A True Hero Rises Above It

| Erie, PA, USA | Learning | July 29, 2013

(I am attending my brother’s graduation at a small, all-boys high school known for its sports teams. Before the graduates begin to receive their diplomas, the master of ceremonies makes a request.)

MC: “We ask that you refrain from clapping or cheering until all the graduates’ names have been called. Thank you!”

(After each graduate’s name is read, his future plans are mentioned: college, work, military service, or ‘undecided’. We get a short way into the ceremony.)

MC: “Zach [last name], future plans undecided.”

(Over a hundred auditorium chairs slam shut as the entire graduating class shoots to its feet, cheering and applauding. A woman sitting in front of my family sniffs in disgust and speaks up.)

Woman: “Ugh, why are they cheering for that loser? ‘Future plans undecided’? He’s probably just some sports hero who wants to laze around his mom’s basement all his life!”

(Before my parents or I can say anything, my youngest brother, who has attended some events at this high school, speaks up.)

Brother: “Excuse me, ma’am, but Zach isn’t a ‘sports hero’. He can’t actually play any sports at the moment…”

(By now, Zach has climbed the stairs to the stage; he is completely bald, and his steps are slow and shaky, but he is grinning from ear to ear.)

Brother: “…since he’s in the middle of his chemotherapy.”

(The woman turns beet red, and sinks down in her chair as the rest of the audience stands to join the graduates in acknowledging their classmate’s achievement. I will never forget that moment, and how the Class of 2011 chose to recognize a true hero. Well done, gentlemen.)

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