I have written this article for Latter-Day Homeschooling. If you already read it there, sorry for the redundancy.
Once upon time, there were two apples. One was a discolored, nasty and lumpy looking thing. The other was an apple who’s beauty and perfection could not be replicated. One day a brother and sister found the two apples. Both wanted to eat the beautiful apple, but as there was only one, they flipped a coin to see who would get to eat it. The sister was to be the lucky recipient of the prime specimen. The brother, angry over his loss tried to wrench the apple away from the gloating girl. During the struggle, both pieces of fruit fell to the grass covered ground. The apple that had been rejected for it’s looks, hit the ground bounced slightly and rolled away only to stop a few feet from the still struggling siblings. The beautiful apple, so desired for it’s loveliness, broke into a hundred pieces upon impact with the same soft grass. The beautiful apple had no core. It looked perfect on the outside, but there was nothing holding it together on the inside. The other apple, though “there [was] no beauty that we should desire” it, was strong and could not be broken.
I’ve heard it said that those who continue to be virtuous during the times when the world is falling into disrepute are not often the instigators of any great acts of righteousness. The righteous are only those who refuse to lower their standards of conduct while the rest of the world looses and rejects any and all sense of morality and common decency. It’s during times of crisis that we can learn who among us have a core.
A few months ago I finished reading the book Unbroken. It is a book about WWII POW Louis Zamperini. My feelings while reading this ranged anywhere from horror and disgust at the sadistic guards to heartache for the prisoners to inspiration and awe for Louis Zamperini’s strength and ability to forgive. One emotion that stood out to me the most was the pity that I felt for those once good and law abiding people who turned a blind eye and said nothing when the already sick and weakened soldiers were being beaten, starved, poisoned and worse for years at a time.
There were all too few people who showed any sort of compassion or kindness to the POW’s. But there were some who, in spite of the likelihood of receiving the same horrific treatment if caught, went out of their way to do anything they could to show these poor souls that they were not alone. Most of the time it was nothing more complicated than sneaking them an extra few grains of rice, it was all they could do yet it meant the world to those who were on the receiving end.
Knowing what would face them if they were caught in aiding the prisoners, these nameless men and women were clearly some of the bravest people I have heard of. But there were far too few of them. While their kindness meant a lot, it wasn’t enough to make a tiny dent in the hunger and mistreatment. The vast majority of people just turned their heads and pretended that nothing was wrong. They had no core.
After reading Unbroken I decided it was time to add another subject to our schooling. With our children looking up to superheroes, rock stars and athletes, I think it’s high time we dedicate time to studying the reals heroes in the world. Rock stars and athletes may look like they live glamorous lives but more often than not they are empty; filled with sin and grief. Superheroes may have great morals and lessons to teach, but they aren’t real. How can our children expect to measure up when they aren’t from the planet Krypton? I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want my boys chasing spiders and collecting bug bites in the hopes that one of them may be radioactive.
With this new subject, which I have dubbed “The Hero Project”, we will be spending an entire year studying one real life hero. Someone who is nothing more or less than a man or woman who stood up for what they believed in and made a difference. Someone who did not lower their standard of conduct even in the most trying of circumstances. Someone who is flawed. Someone who made mistakes. Someone who got back up on the horse over and over again and proved that trying and failing isn’t the end, it’s only the beginning.
Our world’s history is replete with real life heroes who fought real life villains. There is no need to look up to comic book characters (as fun and as entertaining as they may be) when there are people like Daniel, Saul (aka Paul), Cincinnatus, Joan of Arc, William Wallace, Corrie ten Boom and Michael Murphy.
We will be beginning our hero study with George Washington. Each of my writing children, my husband and myself have received a “Hero Journal” (which is just a notebook with a fancy paper glued to the front) to record our thoughts on what we learn about him. I don’t expect to fill it this year, but I hope that as the years go by we will be able to study these great people and see through their imperfections and find the common characteristics to all real-life heroes. I’d also like to see how many of those qualities I and my family can nurture within ourselves.
We are doing this together because I want to ensure that tragedy strikes, my family and I will not be the kind of people who sit and do nothing while evil happens. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Not to speak is to speak, not to stand is to stand. Silence in the face of evil is evil itself”. We will stand up to evil regardless of the consequences and we will always be on the Lord’s side. I want to be the hungry Japanese woman who slips POW’s food from my garden while they are slaving away in the fields. I want to be the starving mother with hungry children who dragged the food pallet the Red Cross dropped into my backyard to the liberated POW’s for whom it was intended rather than hiding it for my own consumption. I will morn with those who morn. I will comfort those who stand in need of comfort. It may never come to this, but if it does, I will hide Anne Frank.
It may be at the moment the only characteristic I share with George Washington is that we both love and over indulge in ice cream (true story). But it’s a start.