Unsung Heroes

Unsung Heroes

Mental Health OP ED

“Unsung.” Not praised or celebrated. But heroes nonetheless.

We may come in contact with these people in our everyday lives and if, after they meet you and make an impression on you, they remain unsung, then that is on you. That is on me.

Granted, some will never be celebrated in the press or at a banquet or even mentioned in an assembly with a simple “thank you.” But there are ways to celebrate them with just a well-timed comment or a letter of thanks, a trip to dinner or maybe a freshly baked apple pie. 

Those are the little things that people will remember when the chips are down and when the back is to the wall or perhaps in the dead of their winter season. A word from someone you don’t know leaves an impression. A word and a pat on the back from an adversary is satisfying. A word from someone you admire is golden.

As a child, my hero was my grandfather. He was a hard man who had to quit school after the sixth grade because his dad had died at 38 of a heart attack and he had to help his mother run the farm in Iowa. His younger brother was a promising pitcher and he yielded his education so his brother could pitch in the minor leagues. He was rough around the edges. He was a huge man and intimidated most people from just his presence and his booming voice.

He was the kind of man who had an opinion on everything and though his public education ceased at age 11, he never stopped learning. He never grew cynical to the point of quitting. Anything. There was nothing he couldn’t do.

When I was little, I followed him everywhere, including that one time I quietly followed him up a third story ladder with a hammer in my hand, to the chagrin of my parents. He was a harsh teacher with plenty of criticism and boisterous correction.

But there was one day with my grandfather that I will never forget. Not even to my deathbed. We were working side by side in a row of corn with him tilling and me gathering and stacking rocks. It caught me quite by surprise when he stopped the tiller, looked down at me and said four words. Just four words. They became the foundation for the rest of my life.

He said, not in his usual boisterous voice, but in a more hushed tone. “You’re a good worker.” I became “sung” and celebrated by my hero. You never know if someone needs a word or an encouragement, or you will deliver the words that will be a foundation for the rest of their lives.

And what if we could find one person each day and have that power to speak life into their soul. Perhaps a word they will never forget. A word that perhaps gets them through the rough times. You have the power to build esteem in others. What are you saving it for?

There is an unsung hero that I didn’t know until March of 2020 when I first came to Wyoming. I have the advantage of celebrating her in print. I have her watched her work ethic, her intense organizational skills, and her dedication to detail.

She is an old soul. Wise beyond her years and since my own daughter was estranged from me years ago, she has been like a daughter. She tells me when I am looking tired. She asks me if I am OK. She tells me that I need to take care of myself. When I left for Arizona last year, her husband told me that she cried real tears. She screens my dates. She is like a mother hen at times. She plays music and makes me dance when I don’t feel like dancing. She makes me smile when I don’t feel like smiling. She is a hero not only to me, but to so many at Wyoming Newspapers.

A few months back, when our longtime ad representative passed away, Bailey Ervin stepped in and has stepped up to the plate. She has knocked it out of the park, and I just wanted to choose her to celebrate today. Among so many kids her age, she is quality for her generation. A faithful wife, a caring mother and a diligent coworker.

Perhaps it will be a coworker that you want to bless today. Perhaps it’s a family member. Perhaps it’s the high school kid who is passing you a chicken sandwich through the drive through window. In a time when our nation is at each other’s throats, the rebuilding starts with you. And just maybe, it is a word that will stand the test of time and follow them all the days of their life.