Well, we sing the praises of our little hero, for we are understandably proud of him and his accomplishment, and trust that it will be but the first of many, many milestones reached in his life.
After the ceremony ended, there was a small stir among several people in the crowd as we all transitioned out to the large reception room where we were to make pictures, enjoy refreshments, and mingle. It turns out, my grandson attended preschool with the grandson of one of the most beloved sports celebrities in Knoxville’s recent memory.
This man had come to see his grandchild graduate, and was all but mobbed as individual after individual made the effort to speak to him. Now, by no means is my own name a household one; but having pastored one or more large churches, I know what it is like just to desire a little anonymity in the midst of a crowd.
The last time I saw the poor fellow, he was headed into the restroom. While he could well have felt the need to visit, he may just as likely have desired simply to be left alone.
And for this reason, I chose to remain focused on why I was there, which was to celebrate with my family, and not to inflate my own sense of self-worth by being able to say that I rubbed elbows with any given person.
That is not to say, however, that I did not interact with others. I soon came across an elderly gentleman wearing a U.S. Army cap, and promptly thanked him for his service to our country. A little later on, I encountered an aging man adorned with a cap that said “Vietnam” with appropriate military insignia. Given what he and his fellow service members endured when they returned form Southeast Asia, I made sure to speak to him and offer my thanks for his willingness to serve our country.
A little while later, I crossed paths with a uniformed policed officer, who was kissing his wife good-bye as she held the hand of their proud little graduate before heading out the door, obviously to resume his local patrol. I shook his hand and thanked him for his service to our community.
I did these things because I truly believe that such men are our real heroes. Now, hear me out. I do not in any way mean to diminish or belittle the accomplishments and/or value that sports heroes have in our world. They certainly serve their purpose as they entertain us and inspire us to make the most of our God-given talents and abilities.
As a child, I certainly had my own share of sports heroes. I could name every member of the Atlanta Braves, and most of the Atlanta Falcons. I spent many a night listening to them on the radio, and many a moment imitating them in play during the day.
But as I aged, I came to realize that there were plenty of other heroes in this world who were worth idolizing and imitating as well; only these wore uniforms of a slightly different nature. They wore Army and Navy and Air Force and Marine and Coast Guard uniforms rather than mere sports uniforms. They also wore police uniforms and fire-fighting uniforms and medical uniforms. And they arguably contributed more to my safety and well-being than did any of my sports heroes.
Memorial Day is a little over a week away. As this holiday unfolds, please remember to make it a priority to take a little time to seek out and thank those who have worn a uniform in order to guarantee your freedom and your safety.
For as the very name Memorial Day indicates, many who have worn a uniform for whatever reason are no longer among us today, many having paid the highest price on our behalf. It is important, therefore, to sing their praises, both while we still can, and while they are still among us to hear our hearts. Otherwise, they will be destined to remain unsung heroes, never knowing how much their service and sacrifice truly meant to us.