Heroes—both of them
Heroic acts can occur unexpectedly and involve personal danger, as was the case with Jon Meis, or they can be planned actions with no thought of being heroic, as was the action by Hunter Gandee. Both of these youth are to be admired for their actions, which each took a different form of courage.
At clear, personal danger to himself, Jon Meis, a dean’s list electrical engineering student at Seattle Pacific University, took action last Thursday to subdue a gunman who had entered a building on campus, killed one student and wounded two other people. While the shooter was reloading his weapon, Meis, a building monitor, pepper sprayed the gunman and tackled him to the floor. There, others gave assistance to Meis and subdued the gunman until police arrived.
Although others have proclaimed Meis a hero and police credited him with probably preventing additional violence or death, the young man in interviews with the press seemed not to view himself as a hero. Action was needed, and he acted.
Public response has spotlighted him as a hero. When it became known that he and his fiancée, Kaylie Sparks, have a June 21 wedding scheduled, someone posted their wedding registry site and quickly all items on the list were purchased for the couple. In addition, a honeymoon fund was set up and by Monday the fund had reached $25,000. That should make possible a nice honeymoon.
This past weekend, another type of courageous action took place, but it did not receive the national and international attention and press coverage of the incident in Seattle.
In Michigan, 14-year-old Hunter Gandee carried out a plan to honor his 7-year-old brother, Branden, who has cerebral palsy and is unable to walk without help. Hunter’s plan was to raise awareness of cerebral palsy by walking 40 miles with his brother strapped to his back, obviously a physical challenge for this 155-pound teenager whose brother weighs 50 pounds.
The walk took place Saturday and Sunday, beginning in Temperance, MI, and ending in Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan’s wrestling center, and covered a time span of 30 hours, a bit longer than Hunter had anticipated. He admitted to thinking about giving up. “Honestly, yes, there was a point that we did consider stopping. Braden’s legs—the chafing was getting pretty bad. It was at about the 30-mile point.”
But Hunter made a phone call at that point to a friend, who said a prayer for the brothers, That, combined with a rest and a change in how Braden was positioned on Hunter’s back, helped the youth make it the final 10 miles. When it was over, Hunter said he was “more tired than I think I’ve ever been. My legs are pretty sore. But we pushed through it, and we’re here.”
So, why did Hunter walk in heat and sunshine Saturday and rain and cool temperatures Sunday carrying his brother, who weighs a third as much as Hunter? To do something for his brother.
“I can’t even describe to you how special he is to me. I can’t put it into words,” the teenager said. “He’s awesome. He’s always there for me. I really just wanted to give back to him in some way.”
Jon Meis and Hunter Gandee—heroes both in my book. Each was willing to give to others despite personal danger or great physical challenge and stress.
Their actions made me stop and think about how lacking I am in giving to others and reminded me of the biblical admonition to put others ahead of our self. How many of us really do this?