by Terry L. Sumerlin

It was a very busy, but incredibly good day in the Alamo City. It started at 4:30 a.m. After looking over my speech notes and reading for a while over some very strong coffee, I stepped through the door of our adjoining rooms to enjoy room service with my daughter. Amanda had accompanied me on the drive from Dallas.

Following our wonderful breakfast, I gathered up my things and took the elevator down 26 floors to the lobby of the Rivercenter Marriott. Shortly, my ride arrived and I was whisked off to the meeting place where I did the keynote for a retreat of supervisors and managers for the city of San Antonio.

Following the presentation, and after some rest back at the hotel, the incredible day continued as I met my good friend, Chris, for a light dinner. We had not seen each other in a few months, and were eager to chat. Since we share similar interests, it was great to reconnect.

As we talked, Chris told me about a fascinating experience he and his wife had recently enjoyed. It involved a celebrity.

Chris said a friend called one day and asked if he and his wife would like to hear Rudy Ruettiger, of the movie Rudy, speak that very evening. After Chris said they would like that, his friend asked another question. How would they like to have dinner with Rudy before the speech? So the two couples and Rudy had dinner together.

Rudy is quite a storyteller. So, I enjoyed immensely hearing Chris tell about Rudy’s experiences.

One story especially caught my attention. In fact, it has been on my mind ever since Chris told it. The story involves a time when Rudy’s daughter was asked to sing the national anthem before a Laker’s game.

On game day the family arrived several hours early in order to check out the Staples Center.
As they were looking things over, they noticed a lone player who was practicing shot after shot. “That’s Kobe Bryant!” Rudy excitedly told his family. “I’m going to go out there and meet him.” The security guards were not as excited about his idea as he was.

“No one interrupts Kobe while he’s practicing,” they said. “Oh, I’m not going to bother him,” Rudy replied. “I just want to say hello.” No way was he allowed on the floor.

Rudy came up with another plan. From the seats, he shouted, “Hey, Kobe, it’s Rudy!”

Kobe stared in unbelief at the man behind the voice. “Rudy?” he yelled back. “Rudy Ruettiger?”

“Yeah,” came the reply. “Rudy Ruettiger!”

In an immediate expression of profound admiration, Kobe walked over, stuck out his hand to Rudy, and said, “You are my hero!”

He then said that when he was a teenager growing up in Italy, basketball was not going well for him. Then one evening his dad had him watch the movie, Rudy, with him. To Rudy, his daughter and his son, Kobe said, “That movie changed my life.” A hero for many had met his own hero.

Perhaps neither Kobe nor Rudy are your heroes. I don’t know who your heroes are, nor do I need to know. That is beside the point I wish to make. My point is this: heroes matter greatly, even to those who have achieved great things. In fact, many have achieved great things because they had certain heroes in their lives. Not only that, but because of their heroes many have also been able to face some of life’s greatest challenges.

My friend Chris is that kind of hero to me. We are both survivors of the same type of cancer. Several years ago, when this wonderful friend and oral surgeon found out I was scheduled to have the same surgery he’d had, he opened his heart and his busy schedule in order for me to pour out my intense fears and concerns, and for him to candidly and compassionately answer all my questions. He inspired me with courage and hope. Though Chris’ life has taken a different path from Rudy’s, to me he is a hero simply because he cared enough to make a huge difference in my life. That doesn’t require a big name – just a big heart.

Heroes come from all walks of life, but they have one thing in common: they all matter to others. We, each of us, matter to someone. We may not always know who that someone is. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that we be good heroes to others, and that we choose our own heroes wisely.

LEADERSHIP TIP: Be careful who you greatly admire, and be well aware that someone, somewhere greatly admires you.

Feel free to reprint this article in your organization’s newsletter.  Please add the following notice — exactly as follows:  *Reprinted with permission from Terry L. Sumerlin. © 2014 Terry L. Sumerlin.  For over 25 years, leadership author and conference speaker, Terry L. Sumerlin, has been addressing audiences throughout the U.S. and internationally. www.terrysumerlin.com

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