I am unbelievably fortunate to have many heroes in my life, some who have been top of mind as of late. I thought I’d share with you a bit about these “everyday heroes.” I am sure you know some too.
I grew up beneath the gaze of this picture hanging on the wall of our school. One day in late junior high I was looking up at it. Another student stopped and asked, “Who’s that.”
The other kid looked up at the demigod staring down at us from the photo and then looked at me (uncoordinated with big glasses) with obvious and warranted skepticism. Uncle by marriage…not blood, but certainly an uncle to be proud to know both then and now.
In his formative years J. Mike Inniger was the epitome of a small town football hero that lives on in that picture and will long (and deservedly) be remembered for being a leader of the undefeated and unscored-on 1968 State Champion team in the hallowed halls of Cory-Rawson High School. He was THE golden boy in THE golden era of the community I grew up in. But to me his real heroism came much later in life when he struggled with his health — with his very breath. How frustrating it must have been for that former football hero to struggle to simply catch his breath while walking up the stairs. Yet, one would not know it. He took the incredible challenges he faced in stride and, rather than dwell upon the frustrations of his situation, he focused instead on all that he had to celebrate. I never heard him complain and I never saw him lament the inflictions that had to torment him. I recently attended his funeral with some sadness, but also the deep satisfaction of seeing the completion of a life well lived. That football hero hanging on the wall of my school was an inspiration to me as a kid, but the man who lived his life to the fullest, while in steadfast, humble service to the Lord, his wife, his children, grandchildren and students all while facing the health challenges he did, serves as inspiration to me as a man. It was an honor to call Mike Inniger “uncle” and a humbling privilege to know the man that hero hanging on the wall of my school would later become.
Today, my father, Dave Reese, was inducted into the Hancock County Ag Hall of Fame where he joins both of my grandfathers. How lucky I am to enjoy such a legacy in agriculture!
As a former ag teacher, Dad dedicated countless hours to students, his family and the farm throughout his life. His hard work ethic and perseverance in achieving his dreams has been key to the success of our Kaleidoscope Farms Christmas tree farm. In recent years my father has suffered from several health issues, including Parkinson’s, but his tenacity has helped him battle through some very tough setbacks and he continues to be very involved on the farm with my mother, Jan, my brothers, our families and the grandchildren — precisely where he wants to be. Dad is a steadfast promoter of conservation, agriculture and the intimate relationship between the two. He has dedicated much of his life to putting them into practice upon the land. His Christmas tree farm has become a family tradition of building family traditions.
I recently wrapped up coaching basketball for the season and every year I coach I find myself getting to know a whole new crop of great young people. One young man really stood out, though, this year. Dominic’s parents are divorced and he spends one week with his father and one week with his mother. His mother brings him to the practices and games. His father does not.
Dominic very clearly loves basketball. He is grinning ear-to-ear every time I see him near the court. He is not very big, but Dominic is aggressive in his play, yet always an excellent young sportsman and exceedingly kind and polite to his teammates and coaches.
Knowing how much Dominic loves to play basketball, it has to really upset him when he misses games and that he does not get to share that love of the game with his father. I cannot imagine the hurt Dominic feels because of this. If I were in his b-ball high-tops, I am not sure how I would handle that very tough situation that no first grader should have to face. I know how Dominic handles it though. He smiles. He tries his best. He loves each moment on the court and treats others respectfully. He has an excuse to act out and be frustrated and complain (and I wouldn’t blame him if he did). But he doesn’t.
In Upward Basketball we give out a white star each week to a player who demonstrates Christ-like behavior. Dominic earned the white star for the season for the example het set in terms of basketball and life in general for his teammates (and his coach).