Everyone has, or has had at some point in their lives, someone they look up to. Maybe it was their mom, dad, aunt, uncle, a more distant relative, or even a higher power. No matter the person or spirit, they inspire us and challenge us to become better people. And taking such inspiration and putting it into action allows for the cycle to continue, and maybe someday you will touch a person in such a way that they will look to you as their role model. I believe that we all need guidance and a helping hand in order to become independent citizens that genuinely care for the well-being of all members of society. For me, my helping hand is my grandfather, Leonard L. Fagan. Although he has been gone for nearly two years, God rest his soul, his legacy remains and lives on inside of me each and every day.
To give an insight to just how altruistic this man was I like to provide this anecdote. While vacationing in Arizona, my grandfather was driving a car packed with my grandmother, four children (one of which was my mother), and supplies. As the car cut through the harsh Arizona heat, my grandpa noticed a man walking. Each step was a struggle for this shirtless guy who was blistered and beaten by the sun’s intensity. Grandpa stopped and made his way to the rear of the car. From inside the trunk he removed a cooler and handed the man a bottle of water. He then unbuttoned his shirt, dipped it into the icy water contained by the cooler, and placed it gently onto the man’s back. Without waiting for a word of thanks, grandpa was back in the car and pulling away.
Besides his benevolent nature, my grandfather is also a man of strength. In 1999, a tree trimming accident left him paralyzed from the neck down. The doctors gave him one and a half years to live; however, he rose above, and with the help of his family, willed himself to live another eight years. I helped to care for my grandfather since the day after his accident and never once did I hear him complain about the pain, suffering, and entrapment he endured. I was at his home on the day his physical life came to a close, and in watching the life being taken from the body of the strongest, most generous person I have ever known I realized everything he had taught me.
As a child I spent a great deal of time at my grandparent’s home while my single mother worked three jobs and went to school (her strength is also a result of my grandfather, and he has always been the greatest person in her life as well). At his home I escaped the perils of a mentally abusive father and the depression that plagued my mother. I could, even as a child, recognize the polar differences between my father and grandfather, knowing in my heart I never wanted to end up as the son, father, or person that my father was. Attempting to walk in his footprints, I learned exactly how people should interact, love, and nurture. I will always carry the many life-lessons and values that have been instilled in me.
My grandfather is a person who has literally given the shirt off of his back for someone. He has endured a torturous imprisonment within his own body without grievance. I admire his selflessness and have wanted to be exactly like him for my entire life. No longer is it a childhood-tagalong fantasy; I have realized his contribution to the world and the wholeness of his life. He was never a man of money or flashy items, yet he lived a noble life and felt complete through helping others. I model my own life after the way my grandpa lived and in doing so I feel complete.
Nobody has taught me more about life and has been a greater inspiration than my grandfather, Leonard L. F. I have a feeling many others have people they look up to; if you feel that you do not, look closer. Where have you derived your most basic set of principles and values? I feel strongly that there is always someone watching, guiding, instructing, and caring. This is why I believe in the power of role models: people who inspire us and challenge us to become selfless, all-loving individuals.
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