A generation of heroes
The word "hero" seems to have been redefined of late, or maybe we are just beginning to realize what constitutes a true hero. That it has little to do with wealth and fame or how high you can jump or how far you can run, but rather it has more to do with the cards you've been dealt and the manner and character with which you choose to play this game called life.Today I visited the Willow Springs Senior Center and ate lunch with a roomful of my heroes, and they know a great deal about how to play the game.I'm sure they don't think of themselves as heroes, but I hope they realize how much I enjoy their company. They are absolutely delightful.The interesting thing is that the more I am around older folks and people in general the more I realize we don't ever really grow up, just older, and that life is life whether you are 18 or 80. A fact that I delighted in learning while my husband and I helped manage a church bus ministry many years ago.We offered a ride to those who enjoyed getting out on Sundays, but for one reason or another needed transportation. I recall one charming pair in particular. Though Mr. Huck was going on 80, he was full of a boyish charm that endeared him to all of us, especially fellow rider Miss Martha. She had already outlived two husbands and seemed to be in the market for a third.It never failed that whenever I picked up Miss Martha she made a point to sit right next to Mr. Huck and attempt to engage him in conversation, ignoring the other bus riders. Or if she was on the bus first she insisted the seat next to her was reserved. Her flirtations were harmless, of course, but Mr. Huck would have none of it.He made that perfectly clear to me one Sunday evening when he told me, "I know what that woman is up to, but I am not interested. Now you, you're more my type…if only you were a little older and I was a little younger."I enjoy older folks for many reasons.They can recall tough times that other generations haven't a clue about. They think of The Great Depression as something they lived through, not something you take medication for. They can recall a time when automobiles were rare and if you owned one and someone was taking pictures it was going to be in the photograph. They remember party lines and outhouses, well water and Saturday night baths.They grew up with fresh air and quiet evenings, front porches full of family and friends. They grew up in a time when fiddling around meant just that, and listening to the radio was the thing to do before bedtime. It was a time when marbles weren't something you lost, but a game you played and when a free lunch meant sharing yours with someone else.Through triumph and tragedy, these heroes of mine have lived long full lives and have earned every wrinkle on their faces and gray hair on their heads.Each of those wrinkles and every one of those gray hairs holds a story that should be told, and as long as they'll let me, I plan on being around to hear them. Barbara Madden lives in Willow Springs, Mo., with her family and their black Labrador, Susie Belle.