Remember those “Like Mike” commercials with Michael Jordan? They were cute enough, I suppose, but the idolatry of sports figures never really went over well in my head. Every time I saw that commercial or one like it, I would scratch my head, think about all the people I knew who had done so many more extraordinary things, and wonder how come he gets to be the hero of so many hearts.
Now that I have kids, it’s even worse. I want them to admire innovators, humanitarians, advocates; scholars and teachers, pioneers and great thinkers. Athletes and celebrities have their place in the world, sure, but if my daughter’s dream growing up is to be just like iCarly, then I screwed up.
I was honored and touched when a different Mike, my friend Mike Arms from the Helen Woodward Animal Center, asked if I would come to the Red Cross Real Heroes Awards Breakfast yesterday at the USS Midway here in San Diego. As the Animal Welfare Honoree, Mike was one of 10 local heroes being recognized.
Joining him as honorees were other amazing San Diegans from all walks of life, such as Dr. Nick Yphantides, a physician who lost 200 pounds on a cross country trek promoting health; Sandy Lehmkuhler, founder of the Freedom Station transitional housing facility for injured military personnel; firefighters Robert Laatsch and Jym Bridger, who provide bicycle helmets for children, and Staff Sergeant Erik Sims, a member of the armed services who has overcome traumatic brain injuries to devote his life to helping others around the world. You can read about them all here.
It was so inspiring to see these local citizens, whose stories are like those in everyone’s hometown, people who do things because they should, not because they are looking for accolades. Hearing their stories made me feel as always so selfishly inadequate in my service to my fellow man. They are all heroes. And when we look for people in this world we want ourselves and our children to emulate, it’s a good reminder we really needn’t look any further than down the street.
I recorded Mike’s presentation because I’ve turned into one of those people- you know, bloggers. I hope they are OK with me sharing his portion of the awards presentation- although I’ve heard his amazing story several times, this is the first time I have seen it professionally re-enacted.
I still sniffle every dang time. (Forgive me Dave Vigil’s head in the corner for some of it; he was on a high from Tagg winning the Globetrotter Award at CTIA 2011 Hot for the Holidays the night before and I didn’t want to disturb his reverie by asking him to move.)
It was a busy week for Mike. He was in Ohio on Monday to present the first annual Mike Arms/Iams Hero Award to the Austin Humane Society in recognition of their work in the September Austin/Bastrop wildfires:
And Thursday, his hometown returned the favor.
So yes, kids, you can be like Mike. Just let me qualify which Mike we’re referring to, OK?
Not that one:
And dear God, definitely not that footballer Mike who shall not be named in full.
Who’s your hero? (Doesn’t have to be named Mike.)