The Rise and Fall of Heroes

Seek the Peace and Prosperity of the City in which I have placed you.
.ז וְדְְִרְשׁוּ אֶת-ְׁשְׁלוֹ הָעִיר, ֲאֲשֶׁׁר הְִגְלֵיתִי אְֶתְכֶם שָׁמָּה, וְהְְִתְפְַּלל בֲַעֲדָהּ, אֶל-יְהְוהָ: כִּי בְִׁשְׁלוֹהּ, יְִהִהֶ לָכֶם שָׁׁלוֹם  JEREMIAH 29:7
Whatever Saul sent him to do, David did it so successfully that Saul gave him rank in the army. This pleased all the people, and Saul’s officers. When the men were returning home after David had killed the Philistine, the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing…As they danced they sang ”Saul has slain his thousands and David his ten thousands.” Saul was very angry…
1 Samuel 18: 5-8
מה שאול שלח אותו לעשות, דוד עשה את זה כל כך בהצלחה כי שאול נתן לו דרגה בצבא. זה היה מרוצה מכל האנשים, וקציניו של שאול. כאשר האנשים חזרו הביתה אחרי שדייויד רצח את הפלשתים, יצאו הנשים מכל ערי ישראל כדי לפגוש את שאול המלך בשירה ובריקוד … בעודן רוקדות הן שרו “שאול הרג את אלפיו ואת דוד עשרת אלפיםיו” שאול היה מאוד כועס

The Bible tells of the rise and fall of both Saul and David, the first and second Kings of Israel. This passage shows us that for a season both men enjoyed the status of national heroes together. The passages all introduce the weakness in Saul that would lead to his fall and destruction of his kingdom. The prophet Samuel in his books 1st and 2nd Samuel in fact records the rise and fall of both men. Saul’s jealousy destroyed him, while David’s infidelity will lead to murder, war with his own son and ultimately a divided Kingdom.
This summer, Memphis has had to endure headlines about the frailties and missteps of two of its sports heroes. First, Hugh Freeze’s missteps cost him his job which is minor compared to the pain he has cost his family. Coach Freeze was known by many a charity in Mississippi as a man who cared about those in need.
Second, Zach Randolph announced to Memphis that he would be leaving the Grizzlies to play for Sacramento; this announcement was greeted by Memphis and the Grizzlies with a cry of sadness and gratefulness. The Grizzlies announced the retirement of his jersey. The airways and social media were filled with thoughts on how Memphis and Z-Bo both rose above themselves because of each other. Z-Bo hadn’t been gone a month when the headlines changed from highlighting the qualities of our home-town hero to the missteps of a sports figure throwing a party that got a little out of hand. In both cases, the elevated status of these men made them targets for their behavior outside the norm, but if we are all honest, most of us could not survive the status of hero if all our thoughts and actions were made known to the public.

The strength of the Mid-South is not its public heroes but its tens of thousands of private heroes. These heroes fill our churches, synagogues and not for-profit organizations. Their staffs, members and volunteers are all called to work quietly and most often with recognition to make a difference in their communities. This past week, I walked the grounds of an old abandoned cemetery and church with my mentor and friend Lee Stafford. Lee has been quietly restoring the old abandoned Montpelier Missionary Baptist Church near West Point, Mississippi.Lee Stafford Lee grew up visiting and singing in the choir as a child, and he told me, “I must be kin to half of the people buried here.” In its day, the church was a vital part of the community. While it was abandoned over 50 years ago, the cemetery still serves the lineage of those member-families with the most recent headstone from a death in 2016.

Lee, and the many people who are helping restore the property, are not heroes in the traditional meaning; they are the heroes that change a community one small kindness and deed at a time. They don’t have to worry about their own human frailty to bring them down, because they don’t seek to live in the limelight. 4Memphis may briefly shine the limelight on the silent heroes of the Mid-South, and it is hopefully not to lift them up for a fall, but to inspire others to join them in making a difference in Memphis.
Seek the Peace and Prosperity of Memphis.

Jim Walker