Heroes aren’t special men. Heroes are just regular men who respond to the needs of others in special times.
Nick Naylor became a hero on April 27, 2014. He and his family were pummeled by the high-end EF4 tornado that struck his Mayflower, Arkansas neighborhood that Sunday night. But rather than see himself as a victim, Nick went to work.
It wasn’t manly toughness but human compassion that compelled him to run from home to home, looking for survivors and rendering aid however he could.
When the father of five saw a young neighbor child who had been thrown into a yard 50 yards from her home, he thought of his own four girls and one boy. In all, he carried half a dozen people to be transported to receive medical care. Some of the victims were friends, but many were strangers. To him they were just people who needed to be helped, and he was available.
It doesn’t take a special kind of man to be a hero. Mostly, it just takes a man of compassion and integrity. A man who embraces a life committed to Christ already has all the qualities of a hero. He only needs opportunity, like the tornadoes that hit Mayflower, Arkansas and Louisville, Mississippi. He already considers the lives of others as important as his own. He recognizes in the midst of a crisis that he may very well have been put where he is “for such a time as this.” He is willing to reflect that greatest love of all, reflecting the greatest expression of love any man can show for another — to lay down his life.
I need to share two more stories of sacrifice from the tornado outbreaks of the past week. One is from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where scholar-athlete John Servati held up a falling wall long enough for his girlfriend to escape. The wall collapsed before he could get away, though, and the gifted swimmer later that night died from his injuries. Before Monday night, he was just known as a guy who was always ready to help others in whatever way he could.
The other story of sacrifice is from Louisville, Mississippi — the home town of several of my extended family members. In this video, the story is told from the perspective of the one who benefited from that sacrifice. Sixteen years ago, Coysheena Mitchell lost her mother to a tornado. On April 28, she thought she had lost her own daughter. She went to pick up four-year-old Ashtyn from daycare, but the building was gone. Searching through the rubble, rescuers found the little girl still alive, sheltered safely from debris by the lifeless body of Ruth Bennett, the daycare owner.
Both Ruth Bennett and John Servati were just regular people who put themselves in places where they felt they needed to be. And today we remember them as heroes.