The definition of hero is a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities. I have concluded I am not likely to find people suited for this category in the news headlines. They exist and should be there, but instead we are watching recaps of the latest Twitter war between an elected official and an over-rated professional athlete. Someone should tell the "newsreaders" this is not news.
The more I thought about this, the sadder I became. And then it hit me. There have been so many people in my life that definitely fit this definition of hero. I should consider myself privileged. And I do. So I thought I'd share, because the world cannot have too many actual heroes.
Harley Jim Manning, known to my crowd as Uncle Jim, was my grandmother's little brother. The only boy of five children, Jim was born in Farm Life on October 20, 1923, up the lane on what is now known as Jim Manning Road. Jim lost his sight around the age of 13. But with his family, this was never an out for anything. He would leave the security of Farm Life to attend the North Carolina School for the Blind in Raleigh. There he honed his skills to be the most functional blind person he could be. Independent in spirit, Jim would rather learn to do things himself than be helped. His family always fostered his independence any way they could.
At school, he met and fell in love with a mountain girl. He would bring little Ruby Pritchard home with him for the rest of their days. The couple married in November of 1957. Together they ran the Manning family store in Farm Life for decades.
As a child, my family all met up at the store on Sunday mornings, before Sunday school and church. We'd get a little Coca Cola and the family would catch up on the week's events. This was also the time we would help Uncle Jim get his bank bag together for the week. When I was really little, he would let me endorse the back of his checks for him. Granted, it took me the entire length of the check, but that was fine by him. I would crawl up on the wooden counter and work so hard at getting his name just right on the checks.
Jim Manning's store was a place of neighborhood fellowship and ACC basketball. There I learned people could argue politics and walk away friends. I saw so many amazing things Uncle Jim did, but did not realize till I was older just how incredible he was. Before the changes in money production, he could sort a stack of bills and get the denominations right. He kept his drinks stocked so there was always a cold one waiting for you in the drink box and knew when the nabs were getting low.
His sense of humor was the best! One time my father was going to be going out of state, but was hesitant about leaving my grandmother, who wasn't in the best of health. Uncle Jim calmly chimed in to help resolve my Dad's worries. "John, if anything happens to her while you are gone, I have that big freezer in the back porch. We'll just put her in there till you get back." And he never cracked a smile. We were all accustomed to this, it was how our folks operated. But the poor new preacher who was there visiting! Bless his heart!
I never once heard Jim Manning complain. I never heard him question anything. He had the most remarkable faith I believe I have encountered. Despite having what some considered a handicap, he served his church with everything he had, and always with a smile.
2 Corintinans 5:7 says "For we walk by faith, not by sight." And this hero lived it every day.