Hero Worship

A friend of mine has a 12 year old daughter who is absolutely enamored with the recently arrested Justin Bieber.  I received the most daggerous look when I opined that he was a terrible singer.   Okay, maybe he isn’t “terrible,” but he doesn’t sing from the soul.

Kids today have significantly less interaction with real people as they are too mired in the fake world of the internet and Facebook.  This was so painfully obvious during church last Sunday when my soloist must have texted a dozen times and took three selfies of herself. 

The youth of today idolize anyone who gets air time or who is idolized by others; they are very much lemmings to pop culture.  Anyone who can discern two pitches would not idolize Bieber as a musician but, kids do because he is who their peers idolize.

When *I* was a kid, I had a lot of idols; The vegetable man who came twice a week in his truck selling his own farm grown vegetables and fruits.  He always gave us kids free samples as dozens of neighbors descended upon his truck when he parked on our street.  The butcher at the slaughterhouse would also give us free samples of his honey, cheese and hot dogs.  The garbage man who drove his own truck and picked up the trash by hand was an inspiration as he looked like He-Man from all the real life manual labor her relentlessly performed on his daily route. There was no need for him to have a gym membership.   Ed the cop who was always walking the streets and talking to people was a person of awe, also. Everyone seemed to enjoy seeing him and he got everything for free as he entered the stores and coffee shops.

I grew up on a lake and we kids always swam at an open area near the dam because that is where most of the land locked people swam (until the public pay beach owner convinced the town to blockade that section – as it attracted undesirable people from the city – but it was okay if they paid to swim at her beach).  One frequent visitor was Earl who was the town historian and he would tell us stories of the town and its people.  He riveted us with tales of who died in which house, which houses had tunnels or hidden chambers and which denizens became famous or infamous.  There was also old man Wilson who used to travel with the circus and at the age of 80 could still perform magic tricks to amaze and amuse.

All these people had two things in common; they were hard workers who provided a good example of dedication and love for what they did; and they were real. They interacted with the community.  They provided services and loved to share those services with everyone.  Kids don’t experience that today because their faces are glued to things like the fictional world of Facebook – a breeding ground for stalking and pretending you have a life. 

So, those were my heroes not because they rescued anyone from burning buildings or died fighting in a war or stood on a stage, but they were real.  Bieber is real but he probably could care less about his individual fans and although you may be entertained by his music and antics, he has significantly less impact on our lives than the people who live in our neighborhoods and provide food, heat, shelter, stories, inspiration and care.  It seems that only when a community experiences widespread disaster do they recognize what is important and real.

A public hero of mine is Oscar Peterson.  Not only was he one of the world’s greatest jazz musicians, but he suffered persecution, hate, ostrasization and unfair treatment because of the color of his skin.  Rarely did he recoil from prejudice.  He faced it, stood against it and demanded equality.  He didn’t always get it but he didn’t quit, either.  Although he had every right to be an angry black man, he wasn’t.  He knew that the art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.  He was very much “color blind,” too.  As a teenager, I didn’t even know he was black until someone pointed that out to me.  I didn’t look at Oscar differently, I did view that other person differently, though.  As they say in the constructed language of the fictional Na’vi, “Oel ngati kameie.”

If only the young could realize how soon they will become mere walking bundles of habits, they would give more heed to their conduct while in the elastic state.  Not a single one of them will turn fifty wishing they spent more time idolizing Justin Bieber.


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