FIRST GLIMPSE: Heroes
“I wonder if travel will ever feel safe again.”
The thought flits across my mind like a startled sparrow as I snug down the nosepiece on my mask and unsuccessfully try to get comfortable in the worn leather seat. Glancing around the cramped airplane cabin, I see fear reflected in many eyes, anger in a few, and resignation in others. COVID-19 has changed everything.
Glancing out the plane window it occurs to me that all changes haven’t been bad. Cold and flu cases are at record lows due to better hygiene. Working from home has become a win-win for many small businesses and their employees as they cut overhead expenses and save on gas money. And college applications for medical and research fields have soared as we gained new appreciation for frontline heroes and the work they do.
Ah...heroes. Such an interesting term. Most people have come to associate it with first responders, soldiers, or individuals who perform extraordinary feats. This seems to have been the intent of the Greeks, who first coined the word heros to describe the demigods and warriors of their mythology. However, I lean toward the simple English definition from the mid-1600s: “One who exhibits great bravery.”
Heroes have been on my mind a great deal during the past year. Without taking any (well-deserved) credit from those who literally put their lives on the line daily, some lesser-recognized folks have demonstrated true heroism through the pandemic. Pastors, who stumbled wide-eyed through their first online sermons and comforted endless grieving families. Decision makers, from school to church to government offices, whose seriously tough decisions made them targets for a frightened and frustrated population. Parents, who guided children through terrifying months, not to mention the stress of at-home learning. And, what about survivors, who lived through COVID-19 (or some other catastrophic illness) and then faced down the terror of returning to the daily routine in spite of overwhelming anxiety? Such courageous examples to a frightened world!
My mind also wanders to “everyday heroes” who have dedicated their entire lives to ministry. Long before COVID-19, they served through wars, nuclear threats, gas and food shortages, social revolutions, and in faraway places. I consider Carlisle Hanna’s 70 years of missionary work in India, and Velma Mosley, who has taught the same children’s Sunday School class in Tennessee since television was only available in black and white. Charlene Denman served 65 years as clerk for the Central Texas District, and people like Cheri Ham (IM, Inc.) and Sandy Goodfellow (Welch College) quietly kept things running, from computers and phones to light switches and software.
As the jerk of wheels on the runway startles me back to the present, I reflect that maybe John Stott was right when he said, “All heroes are but shadows of Christ.”
Whatever God has planned for us, I pray we all cast "heroic shadows" for Him.
About the Columnist: Eric K. Thomsen has been managing editor of ONE Magazine since the publication began in 2005. The former art and marketing director for Randall House Publications, he has served as president of the Evangelical Press Association and is a member of the Free Will Baptist Historical Commission. Eric and his wife Jennifer attend Bethel Free Will Baptist Church near Ashland City, Tennessee, where he serves as music director.