This past Shabbat at Valley Beth Shalom, I listened to Rabbi Feinstein sermonize on why we can’t have our children look up to sports stars, entertainment figures, and politicians for inspiration growing up. He lamented that in our generation there was a lot of that, reciting the entire dodger infield of those great teams of the 1960s.
He left us with the question who then can we point to for our children to idolize. Who we want to use as examples of righteousness in our own time are not famous people, but normal everyday people who are called on to practice extraordinary goodness. And, because of the Internet we are treated to their acts and therefore can pass them on to our children as models of good behavior.
I agree with the Rabbi, famous people are usually not what they seem, from baseball players cheating with steroids, to politicians philandering with prostitutes, and entertainment people just doing the wrong thing. And, O.J. Oh O.J.
By their acts, kindness, courage, and a clear sense of right and wrong these people can teach us many lessons about life. By their acts they seem to rise above the greed, malice, lies and hate.
The following are some examples I have raised at my own dinner table in the last year.
When Chick-Fil-A came out publically against gay marriage, Rachel, a teenage window server, utilized a grace and style far beyond her years to talk down the hatred of a gay activist. The man surreptitiously hid a camera to trick the organization into a “gotcha moment.” She stood her ground with elegance and calm while taking no sides on the issue. Hoping to show the hatred of Chick-Fil-A against Americans who didn’t agree with his politics, the gay activist was the only one coming out of that scene showing hatred or malice.
Larry DiPrimo, a New York city cop walking a beat bought shoes for a man sitting barefoot on the street during a freezing New York City winter night. Out of his own pocket he went into a nearby shoe store and bought this man, who he didn’t know and had never encountered before, a pair of shoes and thermal socks to keep him warm. Characteristically denying any kind of recognition for the act, we never would have even known about it except for an alert tourist who happen to take a picture of it.
Joey Prusak, a manager at the Dairy Queen in suburban Minneapolis stood up for a blind person who could not see that he accidentally dropped a $20 bill. Another patron picked it up. When Joey asked her to return it she refused. He then asked her to leave and took $20 out of his own pocket and gave it to the blind man. Joey, probably doesn’t make more than $10 or $11 an hour. Like the other heroes mentioned, Joey wanted no recognition but other patrons witnessing his righteous act wrote the Dairy Queen Corporation and that is how we know about it.
If you are not already aware of them go ahead and google these people and read or watch the entire story. It really is inspiring.
Maybe at one time we could be satisfied pointing to Sandy Koufax pitching a perfect game or John Kennedy asking not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country, but we know too much about these people now. Flawed and fractured it is no longer enough to use fame as a precursor for heroism.
Yep, heroes still exist, but its people like you and me that rise to those occasions. I wouldn’t mind hearing from any of you who might know of any other stories like these, who you point to with your own children to idolize.