Friday, November 16, 2007

Heroes '08

(News-Herald, November 15) Every year at this time, I write about honoring the heroes in our lives. I work from basically three premises:

1) When we openly honor the qualities that we most value, we help those qualities flourish, and we make the world a little bit better.

2) If we wait to find those qualities in a perfect, flawless human being, we will wait forever.

3) If we wait that long, we will regret it. The time to talk about what we admired in people is not after time, tide, or mortality have separated us from them.

It’s a mistake to withhold praise for virtue because we are afraid it might excuse a human flaw. It’s a mistake not to praise one person because we can think of a hundred others who are also deserving. And it’s a mistake not to praise a hero because we don’t have time to get the whole city to throw a parade. Honoring our personal heroes is important.

My heroes include people who put some of their heart and soul into their communities. It is easy to sit back and let someone else do it, to not concern yourself with anything but what you are getting out of the place where you live. It’s also easy to focus your attention and aspirations on the Big Stuff.

But what keeps a community running smoothly is all the people who carefully mind one piece of the puzzle or another.

My list of heroes includes guys like Roland Davis. If the City of Franklin had an AV Club, Roland would be the president. He’s made it possible for hundreds of people who don’t know a PA system from the PA turnpike to be heard. And he’s been there helping out when the help was needed, and not just when it was convenient for him to do it.

And that’s above and beyond the gazillion hours he has devoted to his church and the decades that he has spent being part of the glue that holds the Franklin Silver Cornet Band together. You don’t find Roland in the spotlight, but he’s often the reason there’s a spotlight there in the first place.

My list of heroes also includes people like Helen Ray and Sylvia Coast. It is incredibly easy for a community’s history to slip away, to be lost. It takes someone to step up and do the work of actively preserving it so that resources are available for people who want to search for family and events buried in the past.

When I first became interested in local history decades ago, I turned to the PA room at the library where Helen watched over a great collection of local resources. She should have thrown me out, or at the very least pointed out that I was a clueless historical duffer, but she helped me get started. Years later, Sylvia picked up that mantle (Helen’s helpful historian, not my clueless duffer).

There are more people like them at the Historical Society and the Oil City Library’s Heritage Room. How many thousands of people have found a connection with the story of their family and their community because of all these people willing to sit in a room watching over a bunch of old books and microfilm.

Every community is made up of thousands of little pieces. Some of those pieces survive on their own, but most of them survive because of some steward who watches over them and keeps functioning. Those stewards are heroes of mine.

I am sure that you have heroes as well. Here’s what I ask you to do every year in this stretch between Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving—do something about it.

You don’t have to buy your heroes a car or put their faces on a billboard. Just let them know that they are appreciated.

No phonecalls or e-mails. It should be a note. Something they can physically keep will be a powerful reminder of someone’s appreciation that can last for years.

No hedging. You can wait for another time to point out that although he is a noble person, sometimes he can be so annoying you want to slap him with a large herring. You can pick a later date to remind her that you have never forgiven her for the cranberry juice stain on your sofa. For this one moment, stick to the parts that you admire.

Just a simple note. You can start with “You are a hero of mine because…” For the price of a stamp, you can make the world just a little bit better.

1 comment:

LazyTcrochet said...

Hello Mr. Greene. Wonderful blog post. I found your blog through Venangagogo. Fond hello to Mr. Davis too!


From my Flickr