Saturday, August 23, 2008

Heroes--real and imagined (& other ramblings)

Hero. Nice word. Somehow over the years, its meaning seems to have changed. According to today's media, 'most every professional athlete and actor (or actress) is some kind of hero. Spare me, please. Don't waste your admiration on people who have either never lived in the real world or once did, but now can't remember what it was like. Real heroes deal with real problems in the real world.

I've been really fortunate to be around some wonderful people I consider my heroes. I'm absolutely sure that each of the people I'm about to mention would laugh in your face if you called them a hero. That's how modest and unassuming they all are (or were). And it's one more reason why they made my list. You'll notice two things:
(1) They are all Hubbertville-ians. I guess this indicates I've led a sheltered life close to home. The older I get, the more I consider this to be an asset rather than a liability. There's no place like home, especially when home is the Hub.
(2) This list is all men. Please ladies, don't take offense. This was by design. There are plenty of female Hub heroes; so many in fact, that they will have their own separate tribute farther on down the line.

Let me tell you about my heroes:
  • Caldwell Hollingsworth. Mr. Hollingsworth WAS Hubbertville High School for decades. The term "great" is sadly overused these days, but I know of no other word that does him justice. He spent his entire life in dedicated service to the school, community and people of Hubbertville. This was a truly great man.

  • Thomas Dunavant. This man taught me a valuable lesson. You don't have to be a doctor, lawyer, diplomat, statesman or other so-called "high-profile" type to positively affect people's lives. Thomas was a custodian at a small country school but still managed to positively influence generations of young people. If you measured wealth in the currency of love and admiration of your fellow man, Thomas was one of the richest men I ever met.

  • Coach Hubbert Steven McCaleb. Coach McCaleb taught us (at least those of us smart enough to listen) that there is no slack in the truth and no "gray areas" when it comes to doing what's right. He is another member of that dedicated small group who spend their entire lives in service to the school, community and people of Hubbertville. In a world full of back-stabbing, mealy-mouthed weasels who say one thing to your face and something else to your back, Coach McCaleb is a welcome breath of fresh air. He will tell you exactly what he thinks. In fact, he may hunt you up and tell you. And that's a good thing. Thank you, Coach.

  • Coach Lamar Harris. Coach has been the face of Hubbertville Athletics for over 30 years. While other coaches use their success as a springboard to better paying jobs with less responsibility, Coach Harris has remained at the Hub. His athletes don't just learn about sports--they learn about hard work, personal responsibility, teamwork, loyalty, and mental and physical toughness. In just the last couple of weeks, I've received e-mails from former players talking about how much Coach Harris meant to them and how he helped them be successful in life. Coach is the most driven, well organized, best prepared man I've ever known. But the thing I admire most about him is his unwritten set of rules. We don't cheat. If we can't do it the right way we don't do it at all. We don't do shortcuts or easy fixes. Play hard but play clean. Be a loyal teammate. Make your school, your family and your friends proud. And last but not least, never quit. Life lessons for real lives.
Not all my heroes are "mature types" like myself. A couple of my heroes are young guys:
  • Jeremy Peoples. I'm not going to re-tell his story here; it's just too painful for us all. But he stepped up and did the right thing under what must have been unbelievably difficult circumstances. If anybody ever doubts what high school athletics can do for a kid, they need only to look at Jeremy. He went from an unsure, nervous kid to a smiling, confident young man in an amazingly short period of time. At the time of his death, he was quite possibly the most popular kid at Hub. Our world is a lesser place without him.

  • My friend Alex Chaffin. Has anybody ever loved all things Hubbertville more than Alex? I don't think so. I'm 100% sure nobody has ever wished they could play high school sports more than him. Alex is pretty much Mr. Hubbertville and believe me, he is a great ambassador. He has literally hundreds of friends and I'm proud to be one of them. While Alex has some challenges in his life, he also has some tremendous gifts. He is the absolute best judge of character I've ever seen. And he is never wrong. He can spot a jerk or a phony a mile away. And he has the kindest, gentlest, most loving heart you'll ever find. The world would be a much better place if we were all a little more like our friend Alex. Hero.

The Old Gray Lion