Someone once asked me if I have any living heroes. I had to pause and consider the question. There are many men and women who I deeply admire for their intelligence, integrity, character, talent etc. But a hero? How many of us are truly heroic? Then it hit me. Of course- Georgia Congressman John Lewis. Allow me to share with you a handwritten letter I sent to an authentic hero.
Dear Congressman Lewis,
I have been meaning to write you a letter for a very long time and I am finally putting pen to paper (I am very old school regarding communication.)
The word hero gets bandied about in our society and I feel that is unfortunate. We often see the word hero in describing athletes. Although winning the game with a last minute touchdown or a three pointer is admirable, it is not heroic. Saving other peoples’ lives in the process of saving your own, I would suggest, is also not heroic. Taking an unpopular stand and risking one’s reputation or livelihood is brave, but even that, in my mind, does not meet the standard of heroism. What would I consider heroic?
A young man, barely out of his teens, with his entire life ahead of him risking life and limb for a higher cause. A young man, meeting injustice and oppression head on (literally, as attested by a fractured skull). A young man who crossed lines and bridges, who was beaten near death but kept getting up, broken but never beaten; a young man who fell but never faltered, riding and marching for freedom and justice for all, never flinching or backing down. A young man who made the struggle for justice for all people his life’s work, and continued that struggle without compromise as the years and decades passed.
You, sir, are that man. John Lewis is the man I think of whenever the word hero is spoken.