When I was a kid I had a bunch of goto superheroes like every other kid. The Bionic Man, Luke Skywalker, Superman and a lot of other fictitious figures. However, for me the only superhero I ever needed was my grandfather, Grandpa Jack.
My Grandpa Jack was a larger than life figure with a superhero’s resume of overcoming adversity, facing hell and persevering and enduring personal battles, while not only surviving, but thriving.
My grandfather lived through the Great Depression and like most during that time, struggled along with his family. However, when he would tell me stories about those times, (which I heard again and again) they weren’t filled with despair although I’m sure they were desperate times. Rather, they were always about pulling together as a country, stepping up as a community, and chipping in as a family.
When he talked about serving in World War II, it was about cheating his way through the medical examinations so he wouldn’t be exempted, hitting the beaches of Normandy on something like D+15 (15 days in after D-Day), wishing he could have been sooner to the action – not because he was reckless, but because he knew what was at stake. Later I learned of his leading a unit and liberating an extermination camp. However, it was never about the unspeakable horrors, but the incredible privilege to fight the Nazis, serve his country, and save his people from annihilation.
My Grandpa Jack did not possess supernatural physical attributes. However, he was supernatural in his outlook on life – he truly believed that we are in this together. He may not have had extraordinary outward talents, but he was extraordinary in his commitment to character, duty and honor, embodying the idea that we are here for something bigger than ourselves. My Grandpa Jack was an example of the type of men and women we need at times like these and in the words of Paul Harvey, “In times like these it is helpful to remember that there have always been times like these.”
As I write this, we are amidst another one of those “times like these,” the stuff of history books to be sure. Doctoral dissertations will be written about it, public policy will be shaped by it, and the way we live will be altered because of it. Although it is not on par with concentration camps or other horrors of the past, nonetheless, it has brought the entire world to its knees making it profound and unique.
The question is how will it be remembered and how will we be remembered? When our great grandchildren are reading this chapter in history class, or telling tales about us in future blogs like this, what story will be told?
Will they talk about how radical xenophobia or radical hospitality?
Will they remember fearful hoarding or magnanimous generosity?
Will they think of us as the new greatest generation defined by courage and commitment to others, or a selfish and shallow generation that succumbed to anxiety, panic and fear?
We are in the middle of writing this chapter within the history books, the memories of our children and the mind’s of those who will, or will not, follow in our footsteps. It is not over. Which outcome do we want recorded, remembered and emulated? That is up to each and everyone of us to decide.
In Times Like These
Yes, the Coronavirus will claim the lives of many, along with wreaking havoc upon our economy and changing the trajectory of our society, impacting generations to come. However, more devastating than the actual virus wreaking havoc on our physical health or the physical world, could be the devastation this event can have upon our mental health or inner world – a far greater threat to our society and those generations yet to be born.
My friends, each and everyone of us has the opportunity to turn the heads of those children watching fictitious superheroes away from the big screen and onto the screen of life, our life, your life. You don’t need to be faster than a speeding bullet or more powerful than a locomotive to make a difference during this crisis, or to influence that child watching how you respond.
It just requires a little extra courage.
It only takes a bit more selflessness and service.
It really only takes a slight more attention to the way we think, speak and behave.
In times like these, and there have been and will always be times like these, we need men and women like my Grandpa Jack.
This is the stuff of superheroes. So be that superhero and your children and children’s children will remember you, like I remember my Grandpa Jack, as a source of inspiration for generations to come.