We all had heroes growing up: football and baseball stars, comic book super heroes, soldiers and generals, maybe even a few politicians (very few).
I played a lot of sports when I was a kid; American football being my favorite. I was a wide receiver, so when I searched the NFL for a role model, Steve Largent was the one I looked up to the most. He was kind of slow, like me, but he also had great hands and never seemed to drop a pass.
It is common for young people to look up to athletes, to want to be like them, play like them, live a lifestyle like them. But those kinds of heroes are only surface ones. They are there like a flash in the pan, and then they’re gone, leaving us only with memories of entertainment and maybe a little taste of glory.
The true heroes are the ones who have a lasting impact on our lives. They are the ones who shape our characters, opinions, and legacy. There is a laundry list of people I put into this category: Teddy Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, Desmond Doss, George Washington, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, just to name nine.
Every one of those people, along with dozens more, have helped create who I am as a person. They have helped to form my view of the world and how I interact with it.
However, none have had a more profound impact on my life than three men I call my three dads.
The first was a man named Ben. He was a friend of my parents, so I naturally called him Uncle Ben. He was tough, rugged, fiercely passionate, and a lover of the outdoors. He taught me everything I know about fishing and riding motorcycles. I’m still addicted to being on two wheels.
I will always remember the first time he ever took me fishing. I’d been standing there by the lake all afternoon, without even getting so much as a nibble. A storm rolled in late in the day, and the rain began to fall soon after. I could tell he wanted to leave, but he told me we could stay just a little longer.
As the sprinkles turned into a full downpour, I saw the bobber on my fishing line dive beneath the surface of the water; my fishing rod tensed immediately. I reeled in that fish with more joy than I could ever recall up ’til that point in my life.
To this day that is still one of my favorite memories.
Another man I consider to be one of my fathers was a fellow named Jack. He was the father of my best friend.
Jack taught me everything I know about music. In fact, until I met him, I didn’t really know anything about music other than I was tired of listening to my mother’s Anne Murray albums.
He created a band for our elementary school (K-8), and booked tours for us all over the eastern half of the country. In 1985 we marched in a parade on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. In 1990 we played in the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis. My favorite gigs were when we played the National Anthem for the Atlanta Braves every year.
Jack seemed to be able to do anything for us kids. He opened doors that were closed to everyone else. Not only that, he gave every ounce of his being for the children of our little community. He was a lover of life, passionate about music and unique experiences. The quote he always used was, “This is a once in a lifetime experience.”
Both Ben and Jack had extraordinary impacts on my life, but neither had such a profound influence as my own father.
My dad used to come home from work and spend hours with my brother and I out in the back yard, playing soccer or football or baseball. He created a basketball team for us in high school and a baseball league when we were little, just so his kids and other kids in our community would have those outlets. Both the league and the team are still in operation decades after they were founded.
He taught me, and still teaches me, things about spirituality, life, courage, grieving, acceptance, and gratitude. Whenever I talk to him on the phone, we talk about one or all of those things.
Everyone needs someone to look to. Especially in the tough times. My dad was always there when I was hurting (which happened frequently). He encouraged me, and tried to help me through those difficult moments.
He is a rock I still lean on when things get rough.
While all three of these men, and all the other heroes I mentioned, were and are amazing people, none are without flaw.
We all have deficiencies. We’ve all made mistakes, bad decisions, and just basically screwed up royally in life. That’s what humans do since none of us is perfect. Even super heroes have flaws: Superman and kryptonite, Ironman and his long list of problems, and The Hulk’s incredible anger management issues.
What makes a hero so heroic, is their ability to do amazing things and the impact they have despite their flaws. They push through the big mistakes or huge shortcomings to do something great for the world, or for us as individuals.
The heroes in the stories I write are the same way. They aren’t perfect. Far from it. But they fight through the imperfections to accomplish awesome things.
Their imperfections are what make them heroes. We can look at them and say, “I can do something great, too.” They give us something to aspire to become.
So, be grateful for the heroes in your life, no matter who they are. Show them you appreciate them. Tell them thank you. They have shown you greatness.
And for that, they deserve our respect.