Sunday, August 07, 2005

Mentors: The Unsung Heroes Among Us

Just what is the value of those unsung heroes whose services to the next generation take place in relative obscurity? Those persons, for instance, who have never written a best seller, never enjoyed success on the stage or screen, never received academic, financial or media recognition – persons who have simply concentrated on the careful, honorable mentor of the youngsters in their sphere of influence?

Certainly, the most crucial of all callings belong to the parents, the adults of extended family, even teachers and coaches who serve the children of our world. Yet our celebrity-crazy culture has moved these real heroes to the back rows while giving prominence to those who merely “make a name for themselves.”

An example -- Al Bergman was a coach who worked for the Illinois Athletic Club on the south side of Chicago in the 1920’s and 30’s. Al Bergman was a remarkable fellow, a genuine hero who was devoted to developing the character and skills of the young men in his circle of influence.

No books have been written about Al Bergman; he was one of those who never granted celebrity status. Few people outside of his small circle of friends and family ever heard his name. But Coach Bergman’s impact traveled far beyond him through the young men whose lives he guided. One of the young men mentored by Al Bergman turned out to be an Olympic swimming champion and star of the famous Tarzan movies, Johnny Weismuller. Another turned to the trapeze before eventually finding fame in Hollywood as well. He was television’s Lone Ranger, Clayton Moore.

So kudos for the hero behind the scenes, Al Bergman, and all others (parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches and mentors of all types) who put principled service to the young before all else.