By Josh Leskar
I use the word, hero too liberally. When someone goes out of their way to do me a huge favor, I’ll offer them this sort of you-saved-the-day form of appreciation. “Heroic!” “You’re a hero!” After all, who doesn’t want to be recognized as ahero?
However, when I truly reflect on the marks of a hero, I begin to see very clear qualities: a hero is a person who is selfless, who puts him- or herself before others, who is kind, generous, brave and inspiring. But most of all, a hero is a person who, even at his or her personal worst, when everything is going wrong, still manages to be a shining beacon for others to be not only better, but the best version of themselves that they can possibly become.
I thrive on the inspiration of those around me, and throughout my life, I have been fortunate enough to have role models I consider heroes. Both my mother and my father have always been heroes to me – inspiring me to follow my passions, keeping me grounded and realistic, leading by example and supporting my decisions to the fullest. My sister has been a heroine as well, paving so much of the way for me as I attempt to follow in her footsteps. My best friend Kevin is one of the hardest-working men I have ever met in my entire life, and I aspire to match his focus and commitment every single day.
Most recently, I consider a man named Murray Shepard to be my hero. Murray, my father’s business partner, has been through more hardship in the past decade or-so than anyone should experience in a lifetime. On New Year’s Day in 2003, Murray lost his wife to a brain tumor, with which she had been fighting for years. In 2009, he found out his sister needed a kidney transplant. And just recently in 2012, he was diagnosed with myelodysplastic lymphoma (MDL), requiring an intense round of bone marrow transplants.
Yet not once did we see him falter. He not only persevered in every instance, he stepped up to go above any beyond what anyone could have expected. With a heart of gold, he began raising money for the Florida Brain Tumor Association and started a 5k run in Michelle’s memory. Upon finding out he was a match for his sister, he immediately proceeded to donate his own kidney without a second thought, despite his own health issues. And now, with a glowing spirit and a will of steel, is fighting through the MDL with nothing short of a positive attitude.
All the while, he continues to work hard as an attorney and to be a father to his wonderful daughter, a loving husband to his second wife, and as a friend everyone around him. If you didn’t know it, he would just be a regular, normal man.
But he isn’t, and that’s what makes him my hero.