It’s not every day you get to meet a real life hero.
I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to do just that today.
Being an introvert and socially awkward I had a moment of panic as I stood in a receiving line at the back of the auditorium. My friend standing with me offered me some advice, “Tell him he’s an inspiration.” That advice matched what was in my heart…hearing her validate what I wanted to say gave me courage.
When it was my turn I squatted down and took his hand and I said, “I don’t know you. I didn’t take care of you. But I know that your smiling face and fight have inspired me and my children. I have 3 of them and I’ve been able to look at you to show them what a REAL hero looks like. You’ve fought with grace and with strength that inspires others. You inspire them, you inspire me and I just wanted to let you know how grateful I am to get the opportunity to meet a real life hero.”
Today I got to meet Devon Gales and his parents.
Devon Gales was a Southern University football player who suffered a spinal injury September 26th when his school played the UGA Bulldogs. He was treated at the hospital where I work. He was embraced by the college I love and today he stopped by on his way home to Louisiana to meet with UGA and with all those that cared for him. An invitation was extended to any hospital employee who wanted to meet him. I took that opportunity.
The story captured the attention in my city. The outpouring of love and support from Athens and the university of Georgia made me proud to be a part of this community.
I was lucky enough to be on the sidelines when they introduced him at a recent Georgia game. He was wearing a shirt that read GALES with the G in the trademark red/black. I was lucky enough to see his brave smile and to watch him raise his arms to wave at the roaring crowds who recognized how far he’d come from the last time he was in the stadium when he lay motionless. I’ve read his humble words about not giving up, about fighting to walk again and about his thankfulness to all those that support him. His smile…his honest, genuine and engaging smile has never faltered.
“Kids need heroes today and they don’t have to look any farther than you and your family to find them,” I went on to tell Devon today. “Thank you for that. Thank you for letting me meet you today to tell you what a huge impact you have on so many lives. Keep fighting. Keep believing. Know you’ve got an army of supporters rooting for you.”
I also got to meet his parents. It’s easy to see where Devon gets his strength and his grace. It was definitely inherited.
Devon and his family suffered a dramatic and life altering event. But there is no “why me” in their faces. No woe is me in their demeanor or their spirit. This family is humble, grateful, gracious and hopeful. Their grace is inspirational. Their appreciation,despite their circumstances, humbles me in a way I can’t even define.
In a world sorely lacking in Heroes I am so thankful to have been able to spend a few minutes in the presence of a true gentleman. A true inspiration.
In a world solely lacking in role models it was amazing to be able to tell my children that today I met someone that they would be wise to emulate. Someone from who they can seek inspiration. Someone from who they can SEE what faith and hope and grace look like. And isn’t that what a hero is?
Devon says he will walk again. I believe him. What a young man. What a family. What a smile. What an inspiration. What a hero.