Character Study in Real Life: Courage doesn’t need a uniform

img_0091Given the nature of our family, we were a secretive bunch. It was necessary. As in war when loose lips sink ships, in our family free and easy conversation would always lead to physical beatings, deprivations, and prolonged mental torture, so we didn’t engage in it. I say this to explain why it was that I was heading toward forty before I heard the story I’m getting ready to tell you. Old habits die hard.

I have three younger brothers. Mike (pictured here) is one of them. When I was in 8th Grade, he was in second grade. One day he was sent home from school for fighting.

We were new to the county, my mother moving us there to run a fifteen-unit motel for my stepfather’s former boss. To top it all off, we were a different religion than anybody else around and my stepfather would soon be extorting city and county leaders for certain favors. Seems they didn’t want their families, customers, and constituents to know they were watching stag films on a regular basis at the back of the hardware store, or running moonshine and drugs. That county sure had some gorgeous banks, and my stepfather sure wanted them to remain successful, sooooo…favors granted.

So it is in this environment, of which most of it I was unawares because we didn’t talk to each other, that my brother followed me down the street to school. I had to pass his to get to mine. As I ignored everything around me, living in my head as I often do, it seems there was a group of sixth to eighth graders who were making rude and crude remarks about what they would like to do to my body, woohoo, and bring it on, woman, I want summadat sort of comments with more explicitness.

Mike heard them and took great offense that his beloved oldest sister was being disrespected like that.

My brother walked right up to them and told them to take it back. Like all bully groups do, they laughed and asked him what he was going to do about it. Ha-ha. Ha-ha-ha. Hee-hee-ta-ha-ha-OUCH! Now, you might think a second grade boy would have no success going up against a group of much larger boys and that ouch was the only one he managed to give to that group.

You would be mistaken.


Yes, my brother made his mark in the county that very morning as he became a solid pillar of righteous indignation inside an unstoppable F5 tornado. Those boys were beat up bad. They never messed with him again — and they circled wide in a respectful fashion when I was in their vicinity.

Mike has not changed. If it’s wrong it is wrong, and he will not have any truck with it. He will give his food money to help feed somebody else who’s been done wrong.

When I say I worry about him, he waves a dismissive hand and shrugs as he dips in his pocket for a cigarette and says, “Ah, it’s okay, Angie-Ah, I only need to eat once a day. They needed it a whole helluva lot more than me. Hey, you wanna sing karaoke?”

That would be a big yes, Little Baby Brother.

But you see, Mike is like a lot of people quietly going about their business, not looking for the limelight and, if one gets shown on them, they will point a strong finger and tell you to shut that damn thing off or at least get it off of them.  They wouldn’t take a reward if their life depended on it. Don’t talk to them about no heroes ceremony, either. Yet these very people are the ones that will put themselves in harm’s way to help out, then disappear. If you were to ever find them to ask why the didn’t stick around, they’d just shrug and say, “I had to get home to feed the dogs.”

These people don’t wear uniforms. Many you would not ever know are heroes with more courage than…than anything. But they are. And it is these people who, when the going gets tough, have your back.

(Mike will never see this because he doesn’t do this Internet thing and hardly any of his friends do either. I will never tell him about it because he would be so embarrassed and I’m not going to do that to Little Baby Brother.)