Dad, My Hero

James - Valdese, North Carolina
Entered on March 12, 2009

I once saw a hero as someone who saved lives wearing tights and a cape. However, throughout the years, my image of that hero began to diminish as I came to realize what a true her really was to me.

On in the summer of 2003, my dad decided that he and I could go on a fishing trip together. Dad and I had pleasant little conversations, talking about school, church, and even girls—you know “man talk.” As we were fishing, we found out that the engine of the boat died. We called for help and decided to continue fishing to pass time. As we were waiting, Dad and I somehow stumbled upon a conversation about his memories of his youth.

Dad was a refugee who escaped to Thailand due to the conflict between the Hmong and Vietnamese, which was caused by the Vietnam War. He came to the United States alone in 1981 at the age of seventeen and knew just enough English to get into high school. He worked for his own living for five years and supported himself and his way to college. Amazingly, he graduated with his bachelor’s degree in ministry within a span of three years in 1988. Dad got married and raised a family—supporting his mother-in-law’s family as well. Since then, he obtained his masters degree and eventually acquired his doctorate degree in pastoral ministry in 2002. Dad also explained to me how much he loves being a father and a pastor, even though he was paid merely as much as someone who never graduated high school. However, his counseling has helped countless families through difficult struggles, which in his view, is worth the cut in pay.

I was amazed at how dad made it through life living on his own since the age of seventeen. He was an immigrant who knew little English and somehow managed to obtain his doctorate degree.

My view of my father soon changed along with our relationship. I realized that dad did everything for me and has not only changed my life but every person he encountered. The typical father-and-son relationship dramatically changed to be one where I could rely on my father for emotional, physical, and even spiritual support. I struggled through half my life looking for a mentor—not realizing that the greatest mentor of all was the person who first held me when I entered the world. Since that fishing trip, I can see the bond between Dad and I and how it solidified our relationship

I now realize what a hero to me really is. It’s not some someone who was given all the power and heroic qualities and then chooses to save lives. It’s someone who isn’t given the power or the chance to save the world, yet he chooses to save it—the world that involves the people he encounters on a daily basis.

I believe that a real hero is someone who—without having all the opportunities handed to him—takes the effort and time to overcome life’s greatest obstacles and make his own opportunities for his future and the future of others. I believe that a hero lives not for himself, but for everyone else around him. I believe that that hero is my dad.