Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Heroes in the Library

My library is a special place to me for more than anything else it is a place where my heroes dwell. You remember heroes, don't you? Those men and women who bravely fought for great causes, sacrificed for lofty ideals, and otherwise broke the bonds of compromising commonality to achieve noble aims.

Heroes. From my early childhood, I have been motivated by their ideals, by their creeds, and by their deeds. And it was in the libraries that I came to know them. There were the fictional (but oh-so-real) characters of Saint George, Robin Hood, Roland, El Cid, d'Artagnan, Ivanhoe, and even Sherlock Holmes and Tom Swift. And there were the biographies of accomplished men and women: Saint Patrick, Christopher Columbus, Sir Walter Raleigh, George Washington, Daniel Boone, Abraham Lincoln, Helen Keller, Jim Thorpe, Jackie Robinson; Audie Murphy, and so many more.

Heroes. They were figures who provided more than entertainment or information. They gave inspiration and hope. They set the bar high but they also lent a young boy the motivation to try for it nevertheless.

Now as a Christian (a veteran one whose conversion occurred more than 37 years ago), these inspirational heroes still provide me with the spiritual energy to seek higher goals, travel loftier paths. And it is in my library, more than anywhere else, that their presence beautifully resounds. I relish each encounter with these heroes and the fact that our meetings take place only within the pages of books does not diminish the thrill.

Those heroes, by the way, include Francis Schaeffer; C.S. Lewis; Joni Eareckson-Tada; Malcolm Muggeridge; Teddy Roosevelt; G.K. Chesterton; Ronald Reagan; Alexander Solzhenitsyn; Dorothy Sayers; Donald Grey Barnhouse; and Randy Alcorn. And, as you can guess, the list goes on much further still.

Even along the walls of my library, I am moved by the images of heroes who I (literally) look up to: Joshua Chamberlain at Gettysburg; Ulysses S. Grant; William Wilberforce; Alexander Solzhenitsyn; Ronald Reagan; iconographic pictures of Saint Nicholas and Saint George; and my late father, Alva Hartford.

Heroes. They have shaped my life in ways too numerous and profound to ever fully evaluate. But I know this -- they have certainly called me out of my narrow self-interests to those virtuous adventures that come in the pursuit of character, integrity, courage, and religious faith. I will be forever grateful to them all.

Where would I be without heroes? I shudder to think. Indeed, where would I be without the books that they've left behind, books which allow their inspiration, wisdom and power of example to continue effecting my life.