By DANNY MINTON
You walk through the hallway every day and notice him sweeping or mopping the floor. Some days you nod and say “Hi,” while most days you scurry on to your next class not giving him much attention. You’re here for a better education where you don’t have to spend your life sweeping floors like him. Or maybe you’re a busy businessman, leading a major company or in charge of a task force of employees.
There are days you call on the janitor to change a light bulb in your office or empty a trashcan that has overflowed. In your mind, he is probably no more than a high-school graduate or maybe even a dropout. In your world of important people, he is way down on the list of people with whom you associate. You don’t invite him to your home or the office party. You don’t ask him if he wants to go out and have supper with you and the others. After all, he’s just a janitor, or is he?
William Crawford was a janitor. He cleaned the floors of the United States Air Force Academy. It was the 1970’s and having retired from his previous employment he hired on as a janitor for the Academy. He enjoyed being around the cadets even though he, himself was never part of the Air Force. Each day the cadets would pass him as he swept the hallways, mopped the floors and cleaned the restrooms, something these Air Force officer candidates could never see themselves doing. The shy unassuming Crawford went on doing his job, humbly, quietly and unassuming.
Then, one day a cadet was reading a book on World War II about the Allied advance into Italy. He came across a picture of a young army man named William Crawford who looked much like the older man now sweeping their hallways. Not only was his picture present, but the caption proclaimed that he was a recipient of the Medal of Honor for taking on single-handedly machine gun bunkers for his division to move up and take Hill 424 near Altavilla Silentina. The man sweeping the floors for these want-to-be officers was a recipient of the highest honor a soldier could expect to receive. Captured by the Germans and presumed dead, his medal was awarded posthumously to his father. When the students approached him about the picture, he humbly said, “Yep. That’s me. But that was one day a long time ago.” In their midst was a humble hero who they would never look at the same way again.
Our world is full of everyday heroes, men, and women who have done great things without seeking the praise and limelight in the midst of others. I think of Irena Sendler who saved hundreds of Jewish children from the Nazi gas chambers in Poland or Gladys Aylward who marched a hundred children to safety in 1938 China. There are men like Jim Elliott, Ed McCully, Roger Youderian, Nate Saint and Pete Fleming, missionaries who lost their lives taking the gospel to a tribe in Ecuador. Why? As one of them said, “If we don’t go who will?”
You walk through the hallways of your church building passing people who have done great things that you may never know. You walk down the street and see sitting on an old wooden bench an old man and his tiny gray-haired wife sitting peacefully, waving at children as they pass by their quiet place. On his head, you see a baseball cap with the emblem of his past military service. You may wonder, what’s their story?
The world honors its most visible heroes. There is vast media coverage, large funerals, long eulogies, and books and stories written about them. People will remember them in history classes for generations to come. However, in our personal lives, there are everyday heroes who do more for us than any of the great figures we read about in books. Maybe it’s the minimum wage worker who gives $10 to help hurricane victims, maybe it’s a single mother trying to make ends meet and being mom and dad to her children, maybe it’s a dad who goes to work every day to a job he dislikes, but does so to take care of his family, or maybe it’s a fireman or a policeman protecting your neighborhood.
Heroes are those people who show courage facing the challenges of life. They come in all shapes and sizes. They are male and female. They are old and young. They are the people we see on the street, in the park, at work, at church, just about everywhere you turn. Maybe they are sweeping the floor in our building. For most, there will be no movies or books written about them. There will be no rewards or medals pinned to their chest. But to someone, they are a hero.
Then there are those who gave their lives for us to be where they are today in our spiritual lives. The Hebrew writer lists several “no-name” people who gave their lives to further God’s cause. He then says, “The world was not worthy of them.” They were heroes giving all they had for people they would never know. They were unappreciated, figures left in the shadows.
Take time to look around you and find the heroes in your life. Take the time to go up to them and tell them how proud you are to know someone who is of noble character striving to make the world a better place. See the courage that everyday heroes possess as they go about their daily lives without fanfare, pomp, and circumstance. The true heroes of this world are those that make it a better place for us all. They go about unseen, not for glory, serving us all, leaving in their wake a better world.
And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
1 Thessalonians 5:14
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ