THE HALL OF HEROES

   
                                                                               Author: Unknown
                                                                               From:  "Christ and the Fine Arts"
                                                                               Edited by Cynthia Pearl Maug
                                                                               Harpers' and Brothers Publishers, N.Y. 1938
 Revised to include "Heroes of the Arts", "Heroes of Sport", and "Heroes of Invention".
 All additions and existing categories modernized and Americanized by Leon B. Hirsh, Pensacola, Fl,.  2008
 
Have you ever thought how many different kinds of heroes there are in the world?  In every land there are names of people who lived long ago who are kept in loving memory and honor because those who bore them remember how they performed heroic and noble deeds.  Some of them risked their lives to find out how to conquer disease and to help bring the blessing of health to the world.  Some suffered and died for "the truth".  Some fought against enemies of their country and gave their lives on the field of battle.  All these people are true heroes, and we are glad to give them praise and honor; but there are others who deserve higher honor than any of them.  Let me tell you a story I have read.  It was a vision, perhaps, that some unknown author had of a "Hall of Heroes".  This is the way he described it:
 
Suddenly I found myself standing before a great building.  Was it a state capitol or a hall of justice?  I had no idea.  There was a wide entrance approached by a long flight of broad steps....at the top of which, in the shadow of a great doorway, stood a man.  When I went up to him and asked, "Will you please tell me what building this is?", he answered very graciously:  "This is the Hall of Heroes.  Would you like to go through it?"  "Thank you very much", I said and followed him in.
 
 
When we entered I found myself in the center of a magnificent hall around the inside of which ran marble staircases leading to different floors.  All was silent, and when my guide spoke to me, his voice echoed along the high walls and balconies like the soft deep notes of a cathedral organ.  "Here we enshrine", said he, "the memories of all heroes from the least unto the greatest.  Let us go in".
 
Turning, I saw opposite me an open door; and over the door was written, "Heroes of Battle".  I think you would be able to recognize the names of a great many warriors seen there as I walked slowly down the long aisles of that great chamber:  Men who had fought and won great victories; men whose defeat had been glorious because they had all of their wounds in front.  I saw Leonidas who fell at Thermopylae, Horatius who kept the bridge over the Tiber, Admiral Nelson with his armless sleeve, John Paul Jones and George Washington.  There I saw, too, the heroes of the world wars, many of whom I had known:  York, Murphy, The Tuskegee Airmen, all the Congressional Medal of Honor recipients, and all of our Prisoners of War.  I was overwhelmed with a feeling of sadness as I thought about the sacrifice of so many young lives lost in battle.  I saw that the face of my guide was shadowed with sorrow, too, as we came to the end of the room and passed out into the great hall.  "Let us go to the next floor", he said.  "Someday the nations of the world willbeat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks, and nations shall not lift up sword against nations, neither shall they learn war anymore."  "I wish that were true today", I said.  "It surely will be true someday", he answered.  "And you can help bring it to pass if you will".  "I will do all I can", I promised, and my guide's face brightened as he turned to me and smiled.
 
When we reached the landing at the top of the stairs, I saw before me a door over which was inscribed, "Heroes of the Lonely Way."  Here were the pioneers:  Men who had cut their way through the jungles of unexplored continents; men who had scaled unconquered mountains; crossed waterless deserts; discovered the source of rivers; sailed over the unknown oceans, and pushed their way along the very rim of the earth.  I felt ashamed that I knew so few out of the brave multitude......but I knew Columbus, Magellan, DeLuna, and a few others, and my guide stopped me every now and then to tell me stories of deeds and courage and faith and endurance which have done more for the world than all the conquests of the sword.
 
When we reached the landing on the top of the next floor, I saw before me a door over which was inscribed, "Heroes of the Arts".  The aisles were packed with statues and pictures and stories of people who brought us pleasures that they themselves could not fully grasp:  Beethoven, who wrote and conducted symphonies when he couldn't hear; Ray Charles, who knew only by the glee of his audience that his music touched their hearts; Van Gogh, whose greatest works were created while he fought his internal demons.  There are so many Heroes of the Arts who rose above affliction to bring us history and beauty and song.
 
While perusing the titles above other doorways on that floor, I raced toward the entrance that read, "Heroes of Sport".  The baseball section was like a magnet to me.  I saw Branch Rickey signing Jackie Robinson.  I also saw Roberto Clemente, who gave his life for the people of Nicaragua.  Lou Gehrig, Dave Dravecky, Jim Abbott, and Monty Stratton were names I knew well, as they faced life's challenges with incredible courage.  Peering around the corner into the football section, the stories of Gayle Sayres, Brian Piccolo, and Ernie Davis were there to greet me.
 
My guide led me to a second flight of stairs and then through a door titled, "Heroes of Invention".  Who's to say what are the greatest inventions or discoveries of our time?  This wondrous hall housed the story of Marie Sklodowska...oh....Madame Curie, who identified two chemical elements which would become monumental finds for medical science;  George Washington Carver whose brilliance led to the discovery of 145 uses for the tiny peanut; Louis Braille who created a system teaching blind people to read and write that aided social activist Helen Keller in graduating from college.  I could have spent all day in that section, but my guide had other paths in which to lead me.
 
Ascending yet another flight of stairs, my guide pointed me to an open door before us, over which was written, "Heroes of Truth".  Then he spoke as I had never heard a man speak before of the glory and beauty of truth, of the conflict that is waging between truth and error, and of the certainty that truth will triumph in the end.  With my heart aflame at his words, I entered the room and saw the hosts who had stood bravely for the truth in places where error was powerful and had many followers.  Moses was there reciting The Ten Commandments.  Socrates was there with the cup of hemlock in his hand.  I saw Pope John Paul II receiving a bullet wound and continuing to pray to God for the safety of our world.  All the noble array or martyrs were there...from Stephen and Margaret Wilson, who were tied to the stake at Solway Firth in England and drowned by the rushing tide because they refused to deny what they believed to be true.
 
I could have stayed a long time in that glorious chamber, but my guide led me on, and we came to the last staircase of all.  It was broader than all the others and was made of something which hushed every footstep into silence.  On the steps were written, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."  Over the door which opened for us into this gallery was inscribed, "Heroes of Love".  My guide didn't enter this room in front of me as he had done each time before, but, standing off to one side, motoned with his hand that I should pass in.
 
I found that this room was the great dome crowning the building, which I had seen from the outside; but it was bigger and higher than I ever could have thought.  At first I imagined it was empty, but it was the marvelous light that blinded my eyes.  Then, in the very center, I saw a cross with a man crucified on it.  A moan escaped from my lips, "Jesus", I whispered to myself.  As I grew accustomed to the light, I found that the room was not empty, indeed it was the fullest of all; for the walls seemed to stretch away in the distance, and the dome seemed to rise into the mist.  I saw David Livingston who gave his life for the people of Africa.  I saw James Chalmers who gave his life for the people of the New Guineas.  Mother Teresa was cradling a dying child.  Anwa Sadat, who gave his life for Middle East peace.  Ghandi, whose pleas for equality and religious tolerance also cost him his life. I began to see quite plainly the multitude that cannot be numbered of the "Heroes of the Cross".  Then I caught the sound of the music.  It came up from the bottom of the huge building, as if every kind of hero, from the least unto the greatest, was joining in one mighty chorus.  It filled the room in which I stood.  I heard the words at last:  "Blessing, and Glory, and Wisdom, and Thanksgiving, and Honor, and Power, and Might be unto our God forever and ever. AMEN!"
 
I felt I could endure it no longer.  I turned and left the room, and ran down the staircase with the music ringing in my ears and feeling a great throbbing in my heart.  In the hall at the foot of the stairs, my guide was waiting for me.  He walked with me to the great entrance, and said in the kindliest manner, "You will be here someday."  I stopped in astonishment.  "I", I answered......."I a hero?" "Why not?" he answered smiling.  I looked into his face.   He seemed to know the great longing in my heart and, with loving tenderness, read and answered my unspoken questions.
 
"How can you?  Ask  and it shall be given unto you.  Seek and ye shall find.  Knock and it shall be opened unto you......for everyone who asketh receiveth, and he who seeketh findeth, and to him who knocketh it shall be opened.  I am sure you will be with us someday."
 
We stood outside the door.  He held out his hand to me to say goodbye.  I looked down and thought it had the print of a nail in it.  He asked, "On which floor would you like us to prepare a place for you?".........and through me he asks it again......"On which floor would you like him to prepare a place For You....For You....For You.....For You...........For You.......For You..........For You?"

April 1, 2008

It's most interesting that people remembered Dr. Chable's speech.  After my rat year, I always looked forward to hearing it again....as did the rest of the Cadet Corps.  I betcha no one in our precious Cadet Corps could name three of the other rabbis, priests, pastors,or ministers that came to us once a week to deliver a sermon.  Dr. Chable had a much larger impact on us.
 
If you look closely at this piece of literature, you find out that no one ever knew who the author was.  It was edited by Cynthia Pearl Maug for an edition of Harper's Magazine in 1938.  The author had to be British.  All the examples of heroes came from the British Crown.  That's really about all we know.
 
If a sermon like that one had such a profound affect on such a cynical and sarcastic Cadet Corps as the one in which I was involved for four years, then I wonder how it might affect young people today?   Two months ago, I rewrote part of it, modernized it and Americanized it.  I plan on delivering it for the first time to a high school conclave of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes organization here in Pensacola.

Leon Hirsh, KMI '68


 
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