Why am I?
Not, Who am I. I do mean Why am I.
A friend of many years just lost her mother today. Janet Heer passed away after battling a life-ending heart ailment. I became sad after hearing the news. Why am I sad? What is it about today’s news that could possibly make me feel this way?
It’s not the same as hearing about someone dying on the news. That’s sad too but this is different. But why is it different?
We are a product of those who shape us.
Our parents, our grandparents, our family extended, teachers, employers, church leaders, help shape us. In a big way. This is quite obvious.
But I don’t want to talk about them. I’d rather talk about the other important people who help us become the Why.
1975. Driving the hour and a half from Milford, Utah to the Scout-a-Rama. I was 13, in the back seat of white police car, proudly wearing my Boy Scout uniform. Except I wasn’t a criminal and it was no longer a police car. Ron Gale, my friend’s father, was driving the repurposed police car and his wife Gayle was in the passenger seat. Three young Scouts were in the back.
A few miles south of Richfield, we heard an explosion and the car jerked to the right. While the rest of us were screaming, I noticed Ron Gale, a UHP sergeant, had control of the 70 MPH car and guided it skillfully to a stop on the side of the road in spite of the blown tire. I marveled at his calmness in the face of such a death-defying incident. For many years afterward, I was impressed by this event.
Superheros come in many forms.
Later that day at the Scout-a-Rama we were faced with a test. The object was to create a campfire. Easy enough. Until they showed us the log we were required to burn. It was a single log. No kindling, no sticks, no paper, no gasoline, only a big stubborn log. A prize would be given to any Scout who could turn that solid log into a campfire using only two matches. All along the edges of this log were the black burn marks of previous Scouts who tried and failed to ignite the corners of the fire resistant log.
But I had a plan. I lied down to block the tiniest breeze. Striking the first match I placed it under the most prominent corner of the log and gleefully waited for the ensuing inferno. After ten seconds the match went out. Ten seconds later the small orange ember upon which I painfully blew went out. Ten seconds after that the small plume of smoke stopped smoking. Thus far, the log had bested me.
Gayle Gale had observed the entire failed attempt with some amount of amusement.
Gayle: You are a Boy Scout aren’t you?
Darin: Yes, of course I am.
Gayle: And what’s the Scout motto?
Darin: Be Prepared.
Gayle: Good. Are you prepared for this task?
Darin: I don’t know? Maybe not.
Gayle: Scouts usually have a pocket knife don’t they?
Darin: Yes. Mine is right here…
Darin: Oh… Right!
I got to work on that log. Using my trusty Scout knife I carved enough wood shavings until I had a pile big enough to start the Chicago Fire. With my second match I torched that log and won the prize.
Sometimes it pays to get some advice.
A little planning converts failure to success.
Again, superheros come in many forms.
The mishmash of success and failure, happiness and sadness, trials and achievement, experience, learning, crashing, gaining and losing and growing, heaven and hell, loss and death and birth and thrills and darkness and beauty. And emotion. And love. By these and more our lives are shaped. Many people we meet along the way help guide us. They give us our Why.
We are meat pies. All of us.
A meat pie doesn’t start out as a meat pie. It takes the right ingredients. It takes the right amount of skill in the preparation. It takes the right amount of heat and for the right amount of time.
Our ingredients are the many, many, people who impact our lives. Those who provided a lot, and others who provided a little. But all are necessary. Maybe taken on it’s own, some of the ingredients we don’t like very much. Maybe the onions. Or the pepper. But they are all there. Working together in the right way creates something amazing and beautiful.
We are more than ourselves.
Janet Heer was a necessary and important ingredient. All of us are products of the encounters and experiences with others. Janet was more than herself. She is part of everyone she ever met. Now she is gone. This is why I am sad.
Here are few of the people who most influenced me in my young life. Many are gone. Many are still here. They are my Why.
And they are all superheros.
Carl & JoAnn Lowe
Bob & Jill Puffer
Wayne & Luciel Hardy
Dale & Judy Jensen
Jay & Florence Hiatt
Ferris & Ann Morley
Junior & Joan Davis
Herb & Janet Heer
Ron & Gayle Gale
Gary & Janice Sullivan