by Gil Gonzalez
This week’s topic is to write about someone I consider to be a hero. I am so blessed that I have so many people in my life whom I feel fall into that category, and it’s really tough for me to narrow in on just one.
I guess I can write about my dad, but given the eulogy I wrote for him, I don’t know if there’s anything more to add that hasn’t already been said. I could write about my mom, but I like to keep my posts readably brief, and I would need about 5000 words to describe why I think my mom is a hero to me.
There’s my former football coach Carl Springer who was like a second dad to me when I played for the Boys Club in Miami. Speaking of football, there are a handful of former Miami Dolphins I grew up admiring and emulating as a kid. It’s easy for children to look up at athletes and see them as their hero. Regardless of what Charles Barkley ever said, athletes, as well as other celebrities, are role models for young and impressionable kids. We live in the euphoria of their accomplishments and triumphs. We also bear the pain and frustration of their failures.
That’s why it’s not surprising to see the student turnout and support for Joe Paterno. JoePa was a legend in college football and an icon on the landscape of intercollegiate athletics. He was the steadfast leader of a noble institution, and, to many, he was a hero.
His reputation and legacy tarnished, there are few people who would still consider Joe Paterno heroic. How can anyone who decided a course of inaction – perhaps because it was the easiest and most comfortable course to take – be considered a hero when that inaction allowed the continuation of abuse against children?
With that information now in the background, the hero I want to talk about is someone I’ve never met before.
This is the story about Enrique Miguel, a man in California who didn’t think twice about the right thing to do. Through chance, circumstance, alertness and – if you ask me – cojones of steel, Mr. Miguel chased down in his truck a van driven by a person suspected of having kidnapped an eight year-old girl. Through his actions, the girl was safely recued and the kidnapper arrested (see full story here).
And that’s what it means to be heroic; to put aside your fears and selfish sensibilities in order to save and protect another human being. Mr. Miguel didn’t know the risks that faced him as he decided to give chase to the alleged kidnapper. He didn’t know what to expect if confronted with that man. What he did know is that he had to do something. He could have very easily done the safe thing and called the cops and hoped for the best. He could have put his priorities first.
But real heroes don’t do that. Real heroes don’t take the time to contemplate the impact to their lives. Real heroes don’t sit on their asses and hope for the best. Real heroes don’t hide behind thinly veiled excuses like, “I told someone else.”
There are millions of lessons to be learned from the tragedy at Penn State. By contrast, there is one lesson to be learned from the actions of Mr. Miguel, and that is that in service to others, evil can be defeated. The quote attributed to Edmund Burke says it all. “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
Special thanks to my wife Lee for bringing the story of Enrique Miguel to my attention.