Woman #1: What heroism means to me, I think, is just a selfless, like, sacrifice for others.
Woman #2: Heroism, to me, is doing the things that nobody else wants to do for the benefit of somebody else.
Man #1: I think a hero is someone who we can relate to, someone that we admire because they live their life in a certain way.
End of Teaser
John Fuller: So what’s your definition of a hero? And we’re gonna be talking about that today on Focus on the Family. Your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly, and I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, we see superheroes all the time in movies and on television. I guess I would have answered that like the person that swoops down with his cape and saves the falling woman from the building, right?
John: Sounds like a classic scene from Superman.
Jim: It’s a classic one. But, uh, there are heroes in our lives. They may not have those supernatural, uh, gifts like that. They don’t fly through the sky. But I’m thinking of my football coach in high school, Paul Morrow, or Mrs. Bandy, the school nurse, who used to come out when I would be crying as an orphan kid and put her arm around me in the middle of that moment and say, “It’ll be okay.” Uh, these are heroes. And I’m sure, if you think about it, you had heroes in your childhood, too. I hope so – some, maybe not. And today, as believers in Christ, we need to be heroes to people first and foremost with our own children and then maybe with their friends. If you’ve not thought about that, um, you can be that hero to someone nearby. In Ephesians 4:1-3, Paul writes, “I, therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called with all humility and gentleness” – I love that – “With patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.” I mean, that is wonderful stuff. Uh, this is why Focus on the Family’s here. We want to help you embrace who you are in Christ so that you can be that hero to people around you. I think that’s the Gospel message – loving your neighbor like yourself.
John: And Rodney Bullard has joined us to talk a little bit more about this. He is a very accomplished individual and currently the vice president of community affairs for Chick-fil-A and executive director of the Chick-fil-A Foundation. He’s written a great book. It’s called Heroes Wanted: Why the World Needs You to Live Your Heart Out.
Jim: Rodney, uh, welcome to Focus on the Family.
Rodney Bullard: Thank you. It is a pleasure to be here.
Jim: I want to brag a little bit because you graduated from the Air Force Academy. We could look out the windows here at Focus on the Family right across the road…
Rodney: That’s right.
Jim: And there it is. And you played football there, which I admire as well.
Rodney: Thank you.
Jim: That’s tough stuff.
Rodney: It was tough stuff.
Um, it was toughest when I blew out my knee.
Rodney: And, uh – and that was a…
Jim: That is.
Rodney: …A difficult transition.
Jim: What position did you play?
Rodney: So I played defensive tackle.
Jim: Oh, man. Are you the meanest guy in the defense?
Rodney: I was not the meanest…
…Guy on the defense apparently, but uh, but it was a wonderful experience. Absolutely.
Jim: Isn’t that – isn’t that something how sports – I love sports in that way because it’s – it develops that hero mentality. You’ve gotta save the game, right?
Jim: You gotta be the guy that steps up and makes the sack or whatever it might be.
Rodney: You do. And you also have to be the guy who gets up after being knocked down.
Rodney: And you also have to have grit and resilience. And so football teaches a number of lessons. Sports, in general, teach a number of lessons.
Jim: Rodney, I have team boys. And I know you have a boy at home, 11-year-old…
Jim: …Not quite a teenager. Strap up, man. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride.
But one of the things I’ve noticed in the last few years is this explosion of movies related to former comic books, Marvel…
Jim: …And all that. Superhero kind of stories seem to be grabbing young people today. What’s going on in the culture with this heartbeat for heroes?
Rodney: Yes. You know, I think that our culture has always sought a hero. We’ve always sought someone bigger than ourselves, whether it be a leader, whether it be a business leader or a political leader or a military leader. We’ve always celebrated that. And I think that we need heroes. I think the one thing that we have to be aware of and cognizant of is that, you know, at some point, we’re not gonna have a hero who swoops down out of the sky and saves us from all of our ills.
Rodney: That’s not the way it works. That the comic-book heroes that you talk about in movies – that they aren’t real. But what is real is that the masses can save the masses. And we’ve always seeing that. We’ve seen that in times of crisis like in World War II. We’ve seen that in times of crisis and all sorts of efforts where the masses have had to come up and everybody has had to do their own individual part.
Jim: Let me ask you because I think it’s right. You start with those that are closest to you. So, for you, your parents were heroes to you.
Jim: I think that’s a beautiful model of what the family should provide when it’s healthy and doing – not perfect. I don’t think there is a perfect family.
Rodney: There isn’t.
Jim: There’s always that uncle, right?
Jim: But, you know, it is the place that God created for us to learn about ourselves and about love and about – you know, about boundaries and all those good things.
Jim: Talk about your relationship with your – your mom and dad. What caught your attention that they were heroes to you?
Rodney: Yes – so not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. But my father, a Baptist minister, uh, previously had played for the Denver Broncos right up the street from here…
Jim: Oh, he’s a hero right now…
Rodney: There you go.
Jim: …For me.
Rodney: You’re right there.
Rodney: My mother, an educator – and they poured into me as much as they could. And I never knew that they didn’t have a lot financially. I never knew the limits of their love. And you read a scripture earlier in Ephesians, and it talked about bearing with others in love. And so my parents really bore whatever difficulties I might have presented to them in love, and I appreciate that. And one of the difficulties I had was, when I was in first grade, I had a difficult time reading.
Rodney: And my mother and my first-grade teacher in particular bore with me. And they stayed with me. And I recall my mother got a call from the school – it’s a private school that my parents were scraping to send me to.
Rodney: And I didn’t know that they were scraping to send me to this school. But I did know I was having a difficult time reading when I was there. And I was uncomfortable. And at some point, an administrator from the school called my mother and said, “Rodney’s not reading on grade level. Uh, and we would like to place him in a developmentally slower class.” And my mother, an educator, had a choice to make and she decided to move me from that school to another school.
Rodney: And she moved me to another school. And there, I met a lady by the name of Mrs. Janie Adams. And on that first day, I cried and I cried because I thought she would realize that I had a difficult time reading. And throughout the rest of the school year, because I moved in the middle of the school year, she did find that I had a difficult time. But at the end of the school year, she called my mother, too. And she told my mother, “Rodney is a fine, young man. He’s having a difficult time reading. But I would like to tutor him through the summer.”
Rodney: And so, really, that sense of heroism of going out of her way, my mother doing something that was out of herself to move me to another school – all of those things are heroic.
Jim: Yeah. And, in that case, I mean, listeners are saying, “So what was the outcome? What was the summer like?”
Jim: “How did you do?”
Rodney: And so the punchline – the outcome is that, at the end of the summer, I was reading three grade levels ahead of my peers.
Jim: That’s all it took.
Jim: I mean, isn’t that – that is part of the story – is extra effort.
Jim: I wanna get back to the Air Force Academy because your dad showed up. When I was reading it, the story kind of made me go, “Ooh. That’d be tough.” But you’re a freshman at the Academy.
Jim: You’re in what they call Jack’s Valley…
Jim: …Which is a training before the school year starts. And it’s physical training. And they bring you back at night pretty much exhausted, right?
Jim: It’s your basic training.
Rodney: It is basic training, for your listeners.
Jim: So your mom was a little worried because she hadn’t heard from you, I guess?
Rodney: That’s right.
Jim: There was something in her heart that was saying, “My – my little son hasn’t called me.”
Jim: Something – and so what happened?
Rodney: So my mother was worried. And my mother, uh, put my father on a plane from Atlanta, Georgia, to Colorado Springs.
And we were in Jack’s Valley, which is not – it’s not the Academy. It’s not the campus. It’s out in the woods. And so I recall I looked out. And I – my father played for the Denver Broncos. He’s a large man. And I looked up. And I said, “That guy looks just like my daddy.” But he can’t be my father because my father is in Atlanta, and I’m here in the woods in Colorado Springs. And the guy starts to get closer and closer…
…And closer. And then I realize that it is my father. And I looked to my roommate at the time, uh, and I said, “Dax, that’s my daddy.” And he said, “How’d he get out here?”
Jim: “And why is here?”
Rodney: “And why’s he here?”
“And why are they letting him be here?” So I think people were stunned. And they didn’t quite know what to do or say. And he had a camcorder at the time.
Jim: One of those big ones?
Rodney: One of those big camcorders – uh, and he was recording. And he recorded me. And he said he just wanted to make sure that I was okay, that my mother had sent him. And that he had…
Jim: That’s funny.
Rodney: …basically had proof of life.
Jim: That’s really funny.
Jim: And that all went down – okay – you didn’t get, uh, you know?
Rodney: I was not razzed a bit.
And I don’t even know why. But – but, uh, it was a…
Jim: Oh, that’s funny.
Rodney: …Relatively quick incident. My father had called, um, the superintendent’s office, and I guess gotten some permissions. But – uh, but it was an amazing story. But it really was a testament to the love that they had for me.
Jim: Yeah. It was a hero moment.
Jim: Your dad took the time to come out and just say, “Hey. We care about you. We were worried about you. I want to make sure you’re okay.”
Jim: And we’ve got it all on video for mom.
Rodney: That’s right. That’s right – proof of life.
Jim: I think that’s so funny.
John: Where is that tape now?
Rodney: You know, I – my mother said that I looked so bad on the tape and that she just…
She just threw it away.
Jim: Oh, that’s too bad. It confirmed her fear.
Rodney: It confirmed her fears a little bit of it, I believe, but…
Jim: Hey. Let’s go to some of that practical. Uh, you list some of these words that start with a C, which helps us to easily remember them. What are those traits that every hero has? And how can we express or demonstrate those heroic habits?
Jim: And you illustrate that with C words? What are they?
Rodney: So they’re nine C words. And I think these are really road maps to being a hero. So they’re calling, commitment, uh, compassion, connection, conviction, community, courage, charity and confidence.
Jim: And those really are the chapters of the book, right?
Rodney: They are. They’re the chapters of the book.
Jim: And you go into detail about each of those?
Rodney: I do.
Jim: Do you have to – to be the hero – because, again, one of the difficulties is we’re feeling like this is a big wall to climb. And I’ve already got two teenage boys.
Rodney: Mm. Yes.
Jim: And I work full time. And, you know, I’ve got my issues. I gotta do my yard work. I think people are getting the point. How do I make time to do that? That sounds like a very lofty list of things I’ve got to be?
Rodney: Yes. You know, quite frankly, this is a list that we’re all striving for. So we’re never ever fully achieving any of this. But we’re all striving to be better. And I start off with “calling” because I think calling is so important. Uh, I remember someone asked me, “Well, you know, what should I do in the world? There are so many problems, so many ills.” And I asked her – I said, “What moves you? What tears at your heart?” And I think about the work that Chick-fil-A is doing in Atlanta – that when Dan Cathy, our CEO, and when I go out in our community, we see children in poverty, and we see communities that aren’t living up to their full potential as other communities are.
Rodney: And that tears at our heart. And so I think “calling” is answering that which tears at your heart, responding to that which tears at your heart.
Jim: But there should be scriptural alignment for the Christian.
Rodney: It should be.
Jim: I mean, what breaks your heart should be what breaks God’s heart.
Rodney: That’s right. That’s right. And – and if you think about Nehemiah – you know, Nehemiah said, “My heart was broken when I came back and I saw the wall was torn down.”
Rodney: “It was unfinished.” That which tears at your heart, I think, is an indication of your calling.
Jim: Rodney, can I – let me ask you before we move on. And it may be a sensitive question, but let’s talk as former football players…
Jim: …Together. When you look at the African-American community, particularly, and you look at the statistics of fatherlessness – and I know a lot of great leaders and heroes who are trying to address that issue – but, you know, something in the 70 something percentile – 75, 78 percent of kids being born in the African-American community don’t have a dad in the home. How do we ever, as a group of believers, as a culture – how do we – not only for the African-American community, but now the Hispanic community, the white community – we’re all moving in the same direction.
Jim: How do we arrest that because of the importance of a dad in the home?
Jim: What do we do?
Rodney: And Jim, you said it. It’s not any particular community’s singular issue. It is – it’s everybody’s issue.
Jim: It’s everybody.
Rodney: The family is everybody’s issue. But we also have the opportunity – and I’ve seen, uh, people do very well – we have the opportunity to coalesce. It takes a village, truly. And so, uh, it takes a village to be that intercessor. It takes that coach to be that intercessor. It takes that teacher to be the intercessor. It takes that pastor to be the intercessor. And so we get images, and we learn from so many different people. And it is important to have a father in the home and – and for that to be a part of a child’s life, but that’s not always the case.
Jim: When you – when you are doing the work – and it’s great that Chick-fil-A’s in these cities and engaging – what – what do you think a young, teenage African-American man – boy…
Jim: What is he thirsting for? What does he need?
Rodney: Yeah. So I think every child – black, white, whatever – needs love and needs encouragement and needs – have a sense of fulfillment. So for instance, we support an organization called Junior Achievement – actually…
Rodney: …Headquartered here in Colorado Springs.
Jim: We’ve worked with them before.
Rodney: And there is a program that we do called The Discovery Center in Atlanta. And the Discovery Center is so important for kids, and every child in Atlanta public schools goes through this facility. Uh, and they learn about business, and they learn about financial literacy. And I recall one day – I saw a young man, and it was a young man by the name of Hector. And I knew his name was Hector ‘cause they kept calling him. They were like, “Hector, come here. Hector, come here.” And so Hector was not displaying the conduct they wanted him displaying. But they told Hector that he was gonna be in charge doing the module of the UPS store. And when they told Hector he was in charge, you could see the confidence swell. And when they told him what he had to do and the obligations he had by being in charge, that was important for him. You know, when I – I was a White House Fellow in another life, and I was a White House Fellow during George W. Bush’s presidency – President Bush’s presidency. And I recall he gave a speech that our children suffer from the soft bigotry of low expectations.
Rodney: And I talk about that in the book – that oftentimes, we have this lower expectation because a child may not have the family that we want them to have. They may not have the home life or they may not come from the economic background. But when we expect from our children – and I know this in our own lives – when we expect high things from our children, they try and meet that bar. And so I think all of our children are looking for great expectation so they can be their best selves.
Jim: Well said.
John: That’s Rodney Bullard, and we’ll continue the conversation. Let me just quickly say his book is called, Heroes Wanted: Why the World Needs You to Live Your Heart Out. And we’ve got copies of that end of this conversation at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
Jim: Rodney, getting back to the content of the book – you mention the word “LOVE.” You use it as an acronym. Let’s cover that, as well. We’ve got the nine C’s and it – you know, everybody, you’re gonna have to get the book ‘cause it is outstanding, and you’re gonna want to dig into these areas. But describe how you use the word “love” to get the point across about what we need to develop.
Rodney: So listening, openness, vulnerability and empathy, I – I think, is this sense of love that we are talking about. And oftentimes, we think about love in just an amorous sense. Uh, but the love that we’re talking about is paying attention, listening.
Jim: Really paying attention.
Rodney: Really paying attention. Being open to someone else. And oftentimes, we can close ourselves off, and we can be tribal in the manner in which we express our love.
Rodney: Vulnerability – vulnerability is, “Look. I have a need for love, as well. And I want to be connected to someone else, as well.” And so love is a two-way street.
Rodney: And that need is vulnerability. And empathy, understanding, at least trying to understand that we’re all in need of a hero.
Jim: Would you say these are attributes of the hero? That’s what you’re driving at?
Rodney: They are attributes of a hero.
Jim: Good listener, openness…
Jim: …Vulnerability, empathy. These are – frankly, these are good attributes for a Christian.
Rodney: Yeah, absolutely. Without question.
Jim: I mean, these are the things the Lord’s developing, and this…
Jim: This is part of His spirit. Uh, you also talk about the “big H” and the “small H.”
Rodney: Yes. Yes.
Jim: And I think it’s important to cover that. What are those attributes?
Rodney: Yeah. So “big H,” “little H” – we often talk about “big H” and that they are heroes out there.
Jim: These are big heroes? The H is for heroes?
Rodney: H is for heroes. And when we think about heroes, there are heroes out there who literally are bursting into burning buildings and saving people, uh, from some calamity. There are folks who are doing things, putting themselves on the front line of danger. Uh, but they’re also “little H” heroes. And so I talked about Mrs. Adams earlier and how she helped me.
Jim: First grade teacher?
Rodney: First grade teacher – and how she helped me when I had a difficult time reading in first grade. She was a “little H” hero, but no less a hero for me.
Rodney: No less a lifesaver for me than a “big H” hero. But oftentimes, we think of ourselves as inadequate. We say – and I talk about the “only” in the book – we say, “Well, if only I had this attribute. If only I could do this. If only I were bigger, taller, stronger. I could do something for the world.” But the turning on the phrase “only” leads us to the “little H” hero. The – only I and only Mrs. Adams could’ve taught me to read that summer. Only I can give the time that I have to some young man. Only X corporation can give their resources and their competencies to some community. And so there is a “only” that we have that we are obliged to give, and that is, our heroism obligation.
Jim: Yeah. I – I think that is so good. Uh, you say in the book Jesus was the ultimate hero.
Jim: Uh, let’s connect this biblically.
Jim: Uh, what lessons of heroism can we take from His last few hours with His disciples? I mean…
Jim: …You – you draw this conclusion in the book as to how Jesus expressed His heroism toward the disciples.
Rodney: Yes. I mean, obviously, uh, He invested in His disciples His time. He invested His – His knowledge, His wisdom and in the end, He invested His life. And so the act of sacrifice, the act of – of giving is replete in the life of Jesus.
Jim: Yeah. And I like that idea of leadership being humble.
Jim: I mean, I, one time, was told by a person who said – Christian leadership particularly – “If it lacks humility, it’s not Christian leadership. It’s something else.”
Jim: But humility is at the core of – I would think – being that hero, being that leader…
Jim: …In that way.
Rodney: “Love doesn’t puff itself up. It doesn’t think bigger of itself.” Corinthians 13. And I think it’s important for us to – to recognize that being a leader – ‘cause really, at the end of the day, you could substitute the word “hero” for “leader.” And I think that leadership is our greatest obligation, and being a hero is part of that.
Jim: And again, I think – Rodney, you’re onto something – the reason I wanted to have you on the program. I think this is an area that the church could certainly strengthen.
Jim: Uh, when we look at the book of James and talking about doing these good deeds…
Jim: …So that they’ll honor your Father in heaven.
Jim: Uh, this is what we’re talking about. You have a concept in the book that you learned from a source that you can remind me. But a 3-foot…
Jim: You know, if you’re overwhelmed by cleaning up the city or cleaning up your state, let alone the country, start with three feet.
Jim: Talk about that.
Rodney: So a dear friend of mine, Dr. Greg Ellison – he is a, uh, professor of divinity at Emory School of Theology. And so Greg tells a story that when he was 6 years old, he said he had an Aunt Dot or has an Aunt Dot – to my knowledge, she’s still alive – and has an Aunt Dot. And she had a Ph.D. And so he would quiz aunt Dot and ask her questions. And he said – one day, he asked Aunt Dot – he said, “Aunt Dot, I have a question for you, and I want to ask you this question.” And she said, “Greg, just – just ask the question.” He said, “No, it’s a big question.” And so from the mouth of a 6-year-old, he said, “Aunt Dot, how do you change the world?” And Aunt Dot looks at him because this is a big question, particularly for a 6-year-old, but a question we all struggle with. And so Aunt Dot said, “Greg, I don’t know how you change the world. I’ll be honest. But I do know you can impact the three feet around you.”
Jim: That is great.
Rodney: “That if you look out and you see the issues around you and that which convicts you, that which you feel you have a calling for, uh, you can impact the three feet around you.”
Jim: That’s a wise woman.
Jim: How does that play out practically? Give me an example of where you’ve seen that thinking. I mean, obviously, 3 1/2 feet – you can still be engaged.
Rodney: Yeah, absolutely.
Jim: That’s not the point. The point is right around you there are so many needs…
Jim: …Every day.
Rodney: It plays out in several different ways. It can play out as simple as recognizing somebody we walk past every day.
Rodney: It might be the door person or – who’s at the door, who’s just opening the door. It might be the security guard that no one else speaks to. But you recognize him, you say something to – when you see how they’re doing. It might be a smile. It could be something bigger – that you see a need in your community. I was told a story that Truett Cathy saw the news. And he saw that babies were being left at the airport in Atlanta, and that convicted him.
Rodney: So within his three feet, he felt he needed to do something about it. So he started an organization to help, uh, and to bring those kids in or to bring kids in who had been fostered or who were being fostered. And so you know, three feet is also relative. Chick-fil-A now is a $10.4 billion company. And so our three feet is relative to a three feet of an individual. And so we have to be mindful of that, as well.
John: Rodney, I really appreciate that perspective. Just from your experience and your observation, how often do heroes, uh, make an impact but they don’t see it?
John: They don’t know about it until maybe years down the road.
Rodney: You know, almost always, I think heroes – and there’s an ecosystem of heroism in that. So, you know, someone may invest in me. And I may not ever get a chance to tell them thank you.
Rodney: I get a chance to invest in someone else, and I don’t know what that return on investment looks like. And we don’t have to know, frankly. We just have to keep investing.
John: But I’m inspired to start thinking of people that have made a difference in my life and to tell them now…
Rodney: Yes. Yes.
Jim: I think that there’s is some take away here that can inspire all of us just to reach out and say, “You did make a difference to me.”
Rodney: Yes. I went to Duke, uh, for law school. And the dean of admissions at the time was new. And he took a particular interest in me – guy by name of Dennis Shiells. And I just sent him, uh, a note. I hadn’t spoken to him in many, many years. But I found him on LinkedIn two nights ago. And I sent him a note and just told him, “Thank you for investing in folks like me.”
Rodney: And it probably caught him off guard, probably didn’t know exactly what – how to take it. But those are the opportunities, as you said. And there’s something gratifying about thanking people and recognizing people for the investment they made in you.
Jim: That is so good. That – Rodney – uh, man, this is inspiring. And I’m reminded of Proverbs 31:8 and 9 that tells us to “Open your mouth for the mute.” Think of that. How about teach the first grader how to read?
Jim: That’d be right in there. “Uh, for the rights of all who are destitute, open your mouth. Judge righteously. Defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
Jim: What a great calling that is.
Jim: That’s heroic work. And, uh, I have one more question for you. But, um, first let me turn to the listener. Uh, Focus on the Family is here for you. I hope you feel that. I mean, we say that often here. But we want your relationship with the Lord to be strong and vibrant so, A, you can trust Him and fall into Him and have a life that maybe isn’t comfortable. God’s not calling us to comfortable. But it’s rewarding. And this is one of the ways that your life will be rewarding – is that you give to others…
Jim: …In this way. Um, when you donate today – a gift of any amount, and if you can’t afford it, that’s fine too. I’m trusting people to take care of that. Just get a hold of us and for a gift of any amount, we’ll send you Rodney’s book, Heroes Wanted, as our way of saying thank you for being our hero. And we’re so appreciative of that.
John: And our contact information – uh, you can call us. Our number is 800 – the letter A, and the word FAMILY – 800-232-6459. Online, we’re at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
Jim: Rodney, this last question – I probably should have asked it earlier because this may be the most important question I could ask. Uh, speak to that person who feels insignificant. I’d hate to even use the word small. But it’s the adjective. “I don’t feel like I can do anything for anybody.”
Jim: They may have carried a big burden. They may have had a tough childhood. I don’t know. But there’s something in their makeup that whispers to them, “You’re not enough.”
Jim: What would you say to that person? And how can they begin to take a step toward being a hero?
Rodney: Yes. You know, God has clearly told us that we are wonderfully and fearfully made and that we are made in His image and that each and every one of us has the authority of our Father. And so because of that, we are not inadequate. We’re not perfect. And we never will be. But we’re not inadequate. And whatever we have – we can take that, and we can use that to help someone else. And we can use that to invest in the life of another. And that’s our requirement. That’s our reasonable service.
Jim: And I think that is exactly what puts a smile on the face of God when His created people do what they can with what they have.
Jim: That’s good. Thanks for being with us, Rodney.
Rodney: Thank you.
John: And thank you for listening. Once again, our contact information here if you’d like to get in touch – our phone number is 800 – the letter A, and the word FAMILY. And online, we’re at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening to Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller inviting you back as we, once again, help you and your family thrive in Christ.