On our street, growing up, we played group games like cops and robbers, good guys versus bad. Nobody wanted to be the bad guys, so we had to find a fair way to choose. Sometimes it was "eeny, meeny, miney, mo" and other times, "rock, paper, scissors."
Then it was off and running. "Hands up, you thief!" or "Gotcha, Bad Bart"
Even if you lost and had to be the "bad guy" this time, you knew that next time you might get to be the good guy. Everyone wanted to be the good guy.
What happened to that?
Perhaps you could say that it was easier to know who the good guys were and who the bad guys were when we were children. Childhood didn't have shades of gray, but we hadn't learned that yet. All we knew was that we wanted to be like the good guys...the heroes.
Who were our heroes? It could have been radio, movie and television stars. On the screen, on the air, they played roles we wanted to play. They did daring things we wanted to do. Even if we knew that they were make-believe heroes, the ideas and values they portrayed weren't.
Or sports heroes.
The batter who knocked it out of the park.
The quarterback who ran the 90-yard touchdown.
The swimmer or ice skater who won an Olympic medal.
We wanted to be like them. To stand for the cheers. To get medals. To be heroes.
What happened to that?
What happened was that we-most of us-became ordinary people with ordinary lives. For every NFL star on Monday Night Football, there are 100,000 could-have-been running backs and linemen watching. For every actress stepping onto the red carpet on Oscar night, there are 1,000 hopefuls waiting tables in New York or Los Angeles.
Most of us gradually learned that even ordinary lives-without glitter or glory-can be fulfilling and rewarding. We looked around at the people we knew and decided that some were worth admiring. We saw deeds- small or momentary -that made us proud and made us thankful. Sometimes we even found ourselves doing something worthy and meaningful.
Who will be our grandchildren's heroes?
Will it be an executive or official who manipulates power for their own purposes? Will it be a vapid TV series "personality" whose greatest achievement is a sensational manicure and a smoking credit card? Will it be a person who panders to the lowest level of morality? Will it be a snorter or sniffer or shooter-upper who flaunts their addiction as a lifestyle? Will it be any "celebrity" who collects wives, husbands, lovers like so many trophies on a charm bracelet? Will it be the foul-mouthed who has a vocabulary and mind of only four- letter words?
Will these be our grandchildren's heroes? Oh boy, I sure hope not!
Maybe we can help them make wiser choices.
Maybe we can show them that to Go For the Gold isn't necessarily about glam and glitter and glory. Maybe we can point out the good guys to them.
Maybe we can help them to learn that being a REAL hero is about making choices.
Not by "rock, paper, scissors" but by choosing to be the Good Guy.
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