..that's what inspired this post to be written, but when I sat down in front of my computer, I realized the theme of heroes comes back to a much earlier-influence in my life.
My dad was a police officer when I was growing up. There may have been (many) moments in my teenage years when I didn't respect his rules - curfews sucked;the code to unlock cable channels he'd blocked on our satellite dish was always his birthday;when Alece M. finally (after several years) allowed me to be her boyfriend, I was certainly not gonna come 'straight home from work' EVERY day - but I absolutely always have and always will respect the man that he is at his core. Not because he was a cop...but because he is the type of person whose innate instinct was to become a cop.
And my dad was a good one - not one of those police who make you wonder if they are on a power trip, like the d-bag cops I saw in Straight Outta Compton. He is the officer who required himself to be doing things the right way and for the right reason, and he expected the same from the people he came into contact with. He has empathy and exercises judgment. He has a belief in doing the right thing, and taught me to live by that same standard (I often question if my understanding of "what's right" is a little skewed, but I absolutely WANT to be holding myself to the same standard that I hold others to).
Every time I come into contact with a fire fighter or police officer, I think of my dad.
I don't know all of my dad's stories - I was a kid, and probably didn't need to know the details behind why my mom often mentioned that she would worry at night, until he got home safely. I do know this:
His role in protecting others has personalized every single first-responder in my eyes.
Each 1st-responder is a very real human being, with very normal and special pieces to their lives...and yet they risk those lives in unforeseen and often unexpected dangerous circumstances. Sometimes, they see respect for that (a free meal,a smile from a kiddo) and they sometimes see the negative repercussions that have been brought on by more-publicized, but hopefully less-common delinquents in their profession. BUT.. they still put on the uniform and drive into chaos as a fulltime job.
There is a reason that kids RECOGNIZE REAL heroes!
Today, I was reminded that my 2-year-old son already has REAL heroes! It's incredible that someone that young can actually recognize how special a certain group of people are! Radley physically flings himself into the air when he realizes there is a police car near us! He has loved the idea of police cars and officers since he could first comprehend such a thing (at that point it wasn't even in English, it was baby-comprehension that mostly included siren noises and a fascination with lights). These days, he constantly runs around our house pretending to be a fireman! He enlists our help in spraying an imaginary hose and put out imaginary fires.
That makes Radley at least the third straight generation of my family to appreciate such things. Even as we are surrounded by a more-connected world that is enthralled with the Marvel universe (admittedly, I'm a sucker for anything that could include Black Widow - Captain America movies, Avengers, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., a Netflix series)... With how often we read Rad's Batman book, put him in Spiderman pajamas, or help him sound out words in the X-men Learn-to-Read story, it's amazing that he continuously comes back to Fire Fighters and Police Officers with such enthusiasm. To him, they are just as much super-heroes as Hulk or Iron Man are.
That's what made today so much fun! I was out for a run, and passed the fire station and its banner proclaiming "Fire Service Day!" I called Corri, who had just put Radley down for 'quiet time'...but we both agreed:
CALL OFF THE NAP!
Instead, we planned to meet up at the fire station! We knew how much that was going to mean to the little guy! ..and we were right! I just spent an afternoon following a 2-year-old around the fire station grounds, running from one fire truck to the next. We got to see an inflatable landing zone blown up, and a fireman jump off a roof onto the giant air mattress! We sat in firetrucks, and talked to fire fighters! It was actually SO over-whelmingly cool (to a kid who had skipped his nap) that Radley was a little apprehensive about this adventure, until a fire fighter named Kevin (clearly one of us Dads) asked Rad about his Paw Patrol shirt - and correctly identified Marshall...then named off the other members on Rad's Paw Patrol hat (Chase, Rocky, Zuma...) <-- that's the thing!These are real people - Kevin has a 2-year-old at home, and a brand-new baby girl as well! Another fireman was the one that suggested timing the inflation of the giant safety pad, just to make sure Radley and the other kids were having fun - it may also have been to give his colleague another excuse to jump off a building ;c)
The people at Station 88 today, and the officers, fire-fighters, and EMTs that I've done ride-alongs with, or met at charity events...or met on the side of a road where they were requesting I drive slightly slower.. These are all people who I have a tremendous amount of respect for. And I am thrilled that so many kids were at the station today, with a beaming smile and special twinkle in their eye!
This should be the penultimate validation for all of our REAL heroeS...
..they are doing something so special, that the most honest and unbiased among us (kids) recognize it and aspire to it!
THANK YOU to LAFD Station 88 for letting me play with fire trucks today! For letting my son have an afternoon of believing he can be a hero.
And for what you, my dad, and all 1st-responders do every day.