Thursday, January 31, 2019

Jackie Robinson at 100: True Sports Hero

When I think of a hero, a singular image comes to mind—the US Stamp officially known as "America Responds: 9/11 Heroes." As a child, my image would have been much different and before 2001, I think it would have, too. However the events of September 11th made an indelible imprint in my heart and mind of what a hero looks they live and what they give. Being a first responder—a firefighter or police officer— doesn't make someone a hero, what they do and are asked to give is especially on that fateful day is worth respect and recognition. 

The video "Nine Innings from Ground Zero" shares the stories of so many of those heroes—too many that fell to a final fate in the World Trade Centers, and unlikely heroes too: the New York Yankees and Mets.

Although society often views athletes as heroes, I am not willing to automatically ascribe that honorable title to people like LeBron James or Serena Williams, Steve Young or Brandi Chastain. Just because a person is fast or strong, big and fierce, driven, gifted and competitive doesn't mean he or she is someone to look up to and admire. Though tempting, I'm not convinced that athletic skill and ability translate to heroism. 

My conviction is shared by others. In an NPR "Special Series Opinion Piece: A True 'Sports Hero,' Jackie Robinson At 100" Scott Simon writes, 
I try not to say, "sports hero." An athlete may be electrifying and adored, and do much for their communities. But real heroes are people who run into burning buildings to save lives. Heroes are people who enrich the lives of others — and sometimes — move along history. 
There is one athlete who has to be called a hero. 
Jackie Robinson was born a hundred years ago next week, Jan. 31, 1919, in the small, segregated town of Cairo, Ga., the youngest of five children. A year later, his father left, and the Robinsons moved to southern California, where Jackie Robinson became one of the most celebrated young athletes in America.
The entire two and a half minute reflection is worth listening to and sharing—in particular with young people. Many of them are familiar with his life and legacy through the movie "42," and the observance of Jackie Robinson Day on April 15. Since 2009, MLB has honored his big league debut which broke baseball's color barrier. All players and on-field personnel wear his number during that day's games. MLB has now retired the number 42 in perpetuity for this hero.

If Jackie Robinson were alive today, he could receive a Presidential Greeting for his 100th day. I wonder what the President might say, but I'd rather have him know what Scott Simon offered at his confusion. He said, "Jackie Robinson was an athlete, not Martin Luther King Jr. in baseball stripes. But his own story galvanized his life, and when he left baseball, he became an activist for integration and justice. As President Barack Obama said, "There's a direct line between Jackie Robinson and me." The history Jackie Robinson made helped make America better."

That's precisely what heroes do.

Litany and Prayers for Heroes
Dear Lord,

Throughout the ages, even to today, you have raised up for us Heroes, as examples of what is best in our humanity.

Bless all those whose sacrifice, love and courage have given so much to this world. Protect those Heroes in harm’s way. Strengthen those whose heroic contribution perseveres day in and day out. Heal those whose heroism has cost them in mind and body. Give your eternal peace to those who have gone from this life.

Grant by your grace, that we may each find ever deeper heroic virtues in ourselves so that we may, following the example of the Hero of Heroes, your Son Jesus Christ, serve others as he served us - every day, in every way.


Photo Credits
Jackie Robinson
Heroes Stamp

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