The syndicated comic strip, “Pickles,” spoke to me recently (3/22/2021). A grandad and his grandson are sitting outdoors on a step, their dog, Roscoe, resting at their feet. The grandad says: “When I was your age all my heroes were cowboys. Hopalong Cassidy, Red Ryder, Roy Rogers, The Lone Ranger, Gene Autry…Now they’re all gone.” The grandson asks, “Who are your heroes now?” The reply, “Anyone who shows kindness and compassion to others.” The dog’s eyes open; it smiles. I agree with Roscoe.
As much as I might admire cowboys (and sports figures), they’ve never been my heroes. Like a lot of boys, my dad (“Bill” – Wilfred Otis Boettiger) was my first and primary hero growing up. He was a career officer in the Army Air Defense (even though he loved the sea), who served 30 plus years that included several wars. He believed good would always be victorious over evil. Yet, even with all his years in the military, he would’ve never said he was a hero or heroic. Although a man of his times, he was a kind-hearted optimistic human being. And, though set in his ways, he had a very inquisitive mind, desiring to always learn and be active. In his 50’s he became a professional sculptor, mostly working in bronze. Always an avid reader, he was gregarious, quite a storyteller, and later in his 70’s became a self-published author. Two of his favorite songs were “What a Wonderful World” and “We’ll Meet Again.” My dad loved life, his family and our beloved country.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines “Hero” as: a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities. The American Dictionary of the English Language includes: a [person] of distinguished valor, intrepidity, or enterprise in danger. And, bravery demonstrated in different ways is a key component of being a real hero.
During the past year, we’ve heard from and seen a lot of heroic people who also love their families and our country. These include first responders (someone designated or trained to respond to an emergency) – firefighters, healthcare workers, paramedics, police officers, national guard – as well as nurses, doctors, teachers, service workers, peaceful protestors, people crying for much needed change, even friends and neighbors. Few of these folks may say they are heroes or heroic; yet people in service to others are often heroic. Many serve selflessly with kindness and compassion, with understanding and caring hearts. Christian Science nurses who give practical care to those in need (sometimes in emergencies) are among these people.
As a nursing care facility, Wide Horizon is a religious non-medical healthcare institution, and the ministry of Christian Science nursing is different than much in the healthcare industry. Daily prayer and theological study and practice of Christian Science are part of this work. Also, there is wound care – cleansing and bandaging – and help with mobility and feeding; but there’s no diagnosis, no drugs, usually no recording of symptoms or temperatures. Yet, during the past year, Christian Science nurses have had to follow similar healthcare regulations and procedures, some foreign to their experience, training and theology. For example, daily recording of symptoms and temperature checks have been required. Most have nobly performed their duties with bravery and compassion, faith and fearlessness, kindness and patience, and understanding. For years, I’ve witnessed this essential work, which has also included all the supportive staff at Wide Horizon. Therefore, I can honestly say these folks who show kindness and compassion to others are often heroic, though they’d never say they are heroes. Christian Science nurses generally strive to follow the teachings of Christ Jesus and the writings of Mary Baker Eddy in their daily work and lives.
When I think about historical figures who may be considered heroes that I’ve read about, there are many. Those that come to thought as I write are the founders of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, women suffragettes, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, NASA astronauts, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mary Baker Eddy, a humble woman who struggled against the human institutions and male-dominated powers of her times. Mrs. Eddy was heroic in what she endured, desiring to help mankind and bring healing to the world. Yet, for me the greatest hero in history is Christ Jesus, who gave his human life in obedience to his Father to show that God’s power is supreme and life is eternal. Jesus taught that God loves His children and His creation, and that each of us should love God and love our neighbors. Jesus was a humble man, yet in meekness there was and is limitless strength. The Master consistently and continually moved with compassion and practiced kindness. The “Way-shower” showed us how to forgive and to love. He himself forgave and loved always, even while on the cross. Therefore, in my estimation, Christ Jesus is the ultimate hero!
So, who are your heroes?
D. Brian Boettiger