The world needs more heroes and heroines. But you may be thinking that we already have so many of them. My retort would be: What kind of heroes and heroines do we have? Maybe we need to consider a different kind.
Often when we think of a hero or heroine, we picture someone who has accomplished some special achievement or has a special ability that sets himself or herself apart from everyone else. The distinguished person is often regarded as a role model for people to follow and is widely recognized because he or she has received much public acclaim.
However, I would like to broaden our understanding of this topic to include those who haven’t received the approval of the masses, but are deserving of that distinction, nonetheless.
Before I offer a real life example of a hero, I want to clearly define what I mean. My idea of a hero/heroine comes from the work of J.R.R. Tolkien, the British author and academician who wrote the classic work “The Lord of the Rings.” The novel’s title refers to the Dark Lord Sauron, who created the One Ring to rule the other Rings of Power used to conquer and rule Middle Earth.
The hero of the story in an unlikely one, a hobbit named Frodo Baggins who, together with his friend Sam, conquer Sauron, who is the leader of Cracks and Doons. It is clear that Frodo doesn’t see himself as any heroic figure, but one who is simply doing his civic duty.
In the story, his deeds aren’t recognized and respect does not come his way, at least in this life.
His pursuit, however, wasn’t driven by rewards, but a sense of duty he had for others. His heroism was done without fanfare. It wasn’t accompanied by viral posts on social media, nor a made-for-TV movie. Frodo did what needed to be done.
In my mind, my good friend, Brandy Meredith, exemplifies this type of hero. She is a single mother with five kids, two of which have special needs. You may be thinking that there is nothing out of the ordinary so far. However, as one delves a little deeper into her story, her example of a heroine emerges.
Several years ago, after already having four children of her own, half of which we still in diapers, and one with special needs, Brandy came in contact with a little girl named Rose. Her mother was a drug addict, making Rose a drug-addicted baby when she was born. To further complicate matters, the doctors said that Rose would never walk or talk.
On top of that she had the added birth defects of a cleft palate, a clubbed foot, and Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome, which is severe chromosomal disorder. She also developed cerebral palsy due to lack of oxygen after her mother tried to smother her years earlier.
Early in Rose’s life, she went to live with an adoptive family only to be placed with the state again after the family changed their minds. Rose’s needs were too much for them to handle.
After being sent to a group home, her incredible struggle didn’t end. It just got worse. Rose was neglected and medically abused. Often she was strapped on a wooden papoose board and sedated on 23 different psychotropic meds. This abuse only compounded her other problems, adding to it by acquiring tardive dyskinesia.
In 2002, when Rose was just 3 years-old, her life began to change for the better when Brandy came into her life. She discovered Rose accidentally while looking at an adoption website.
She then began to inquire about her as God began to burden her heart for Rose. Initially, Brandy thought this burden was all for naught when she discovered Rose was not eligible for adoption because the judge ruled that she was to be institutionalized, which was to take place on her fifth birthday. However, God had other plans.
When Rose was about 4 years old, Brandy began to visit her every other weekend. The visits caused her love for her to deepen. As God continued to burden her heart for Rose, Brandy began the process of making Rose available for adoption. To do so, the state required that Brandy first become her foster parent.
Several months later, Brandy and her family took Rose home to live with them. When Rose came home, she could hardly lift her head and was not able to take even one step on her own. It would also take a full year to wean her off the meds.
Now with Brandy serving as her mom and caregiver, Rose received the love attention she deserved. We all need love and growing up in a loving and nurturing environment causes children to flourish and Rose was no exception.
A loving home and a mother with an unwavering commitment to her daughter coupled with the hard work of physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, vision therapy and aquatic therapy has paid off.
According to her mother, “Rose is now able to walk up to 12 steps in her walker, play on an iPad and interact with others meaningfully. She loves music, swinging, toys that light up and make noise. She went from being sickly, cranky and lethargic to healthy, happy and active.”
Today, Rose is 17 years old. She is still disabled, has to be fed through a feeding tube, and can’t walk or see well, and is profoundly intellectually disabled.
In spite of this, her life has been radically altered. She is now a healthy, happy girl because someone reached out her with the love of Jesus.
Like Frodo Baggins, Brandy Meredith’s deeds are not recognized by the masses.
But she is a heroine nonetheless. She faithfully loves and serves Rose simply because she loves her. She doesn’t do it for the acclaim, but rather for the applause of heaven.
Jesus provided the motivation for this type of hero long ago when he said, “as you did it to one of the least of these … you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).
Because we live in a fallen world, there are no shortage of hurting people. However, what would the world be like if there were more heroes and heroines like Frodo Baggins and Brandy Meredith?
I think it would be a better place to live.
Tim Orr is an adjunct faculty member in religious studies at IUPUC, where he has served for over nine years. He is the author of two books. His latest is, “Islam Rising: How the Christian College Can Equip the Next Generation.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.