In a world where our options for heroes seem few and far between, (just turn on the TV for 5 minutes) I’m finding that my heroes are perhaps less obvious. It’s important to have a hero, or group of heroes in your life that you turn to and consult from time to time. These people can be family members, authors, entrepreneurs, visionaries; someone that speaks to you, dead or alive. So today, I am going to begin a series on heroes, and my first hero is the person with whom I share a name, my dad, John Sligh Gross, Sr.
My dad was born into a family of five boys in a small town in Upstate New York on December 2, 1955. His father was a successful local dentist and the Gross family was active in the community. When my dad turned five, he developed a problem with his legs that made his feet to turn outwards and caused him to walk with a limp. Doctors seemed stunned by this. The best explanation they could come up with is a, “bad reaction to the polio vaccine…maybe”. For his part, though, my dad hasn’t let this get him down. His ability to overcome adversity is one of the things I most admire about him. Today he’s the most badass guy you’ll ever meet on a motorized scooter.
He’s also an ordained minister. Perhaps it was his family’s commitment to the mission field in Kenya, or maybe he just felt it was his calling, but for better or worse my dad spent his career as pastor and teacher. All along the way, I’ve watched my dad go through some amazing highs, and some really crappy lows in his ministry. As a child I would often accompany my dad to hospitals and nursing homes to visit those who were in pain; this exposed me to things that most people never see in their lives…and I’m better for it. I’ve traveled the world with him, visiting several foreign countries on mission trips. We’ve gone to Phillies games, sitting 10 rows back behind home plate, and attended Flyers games while watching from the comfort of a suite. In short, my dad’s immobility has not impeded him from doing countless great things and I’m proud to say I’ve been there for most of it. He’s taught me tenacity and given me the sense of humor to power through just about anything.
My wife and I are expecting John Sligh Gross, III (JSG III aka “baby Jack”) sometime in September. I’m proud to say that a great name will live on. I only hope I can impart to him what my dad has given to me.
Who are your heroes? Drop a comment here or on my Facebook Page. I’d love to hear about it.