet Cong were trying to kill him. Inside the military compound.
But Dave’s heroism isn’t just because he served in the armed forces. It’s because even now, nearly forty years later, he is still giving. For nearly a decade, Dave has travelled the miles down my high school’s halls and told his stories to my students and me. With no thought to how it might affect him or how people might see him, Dave narrates what it was like to step off an airplane in the United States and promptly being assaulted. Because he was in uniform. Because he was serving others. Dave has bought me gifts, poured out his love on my family and me, and asks nothing in return. He is constant generosity. The memory that truly stands out to me was last year when he took my family and me first to the Seabee Memorial in honor of the Seabee birthday and then to the Vietnam Memorial. I watched as this beautiful man rubbed his fingers into the groove’s of his friends name and talked about his fallen comrade, his brother in arms. Dave’s voice trembled as he talked about Keith (sorry Dave if I have the name wrong) and Keith’s untimely death because the Viet Cong set out an IED to blow up the truck and the man driving the truck after the man had just drilled a well for a Vietnamese village so they could have the blessing of fresh water in the center of their village. Dave, you are one of my heroes because of the incredible grace you bring to the POW table to constantly remind everyone to be grateful for the blank checks we haven’t had to write.
Or Keshia Thomas who was at a rally in which African-Americans were dealing with white supremacists and lines were crossed and punches were thrown and a white man tumbled to the ground and she threw herself on top of that man and protected him with her own body. I saw the photo journal about her in Life magazine nearly two decades ago and I remember holding my breath as I followed this young woman’s journey as she became a human shield and protected a man who might have hated her for the color of her skin (he claims he was not siding with the white supremacists). I admire her for her lack of thought for herself and instead the momentum that carried her past imaginary lines and racial boundaries and onto the back of man hunched over to protect himself from the blows and kicks directed at him and his head. She was a Christ figure as she held her arms behind her and protected this man whose name I don’t know and don’t care to know. Her name is the one that matters.
And then there is my Boy. I want to declare his name to the world, but I also want him to live a life of privacy. But when the Boy was younger, we were in Target and a person lifted a box that had the noisiest noisy things in existence. And the bottom of the box was not taped together. So, naturally, as the person lifted the box, the bottom collapsed, and the contents spilled out everywhere. And my beloved son who was only about five asked to go and help the person. My Boy left my side and voluntarily went to this person who was probably radiating him or herself with embarrassment and helped with repacking the box and setting it back on the display. The Boy gave. He gave without thought. He asked for no compensation or thanks. He didn’t expect it. He merely gave. And he continues to give to this day. I’m so proud of the Boy.
Heroes aren’t bred on another planet. They are not alien invaders bringing altruistic promises while hiding their identities. They are here, everywhere among us. I think we just need to open our eyes a little more and stop being jaded.
If not, I’ll introduce you to the Boy. He’ll change your heart.