Monday, July 29, 2013

Real Heroes

It's often lamented that our culture makes heroes out of people who aren't and fails to make heroes out of people who are.

I recently finished a book by a former student who is one of those who really does deserve to be considered a hero. He's certainly a hero to the parents of hundreds of physically and mentally disabled children in south-central Pennsylvania.

His name is Louis Castriota and what he's done for these kids is truly amazing. He recounts his story in a book titled Leg Up: The Courage to Dream. Louie, whose oldest daughter is autistic, was inspired to build a facility for disabled children that would be a refuge not only for the children but for their families as well.

He and his wife Laurie dreamed of a facility that would combine all the services such children need in a single location that would be a godsend for harried mothers and a blessing for special needs kids. The facility he and Laurie envisioned would be a farm where autistic and other developmentally challenged children would develop relationships with animals as a means of therapy.

All Louie and Laurie had at the start was the dream and the desire to make it happen. The book is the story of their struggle to find the means to launch their dream and turn it into a reality. It's a wonderful story (full disclosure: He says some kind things about me in the book, but it's a wonderful story nevertheless), and I urge you to go to their website to see what one man with determination and faith can accomplish.

It really is inspiring.

Another hero is a friend of mine named Andy Stump. Twenty years ago Andy left a comfortable life in suburbia to visit the poorest country in the western hemisphere, Haiti. He decided to stay and he's still there today, teaching English and music to Haitian children, helping people with their problems and seeing to their medical care.

Andy has foresworn all the advantages of being an American and cast his lot with the poor in order to bring them whatever relief he can and to do whatever he can to help them improve their lives.

It's an astonishing example of selflessness, but Andy will tell you that it's an honor to be given the chance to serve God by serving others.

You can read about his work here. In a world that makes heroes out of celebrities, athletes, and even criminals, Louie and Andy are two stellar examples of the genuine article.