Originally published in the News-Graphic in 2004.
When I was principal of Georgetown High School some 20 years ago, Danny was the star player on the football team.
Danny was an outstanding player, but he also had problems following the school rules. One Friday morning, Danny showed up late, a habit he had established although he had several warnings that this would not be tolerated.
Danny was called into the office for a conference and told that he would not be allowed to play in the game that night because of his failure to obey the rules. I went on to say since he was the star athlete, he was setting an example for many other students.
Danny felt this to be very unfair and said he did not want to be anything but Danny. He did not want to be an example for others.
This, however, was something he did not have a choice on. Nor do we as parents, friends, citizens or whatever role we play in life. We are examples for others whether we accept it or not. A parent has an awesome role in raising children because they set the pattern. It is not what we say that determines what a child does. It’s what we do that sets the example.
Simple things like fastening a seat belt to complex issues dealing with attitudes and character are the major factors in molding a youngster’s life. Whether a child is in church or the language they use are examples of what those they admire portray.
Often, a person influences someone and is not even aware of the role they play.
Larry Bird, the star basketball player of the Boston Celtics, was said to be very reluctant to give autographs to fans because he did not feel sports people should be their idols.
On one occasion, a father pleaded with Larry to autograph his son’s basketball. He said to the star player, “Please, you are his hero.”
And to this Larry Bird replied, “Yes, but you are the one who should be the hero.”
I had a hero growing up. It was my dad. I really didn’t realize the influence he had portrayed until I was an adult and looked back: a simple man with very little material wealth, a man who never gave spoken advice but merely set an example to follow by his way of life.
We are all examples for someone whether we want to be or not. The real test, however, is are we anybody’s hero?
George Lusby is the former Scott County judge-executive. “The Best of Crawfish and Minnows,” is available at the News-Graphic office.