“Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome.”

— Booker T. Washington

Our heroes are never the people that have lived the easy life (as if anyone ever really has that). They all have a common thread. They face insurmountable odds. They don’t think they have it in them to overcome what they are facing. They give it everything they’ve got and finally, they prevail. That is what makes them our hero. We see ourselves in them and we think if they can overcome what they face, maybe just maybe we can overcome what we face.

The truth is, we can overcome unbelievably hard things. We are the only generation that has been shielded from this Truth. We want only easy things and yet the majority of us will root for a sports team we hate if they are the underdog. Why? We love when the underdog wins. We love to see the weak say they are strong. While none of us want to admit our weakness and overcome it publicly we are endeared to those that do.

If you have a chance in May to get your hands on my book, Parenthood Unplanned, you will discover that I spend a great deal of time talking about my dad in the first chapter. I write about him for the same reason I wrote about Kobe Bryant last week because our dads, if they are good men, are our heroes. My dad was just that man. He was that man not because he was wealthy, had an important title, or was a famous basketball player because he wasn’t any of those things.

He actually had a lot going against him growing up but despite it all he prevailed. He stayed good hearted. When he died my husband told me he had been thinking about dad and he said to me, “You know, Sarah, I’ve been thinking about this for a few days and I don’t think I ever heard your dad say an unkind thing about anyone.” What a legacy for me to live up to, especially in today’s social media society, where people will make judgement calls on a sixty second video and hide behind a keyboard while being unkind and at times, downright vicious.

My dad grew up in abject poverty in the hills of West Virginia. He came from a very large family. His father died when he was thirteen leaving his mother to care for the younger children. He had a few years of homelessness because he and his brothers didn’t want to live in an orphanage so they “took off.” His older brother got a job driving the town trash truck which gave them the opportunity to find stuff others had thrown out like shoes. My father’s toes permanently overlapped one another not because of a deformity but because during his formative years he wore shoes that were too small for him most of the time.

West Virginia winters can be brutal, you have to have shoes if you don’t want to lose your toes or freeze to death. By the time he was in his twenties, his teeth were in terrible shape and had to be pulled due to lack of nutrition, I’m sure. My dad had dyslexia which prevented him from learning to read and his writing was minimal at best. He would take one of us kids to the store with him if he needed something read to him. He was also color blind. He was ambidextrous…I’ve seen him knock a ball out of the park with both hands.

God is after all the God of compensation. What we lack in one area he usually gifts us in others. My dad could make a friend anywhere he went. He never knew a stranger. Can you imagine what his world looked like? I cannot. What I can tell you is that despite all of the hardship he never got bitter or angry at the world. He didn’t consider himself a victim. He walked down the street with his head up and he shook your hand like he meant it.

He had every excuse to be angry, blame others or play victim but he didn’t. My father would have agreed with Booker T. Washington when he said, “Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome.” The burden we all carry is responsibility and response. Our responsibility is to make the most of what has been given us, regardless of the hand we are dealt and if we are willing to do that our best response will follow.

Much like the Marvel heroes we love so much it was Dad’s heart that made into my hero not some cosmic superpower the universe mysteriously bestowed upon him. He was an overcomer. Like scrawny Captain America being beat up in a back alley but having what it took all along to defeat Hitler. Or losing the love of his life and waking up ninety years later and not being bitter but striving to catch up on what he missed and fighting the bad guys in spite of his personal heartache.

Heroes are dauntless, they are born on the other side of fear. They are forged in the fire. My favorite Mariah Cary song sums it up the best, “The Hero lies in you.”


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