As I observe the world around me, and even further through the eyes of the media and internet... there are a lot of folks responding to a variety of circumstances... many facing situations which are not of their their own doing. The sheep are "baaing" away for someone to take care of them, but the sheepdogs are wiping off the mud and blood while they continue on through life.
For Christians, the good Lord above never promised us Heaven in this life, but in the next life. What he did provide us in this life is the teachings of the Bible to guide us. Whether or not you're of my faith and beliefs, I've also been fortunate in life to have been provided incredible men and women who have guided and taught me.
See, my heroes and role models are not sports figures or movie stars, but real people who have entered, and sometimes at my age, have now left my life. Real people who have taught me, advised me, and guided me out of no other obligation than their own choice. A man like my father served his country, his family, and his community because he chose to. Don't think fatherhood isn't a choice as I believe the lack of millions of men failing to own up to their responsibilities as fathers and husbands is possibly one of the biggest challenges our country has ever faced.
Men like Pappy, my grandfather, who was a farmer, steel mill worker and foreman, and a solid American man who built his life and this country through his sweat and physical strife. He gave me my first gun, but what he really left me was knowledge, character, and footsteps to follow in. I thought of him yesterday as I wandered through Cabela's... this is a place he would have really enjoyed.
Our friend Dale, who was a farmer, trucker, and business man... taught me everything and anything from money management and cutting (harvesting) wheat to tig-welding and backing a semi-truck up to a loading dock. He was a great and generous man who unassumingly drove his rusty 1974 Chevy pick-up into his 70s and left a multi-million dollar estate and thousands of acres of prime farmland free of any debt. His wife always reminded us that no how matter how busy the farm and trucking company was, it was still important to stop work, eat, reassess the work, and then carry on... even if was ninety-seven degrees on a humid July afternoon.
In college, I somehow ended up with Dr. Ernie for an advisor, the only Kentucky Baptist that probably existed on a liberal college campus. A farmboy and Vietnam vet with a Ph.D. from The Ohio State University... he's now retired in Kentucky on the family farm, I'm sure he's still dispensing his thoughtful advice to his son and grand-children while he sits on his porch.
There are so many others who have taught and guided my life from my mother, an Ohio farm girl who can bake an apple pie, plant a two-acre garden, and build furniture or change oil to the many ladies who taught me through elementary school the basics in education that I needed to get through life... before we implemented the politically corrected, "everybody wins while learning nothing of substance" baloney that currently occurs in our public schools.
Those elementary teachers knew how to achieve success in the classrooms and maintain a child's attention... without using drugs. You learned what you needed to know because they held you accountable. If you were slow at learning your multiplication tables, they'd stay after school to help you, but then again, YOU had to put the time and work in... nobody was going to slap an "A" on your paper just to make you feel better after for making a lazy, half-hearted attempt.
Pappy, Dale, and my dad are all gone now. Mrs. Heslup, my second grade teacher and the last of the elementary school teachers living, passed on this fall. I still have good counsel, role-models, and heroes around, but it looks like I too need to keep stepping up to the plate as a father, a husband, and mentor for my family, friends, college students, church kids, 4H youth, community, and others. It's not because it's required or that I have any special circumstances or qualifications, it's just what was done for me and I need to keep paying it forward in my life.
So while I am thankful today for so much... when we sat down for Thanksgiving dinner today... friends and family... and my father was not here with us to sit at the head of the table... my mother said, "Dann, you sit at the head of table this year."
I sat at the head of the table, but believe me... Deserve's got nothin' to do with it...