An engaging column from last week (Equality and Hero Worship: by Daniel Schwindt) got me to thinking about heroes.

An engaging column from last week (Equality and Hero Worship: by Daniel Schwindt) got me to thinking about heroes.  
I always like what Randy Travis once sang:  “Heroes will help you find good in yourself, your friends won’t forsake you for somebody else.  They’ll both stand beside you through thick and through thin. That’s how it goes with your heroes and friends.”
That singer and that song said something very special to me. Both heroes and friends help us become. We may take them for granted, but they are who shape us into just who we are.  
Hmmm….who are my heroes?
As I thought about that, I realized how carefully we must choose our heroes. Heroes can destroy as well as enliven; they can disappoint as well as inspire; they can humiliate as well as elevate. We’ve recently seen too much of the down side of hero worship. I think of the 19 young Muslim fanatics who forfeited their own lives while murdering some 3,000 innocent victims.  This evil was done while following their hero, a diabolical genius named Osama ben Laden.
Every young suicide bomber equally reflects such idolatry. Their “hero worship” brings death and destruction to many innocent people.
Then too there are the immature gang members in our cities who will follow the commands of their heroes with gun fights and drive-by shootings. The horrid murders and maiming among the drug traffickers of Mexico is another expression of deadly hero worship. We must be very careful who is our hero; the choice can be deadly.
There also are much less serious, but still very painful consequences to making any human being our hero. How many young Americans made Lance Armstrong their hero? He was a “Tour de France” champion seven times, and he had done this great deed while defeating his cancer.
How high he must have been held in the hearts of many admirers. Yet, the recent revelations of his use of performance enhancing drugs, and the consequent stripping of his trophies, must have wounded many who looked to him as their hero.
The repeated moral failures of media stars, political figures, and sports champions would seem to ensure that we remember that all human heroes have clay feet; that all humanity is flawed and will eventually fail excessive adoration. President Bill Clinton was a hero of mine, yet when his immoral tryst with that young girl was revealed, I was deeply disappointed and truly hurt. What a sullied pleasure for shattering his whole legacy. When it comes to human heroes, caution is the rule.
 After some 80 years, I don’t expect human kind to be spotless heroes.  I’m not offended when the question is raised about celebrating the first illegal alien to set foot on America, Christopher Columbus, while treating current illegal’s with open hostility. To me that national holiday is very questionable.
That our “founding fathers” were flawed seems historically accurate.  From slave owners, to self-serving land owners, to the establishment of the first ethnic cleansing program against Native Americans, these are all part of the early years of our nation. Facing those realities helps establish a needed national humility. America too has often fallen short of the glory of God.
Then again, who are my heroes? My father was my first hero.  A 6-foot, 4-inch Texan, with a big white hat, an engaging personality, and the best sales man I ever knew. I gained much from him.  
Early teachers surely impacted my vision and abilities, expanding the first and sharpening the second. A university history professor turned me toward the study of history, a turn for which I remain grateful.
Many vocal music leaders and certainly clergy helped me embrace the faith and sing God’s praises.
One bishop of the church lifted me up when I was at my lowest, believed in me, and gave me a third chance at ministry. All were heroes to whom I still give thanks. Recently Dr.  Martin Luther King Jr. opened my eyes to a truth I’d ignored, and then inspired me to follow his lead into making his dream increasingly come true.
Now President Obama is my most cherished living hero. His courage in “going where no black man has ever gone,” in facing contempt more viral than any president before him, and still seeking to serve his country is an inspiration to me, and I hope to many.
Increasingly I’ve found my heroes among those who give and serve. They no longer are among the champions, the stars, the warriors or the victorious.
My heroes are those who give of themselves for the benefit of others, who are willing to serve and seek not to master, who make little noise but leave a large impact.
I saw a video that showed nurses running down a hospital hall, obviously rushing to help someone in need. The caption said: “Not all super heroes wear capes and masks.” Such heroes give life and never take it; they are due honor and emulation.  Who then is my ultimate hero? He lived some 2,000 years ago; won no victories; had no portfolio; was awarded no degree; even had no place to lay his head. Yet in His suffering, death and resurrection, all sin was forgiven and death was conquered, the only two things He defeated. His name is Jesus; He is my only true hero. I’m often asked why I wear that “little cross” around my neck. It is a precious gift from my beloved wife. It contains a 2,000 year old broken piece of glass that existed when Jesus walked this earth.  I tell folks, “I’m just like NASCAR; where cars display symbols of their sponsors; who it is that fuels their energy.” That little cross is the symbol of my sponsor; the one who fuels my energy. He really “helped me find good in myself, and did never forsake me in spite of myself. He stood beside me through thick and through thin.” He truly is my hero and friend. I commend Him to you, too.

Fr. Bob Layne, Episcopal Priest retired, McPherson.