by Nancy Tichy, Author for KidZ at Heart International
Uncle Charlie…was a quiet, soft spoken man, with a curiosity that matched his love for reading. He worked with his hands repairing machines in the days when they dispensed frosted, glass bottles of an ice-cold drink. I was a lanky, awkward, introverted child raised in a central Florida town by a family of which he was an integral part.
Uncle Charlie is the only adult I now remember from those days who truly seemed to understand me during the years when my sister and I lived with my father’s extended family, but not with my parents who had divorced. He was an ordinary looking man – glasses, thinning hair, so often wearing the gray uniform that identified the company for which he worked. Then, for a period of time, it was a soldier’s khaki and he was off to war.
For the years before and after that I could ask Uncle Charlie anything. I kept a little notebook for the questions as they came up, waiting for times, usually in the evenings, when he was home from work and willing to sit with me and give me his undivided attention. Auntie, my father’s sister and Uncle Charlie’s wife, was unpredictable, but I could always count on him to listen and tackle any subject that captured my childish interests.
Uncle Charlie was a Christian, and I’m sure I asked him questions on my way to knowing Jesus. He may have been the person who first explained how I could ‘get saved,’ though I also had Sunday school teachers at the small Southern Baptist church on the corner nearby. Of course, none of them still live, and Uncle Charlie has long been gone, too. I have only my childhood memories of him, now. Still, I count him as one of the greatest gifts God ever placed in my life. He was – and still is – my hero.
Consider bringing this topic up with your own kids or grandkids. It seems to me that they’re part of a generation that may know Luke as a fantasy fiction hero, but not the stalwart medic turned historian of the New Testament. Or Harry conjures up a wizard’s school, not a British royal palace. They read graphic novels from back to front and play games online or on a tablet with an incredible line-up of shadowy, scary characters.
I think you’ll agree we need to put in place some serious, cultural markers and continue to search for men and women, girls and boys, who can qualify for the designation, hero. March is a great month to share one important historic figure with your children who is worthy of admiration. Some say that he and those who followed his lead for years after his death “saved civilization.” You won’t find his true story in the dollar store or at a candy display. Just google Patrick of Ireland and introduce the real Patrick to your family.
The real Patrick was raised in a Christian home. His life of ease and disregard for spiritual things was interrupted when he was kidnapped by marauding pirates who pillaged his home town and took the teenager to be sold at an Irish slave market. (There’s a fair amount of adventure here, it seems to me.) Like David, great king of Israel, he met God and learned to worship him while tending flocks of animals in a rough and beautiful terrain.
Miraculously, he escaped and returned to Britain where he served as a pastor until he received an invitation, in a vision, to go back to Ireland. Eventually, he did just that, and he lived out the rest of his long life in daring adventures building God’s Kingdom in that pagan land, establishing groups of faithful Jesus-followers and defying the kingdom of darkness. His absorbing story shows a man of valor and courage, worthy of our respect many centuries later. He was, and is, a hero.
Sharing with your family members some of your childhood and current heroes might encourage them to trust you with an understanding of people they admire the most – both real and imagined – and why they matter. I hope they already have some Uncle Charlies in their experience. If not, you’ll probably decide to start praying about this.
I remember…the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice.
2 Timothy 1:5
KidZ at Heart values the family and the part it plays in enabling children to fulfill their role in God’s plan.