A few weeks ago, I made one of my two or three trips per year to beautiful Utah, my former home. It was a productive visit that included teaching a writing workshop in Provo, business meetings with American Idol alum Carmen Rasmusen, a tour of the Governor’s Mansion from delightful first lady Jeanette Herbert and a round of golf with three friends who should not be allowed to drive a golf cart.
Nor should they own clubs, for that matter.
On the long, late flight home, I considered the good that came from the trip and the seeds planted for the future. But as much as I enjoyed the workshop and the marvelous writers I met, the brainstorming with Carmen and the bad golf with good friends, the lasting moment and most important impression happened in a small, nondescript classroom at West Point Junior High School in northern Davis County.
I met a hero there.
I met Mason Savage.
One of his teachers, Michelle Denson, asked many months ago if on my next visit to Utah I would drive north to meet this extraordinary young man. Perhaps like you, I assumed that when we finally met eye-to-eye, I’d hear the story of saving a sibling from a house fire, or raising a million dollars for cancer research by selling fruit punch on the sidewalk, or any of the other stories more likely to garner headlines.
But on that cold morning in Davis County, I discovered once again how everyday goodness overpowers momentary heroics. Mason, in humble, unassuming ways, defines what a young 2012 hero should look like. Even as I write those words, I’m certain he will read this column and argue with the assertion he’s special.
Fortunately, that's not his decision to make. You can judge for yourself.
During a school basketball game this winter, a classmate was injured and carted away in an ambulance. How many kids, without hesitation or fear of teasing or embarrassment, would gather together a large group of fellow players and students to offer a prayer for the young man?
How many junior high students would start a Christmas Jar without prodding or involvement from mom and dad? After simply hearing of the tradition, without needing to research or even read the book, Mason started a jar for a specific family he knew was struggling.
Not content to serve just one family, Mason adopted the Seventeen Second Miracle mentality of daily service. Mason’s mother says his list of daily service miracles already amounts to a lifetime for most of us.
How many other students speak up bravely, but politely, when others use profanity and ask them to stop? Not many.
How many other students encourage friends to try to understand and tolerate a particular classmate who is socially challenged? Not many.
When there is a child with special learning needs, or behavioral needs, or financial needs, Mason is first to offer assistance, whether anyone is looking or not.
When the world would prefer him to be nearsighted, selfish, self-centered and more interested in music, movies, video games and dating, Mason chooses to be farsighted. His vision is locked on personal growth through service.
I wish I'd been more like him as a kid. Actually, I wish I were more like him as an adult.
My list of heroes, for most of my life, probably resembles yours. It includes my parents, influential teachers, a handful of extraordinary church leaders and others whose lives I admire for the weight and length and breath of their accomplishments and contributions to the world.
In the last year or two, I have added another category of heroes to that list. They are the young men and women who are heroic for the unusual things they do each and every day, at innocent stages of life, in the face of resistance, judgment and enormous temptation to follow a more worldly set of rules.
I am proud to add Mason to that list. He may never make the nightly news and there is no biopic coming about his dramatic life. Instead, there's a young man already filled with extraordinary goodness and spiritual bravery.
During our brief meeting that day, also attended by his sweet and unabashedly proud mother, I felt impressed to look him in the eyes and tell him how strongly I believe he will have an incredible influence on the world throughout a long life.
But while Mason is indisputably special, I know there are certainly others like him. In fact, you may have someone in mind right now.
Do you know a special young man or woman who soars above the world’s low bar for adolescents? Do they go to your church? Work at your local grocery store or favorite gas station? Do they live in your neighborhood, on your street or in your own home?
Most importantly, do they know they’re heroic for standing for something more divine than pop culture and peer pressure?
If not, tell them. If so, remind them.
The world needs more young people like Mason Savage. But it also needs more of us to identify the ones who already are.