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Heroism Takes Practice

As a father, I want to raise my sons in Hero Training School whether they realize it or not.  I certainly hope that my actions and words have an impact on the man, husband, and father they want to be.  But, at the same time, if I want them to be ready when called upon, they need hero practice.

Heroes In Training @ Paris Mountain State Park - April 2014

Heroes In Training @ Paris Mountain State Park – April 2014

My sons naturally want to ‘play’ hero as they will often emerge dressed as Spider-Man, a Sheriff, or Peyton Manning.  However, there are (at least) two types of opportunities that I have to help them develop ‘personal heroism’:

1) Unplanned events – those teachable moments when you help them understand that making fun of others is not acceptable or how to be patient when learning a new skill (like tying their shoes).  My biggest enemy to success in unplanned events is just that…they’re unplanned.  I’m a big planner.  Most days in my life have a high level plan (go here, do this, etc.) and those plans don’t usually include taking an extra five minutes before we leave to review (insert your choice of skill or character quality here).  Those 5 minute delays don’t have an earth-shattering impact on my plan but they just might on my kids.

2) Planned events – times when you know the activity is going to be hard but you intentionally schedule it.  It could be anything from learning to ride a bike to rock climbing.  It doesn’t even have to be something you have personally mastered.  I know one dad who learned to kayak with his son…showing that Dad doesn’t have it all figured out either.  The challenge to these events is planning them.  Can you sacrifice one Saturday of errands or one week night of personal time to help your child accomplish something?  It’s all about intentionality.

I’m making a commitment to join ‘Hero Training School’ as an intentional instructor not a reluctant replacement.  How about you?


Hero Training School – The Softer Side

I recently wrote about how I had the opportunity to attend Hero Training School as a result of my father’s example which was influenced by his father’s example.  For several reasons, I need to take a minute to recognize my mother’s contribution to my ‘Hero Training School’ experience as well.  Why?

  1. She beat the crap out of cancer almost 20 years ago
  2. She retired early so she could take care of my dying grandmother for almost 3 years
  3. My wife makes it clear that I am more like her than I would care to admit.  (That little voice in my head worrying about how people perceive me?  Pure Mom.)
  4.  She reads my blog! 🙂
Three generations, November 2012

Three generations, November 2012

How does a mother contribute to her son’s ‘Hero Training School’? One big thing she can do is to let him know how special he is.  My Mom has been a personal cheerleader through life.  Through choices and changes, she’s stayed amazingly positive (even if us moving to France soon after having the first grandchild was hard for her to take…).

I see my wife taking the same cheerleader role for our sons.  She constantly reminds our older son that he’s ‘strong, smart, and studly’, even as he assures us that he feels anything but that.  Moms, don’t forget that your children (sons especially) need someone to support them throughout life’s changes.

Hero Training School

My grandfather, Frank E. Fields landed on D-Day, June 6 1944, at Utah Beach in Normandy.  He died before I was born and therefore has always been a ‘mythical’ figure for me.  He did some pretty heroic things as a soldier in the 4th Infantry Division, earning the Purple Heart and Bronze Star.  Family lore has it that he was even recommended for the Medal of Honor.

Frank E Fields, WWII Era Photograph

Frank E Fields, circa 1943

For a long time, I internally mourned that I had never gotten to meet this ‘great American’ who gave me his name (I’ve always loved this poem by Edgar A. Guest).  Then, one day I read this:

If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him. – John 14:7 (NIV)

I realized that, although, I had never met Frank, I had most assuredly met his son (my father), Jim.  And I knew a LOT about Jim!

  • How his faith in God shaped his decisions and actions
  • How patient he was when his son forgot the tent stakes forcing them to spend the night in a boat on an island in the Clinch River.
  • How he had many great ideas but had a hard time implementing them (Visionary!)
  • How important family history was to him

In fact, in observing Frank, Jim had spent 22 years in ‘Hero Training School’…and I’m fortunate to be spending my 39th year observing my Dad.  As a kid, he was certainly my hero.  Classic teenager attitude plus my parents divorce led to a period where I was sure that he was my ‘anti-hero’ but a loving wife and fatherhood has made Dad’s heroism much more clear to me.

So, parents, how about you?  You’re a hero to your kids whether you feel that way or not.  In fact, your kids are in ‘Hero Training School’ right now.  One day both you (and they) will wake up to see how similar you are.  Will they be thankful for that similarity or despise it?

Three Characteristics of Ordinary Heroes

A recent business trip gave me the opportunity to watch a couple of movies I’ve wanted to see for a while.  42 is the story of how Jackie Robinson integrated Major League Baseball in 1947.  I followed that up with Captain America, a comic-book adaptation about how an ‘average guy’ became a superhero during the Second World War.

As I watched these two films, one based on reality and the other based on fantasy, I thought a lot about what it means to be a hero.  I was reminded of some real heroes in my family tree.  For example, my grandfather Frank landed at Utah Beach in the first 5 minutes of D-Day.  My ‘grandfathers-in-law’ Bob and Bill were injured during the WWII Italy and Normandy campaigns respectively.  These men kept the heroic things they had done and seen mostly to themselves because ‘it was what we had to do.’  They were ordinary people who did extraordinary things.

With that in mind, I’d like to give you three things that I think help define heroes…those who get a movie and those who just deserve one.

John Richardson (left) and Frank Fields were members of the 4th Infantry Division / 8th Regiment Company G.  This picture is believed to have been taken in Germany in 1945.

John Richardson (left) and Frank Fields were members of the 4th Infantry Division / 8th Regiment Company G. This picture is believed to have been taken in Germany in 1945.

1) Heroes rarely start out intending to be one.  They aren’t looking for fame, fortune, or fun.  In fact, one thing that makes them heroic is the fact that they think that what they are doing is nothing special.  For me, adults and children who are fighting diseases like cancer are also heroes because…

2) Heroes are willing to die for a cause.  Soldiers, police officers, fire fighters…they risk their lives every day to protect others.  They place the value of others’ lives above their own.  That selfless attitude attracts others to them and their professions.  That attractiveness comes in part because…

3) Heroes control their emotions.  Bad things happen to all of us but what determines how we respond?  Planes strike the World Trade Center and New York’s first responders head toward the disaster, not away…even though all logic plus the fear they were feeling told them to run the other way.  Thousands of soldiers boarded boats to cross the English Channel so they could run toward the well-armed strongholds where the Nazis had built modern day castles in expectation of an invasion.  Heroes are able to do the exact opposite of what their emotions tell them to do.

Do any of these characteristics of heroes resonate for you?  If so, who have you seen them in?