growinghumans


In the end, only kindness matters
November 4, 2016, 1:19 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

When I was young, maybe still in elementary school, my father showed me what it meant to be brave.

We were sitting at the kitchen counter, eating breakfast before school, when we heard the screeching of tires, the breaking of glass, and the gut wrenching sound of wood snapping. A woman had crashed her car into the telephone pole in front of our house. My father, still in his pajamas, walked calmly out of the house to survey the scene. It was not good. The telephone pole had, in fact, cracked and was bending over the car. Live wires covered the top, some still sparking.

My father, barefooted, approached the car, calling out to the woman, who began to scream. My mother stood on the porch and my sister and I were banished to watch from the dining room window. My mother, hearing what the woman was screaming, yelled to my father. “She’s got a baby in there! There’s a baby in there!” My father, showing not nearly as much hesitation as anyone should, simply opened the passenger side door (inches away from sparks) and disappeared into the back of the car. Moments later he emerged with the child in his arms. Soon after, the emergency vehicles that my mother had called arrived at the scene. The woman was safely removed from the car and reunited with her child and ushered into an ambulance, shouting thanks to my father who stood there in his undershirt and pj bottoms next to the car. Police took his statement of the accident and, from somewhere, a newspaper reporter appeared and also wanted my father to recount the event. When asked his name, he hesitated but gave it. When they asked for a picture of the hero of the hour, my father declined and came back into the house.

To him, it wasn’t an act of heroism or bravery, but what needed to be done. There was a baby in the car, and he got that baby out. Anyone else would have done the same thing, he probably thought. He is, obviously, wrong.

My father is not a braggart. He will talk the face right off of your skull about any topic in the entire world but he shies away about talking about impressive things that he has done. He was a part of the military police at an American base during Vietnam. He taught a class on how to build helicopters. He was a morning show radio personality. He won a Telly Award for a documentary he produced on flooding in a midwest town. He fell off a ladder and shattered all of the bones on the left side of his body. He’s had a conversation with James Earl Jones at an airport bar.

 

As his daughter, I know all of this. We don’t talk about it, but we know.

To everyone else, he’s just Rod Hinckley. Sitting in the kitchen, wearing his flannel jacket,  and listening to your life problems while making you a sandwich. A classic Clark Kent.

That day of the car accident, I saw what true bravery is. It isn’t leaping into a car and risking your life. It is shrugging off of things that might make you shine brighter in a crowd.  It is not relying on your accomplishments to define you as a person. Instead, it is the day to day kindnesses that we should all recognize in everyone. Don’t judge a man by what he does when everyone is looking; judge him by how he acts when he doesn’t think anyone is.

This is how my father has soldiered through life, how he has the reputation that he does, and why my sister and I will always be his biggest fans.

Be brave. Be clever.

But among all, be kind.

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