I’m dating myself with this brief trip down memory lane.
In my third grade classroom biographies filled our shelves. I read them all — devoured may actually be a better word — to the point of hiding the small orange volumes behind the larger textbooks. For my eight-year-old, teacher-pleasing perspective, it was pretty edgy behavior. I didn’t realize it at the time but those books did more than teach me about individual lives.
The simple stories of men and women taught me about character and courage and sacrifice.
The lessons became a part of my thinking, shaping me in those early years when I was open and ready for people to admire and emulate.
Perhaps that’s why I gravitated toward the same kinds of stories when my own kids came along. I searched for books that would introduce them to men and women of substance. For example, I bought the book Gifted Hands and positioned it in conspicuous places around the house. Dr. Ben Carson was merely a pediatric neurosurgeon then — not running for president. No matter how you feel about his politics, I think you would agree that Carson is a man of integrity. Gifted Hands details his journey from impoverished childhood to his position as director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital, which he attained at the ripe old age of 33. I wanted my three sons — suburban, white, and relatively affluent — to know this Christian hero, who had been raised by an illiterate single mother in Detroit’s inner city. I wanted my sons to know Dr. Ben Carson and be inspired by his story.
Today more than ever our children need heroes.
They are inundated with stories of celebrities who achieved notoriety by engaging in negative behavior. Positive role models do exist, but generally speaking, popular culture favors the sensational and not the steady. Popular culture tends to ignore the men and women who have made contributions to society and significant sacrifices on behalf of others.
That’s why I want everyone to know about the new book Seven Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness, written by award winning author, Eric Metaxas. Metaxas chronicles the lives of these outstanding men:
- George Washington
- William Wilberforce
- Eric Liddell
- Dietrich Bonheoffer
- Jackie Robinson
- Pope John Paul II
- Charles W. Colson
The brief narratives paint a memorable picture of each man’s life. Readers come away with an understanding of their noble purpose and why each man believed his cause was worth substantial sacrifice. None of the heroes were perfect people but their stories are compelling and in my opinion, each of these men can be admired and emulated.
I learned a great deal of information about people I thought I already knew. More importantly, I came away inspired — a bit more determined to seize the opportunities in my own life to live with courage and purpose. The reading level may be too advanced for your younger children, but you will enjoy the stories and be ready to share what you learned when there is opportunity for discussion. I have found that kids are drawn to what their parents value and eventually pick up books and read them on their own.
By the way, Metaxas has also written Seven Women And the Secret of Their Greatness. One of the women featured is Corrie Ten Boom, a heroine for the ages. I’ll be purchasing a copy soon and eventually pass both volumes along to my grown sons.
They’re used to my ways. 😉
Editor’s Note: Dr.James Dobson recently interviewed Mr Metaxas on “Family Talk”. You can listen to the show here.
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