I have a good friend named Randall who grew up in Mississippi and, as a kid, he used to love to go and see his grandmother and grandfather, whom he affectionately knew as Ma and Pa. Ma was a great cook. Womenfolk in that part of Mississippi knew how to cook, and Ma was the best. However, what young Randall really liked was supper, because that is when Pa would cook breakfast at night. Randall loved seeing those big hands crack those eggs on the stove and stir the grits in the bowl. It was just Randall and Pa in the kitchen and, of course, a few stories.
“Pa, how did you learn to cook so good?”
Pa would sniff his nose like he didn’t want to brag and say, “I used to cook on a boat.”
“Wow, a boat Pa? Did you really cook on a boat?”
“Yeah back a long time ago I used to cook on a boat.”
Well, Ma was in the other room, and she rushed into the kitchen, scolding Pa, “Why did you tell that boy you cooked on a boat? You ain’t never been on no boat.”
“I did too cook on a boat. That was before you knew me.”
“Pshaw, Pa,” Ma would say, “you ain’t never cooked on no boat. You ain’t never even been on no boat.”
So, did Pa ever cook on a boat? I do know this. Randall’s dad was an alcoholic, and Randall was a little boy in desperate need of a hero. He believed Pa cooked on a boat, and I guess that is all that really matters. People need heroes, not zeroes. Or better yet, we need to be heroes.
Who are the heroes today? Sports stars? Entertainment stars? The American Film Institute released its list of the 100 greatest film heroes and villains in film history. Heroes and zeroes. Hannibal Lechter ranks as the number one villain of all time. Darth Vader was on the list as was my number one, The Wicked Witch of the West. Nurse Ratched from “One Flew over the Cuckoos Nest” was on there.
And the heroes? They defined a hero as “someone who has morality, courage, and purpose.” They have “sacrificed themselves to show humanity at its best.” Indiana Jones, James Bond (“The name is Bond, James Bond”) and Robin Hood were some of the winners.
Several of the characters could go either way, heroes or villains, like Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid. The movie by the same name was one of my favorites. You ladies liked it didn’t you, with Robert Redford and Paul Newman? They were bank robbers but came off as good guys.
Guess who the number one all-time hero is? You’ll never guess. Never. He is a lawyer, a southern attorney, named Atticus Finch, in the 1962 classic, “To Kill a Mockingbird.” In the movie Finch, played by Gregory Peck, defends a black man who is falsely accused of raping a white woman. In doing so he incurs the wrath of the local community and endangers his own life and that of his family. He was a witness for the truth and thus a hero. Sometimes heroes are thrust into the limelight and make the headlines.
So, did Pa ever cook on a boat? Both Ma and Pa have long since passed away and perhaps, with them, the truth as well. I don’t cook, and I sure as heck have never cooked on a boat, but I hope my kids believe wonderful things about me (even if they aren’t true).
~ Pastor Steve