Meet my brother. One of the nicest guys I know. He is a volunteer for the local fire department. He and his family live in rural Nebraska in a village of 300ish people. Recently, he invited me back for the annual village celebration. A day full of family fun and local tradition.
As he showed me around his neighborhood, there wasn't a single person he didn't know or speak to, and all I heard were good things. "He is a hard worker. Give you the shirt off his back. I can always count on him..." This should have come as no surprise to me because I've always known this about my brother, but it caught me off guard. For as long as I can remember, people have been unkind to him. Most thought he wouldn't amount to much, and for a while we only had each other. He stuck up for me and I stuck up for him. A bond I'm fairly certain is embedded so deep nothing will break it. We are worlds apart, which makes our relationship uniquely strange. I can only hear about the latest technological advances in farming for so long before I go bonkers and he has no desire to understand my life in the city, but we would do anything to protect each other.
Hearing others confirm the person I know as my brother makes me incredibly proud. He has risen above the odds that were stacked against him and made the best life for himself that he knows how. As a volunteer firefighter, he is willing to put his life on the line to save a neighbor or friend. We had a conversation about this while I was there. So many others in the village don't understand the importance of the service and don't always support it. I'm not sure how you can turn away a person that would put their life on the line to protect yours and do it for free.
In this moment my heart is full. I had just lifted my nephew into the truck because he wanted to be a fireman like his daddy.
I had a great visit and I walked away with something very important. My brother helped me remember that despite what trouble life brings you, there has to be a time when you set aside your differences to help others, to be a good person, and accept others for who they are. He has his flaws. We all do, but at the end of the day he is still trying and that's all that matters. To be a good man, a good father, a good citizen.
Meet my brother. The volunteer fireman.