Wednesday, December 10, 2014

My Hero: A Modern-day Moroni

My brother is my hero.  He may be huge, but he is all heart.  Because of that, he has an ability to influence lives like he has mine.  So, who's your hero?

Green.  It went on endlessly. A seemingly never-ending expanse of trees extended as far as the eye could see in either direction, until it crashed with the graying sky on one side, and a rich and heavenly collage on the other.  Orange had been painted across the horizon, with brushstrokes and shadows as if an artist had left it there.  Rays of gold and red nestled into the paint intermittently.  The angles of light allowed tree-covered mounds to rise up out of the forest floor in sporadic patterns, like green waves frozen in time.  
It was not the first time I had hiked the pyramids in that place.  In fact, the jungle was beginning to feel like home to me.  Growing up with a father who was an archaeologist and a farmer gave me a world of possibilities.  Every spring, I would wake up early each morning to pull on my rubber boots and trudge through the cold Idahoan soil to move the water lines on our potato fields.  I always stopped to look for frogs around the irrigation ditches.  Then summer would come, and my family would have to leave our farm in the care of my uncles in order to move to Guatemala.  I would walk the leafy trails all day to explore the pyramids and help my dad with the excavations.  But we would be back in Idaho for the crop harvest in the fall.  I treasured that, every summer, the jungle became my home.
 My western-themed bedroom became just nylon walls surrounded by mosquito net.  Leafy paths became my hallways.  Handmade benches became part of our dining room furniture.  Our oven was made out of clay.  My new bathroom was not so pleasant, but our endless backyard made it worth the inconvenience. And a miraculous view was available at the top of each staircase. 
I liked being out here.  The solitude and primitive lifestyle made me think.  Not many of the people from home had this opportunity.  I guess that exotic adventures were harder to come by in Idaho.  I was privileged to be here.  But, then again, back home, they were privileged that they could do their business on something that flushed. The little things I had before, now seemed almost like a dream.  Carpet. The long shaggy kind. Wouldn’t it be awesome to be able to press your cheek up against carpet? Or a mattress! I was so fortunate back then.  Why did I ever take those simple luxuries for granted?  I didn’t realize that so many people, like the ones here, did not have those small and simple conveniences.
In the moment between day and dark, my brother and I sat. Black shadows occasionally soared across the scene, dancing in the last rays of daylight. I remember sitting on that limestone block, taking in the scenery, and chuckling next to my brother, Landon.  His scruffy beard was evidence that he had not seen a mirror in months.  His hiking boots were covered in mud with twigs and leaves plastered to the bottoms.  He clapped his hands together like a seal when he laughed, before leaning his mountain-man-like head on his wrist, his wide shoulders still shaking with laughter.  He seemed so different physically from the clean-cut man I had grown up with, but he was the same in every other sense: always wanting to compliment others; laughing at everyone’s jokes; and he could still converse completely in perfectly timed movie quotes despite not seeing a television in months.  This 6’5” twenty-six year old behemoth was eight years older than myself, but I still considered him my best friend. 
He was the kind of person that had every reason in the world not to be humble, and yet he was—extremely so.  He was the most spiritual man I had ever met. I often caught him reading his scriptures late into the night.  He was smart.  He was valedictorian in high school, graduated from BYU in Neuroscience, and received a full-ride scholarship to the Duke University School of Medicine where he is currently preparing to become a brain surgeon.  But what I admired most about him was his ability to influence peoples’ lives.  He was always caught doing service.  He was even the BYU Student Service Association vice president.  And even though he was so busy, he would find time to call me just to check in and see how I was doing.
If it wasn’t true that all of the girls wanted to date him, it certainly was true that all of the guys wanted to be him.  He had kind eyes, especially when he laughed.  It was those eyes that made me realize how much he cared about me and everyone else. 
I do not remember what we talked about on that pyramid that evening, but I was reminded of the near perfect men I had read about over my lifetime.  The Book of Mormon was full of them.  When I sat there with my brother, myself being an impressionable 18-year-old, I had the feeling that I was sitting in the presence of a mighty man.  I might as well have been sitting there with my other childhood hero, Captain Moroni. 
I was instantly taken back in time.  The trees were gone; the crumbling walls now became vibrant with color once again; and the ancient city buzzed with life.  People scurried about below us as they carried out their assigned tasks.  Some wore jade ornaments. Many were laden with tools, or weapons.  An endless spread of people extended as far as the eye could see. Men could be seen adding the last blocks to the outer wall.
My hero and I were able to enjoy a moment of peace together.  I found comfort in how calm and composed he was.  He was a strong and mighty man; he was a man that did not delight in bloodshed, but he joyed in liberty and freedom for his brethren.  He was thankful for the things he had.  His people enjoyed many privileges and blessings. I knew that he would defend his people, his rights, his country, and his religion, until his last breath.  If all men could be like him, surely the devil would be powerless.  I would follow him anywhere; through any battle.  I wanted to be like him.
A howler monkey roared like a lion in the distance. I was back.  Green again. A seemingly never-ending expanse of trees extended as far as the eye could see in either direction, shrouding the city with jungle once again.  With the sun almost gone, dragonflies chased mosquitos and bats chased dragonflies—their shimmering wings danced across the sunset.  The humid breeze ruffled through his hair.  And we sat.

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