America lost an icon. Chances are, you don’t know his name… yet.
Grown men aren’t supposed to cry. At least that is what I told myself 25 years ago, when as a 30-year-old, I found myself emotional after watching a clip from ABC’s Wide World of Sports. Dick Hoyt had just been outed as one of the most manly men to ever live in our country. He didn’t just do marathons, and later triathlons, he did them while pushing, pulling, carrying and towing his son Rick, who from birth had been paralyzed with a severe form of cerebral palsy.
For dramatic effect I was going to write “weep” above, instead of “emotional.” But, in all honesty, I’ve never wept. It is a word that gets overused by overly emotional people prone to hyperbole. The shortest verse in the Bible is, “Jesus wept.” If Jesus did it, then I want to do it too—but at this point in my life there hasn’t been any weeping. Tears, yes, but no weeping.
I haven’t seen any scientific studies on this, but having been a male for 55 years and interacting with thousands upon thousands of men from all walks of life and corners of the globe, I’ve seen the trend lines. I represent the norm when it comes to men. Sure, there are manly men who are blessed with a full range of emotions and tears. Is this because they have more emotional DNA or their family of origin was more emotionally aware than mine was? Perhaps. But the fact remains, most men don’t weep, let alone cry.
I don’t think this is because culture has conditioned men with phrases like, “Big boys don’t cry” or “Stop being a cry baby.” I never tried to drive the emotions out of my son as a young boy, yet he at 27 is just like I was at 27—pretty much tearless.
Emotions are a gift, a blessing that helps us feel alive.
So why was I “feeling alive” when I first heard the name Dick Hoyt? His feat of strength was impressive, but what was causing me to get emotional? I never cried watching competitors in the World’s Strongest Man. That’s because a man’s strength isn’t in his muscles, it’s in his heart.
Dick Hoyt loved his son. He not only wanted to spend time with him but he wanted to see his son smile and feel alive. He knew that he could see a certain joyful side of Rick only when training and competing together. (Damn, I’m getting emotional right now…but I’m not weeping!) Dick gave it all running, swimming, cycling, sweating and competing while hauling twice the weight as other competitors. His son wasn’t “dead weight.” His son was his purpose.
Maybe men are negatively conditioned by Western culture to not show emotion. Or, maybe God has created us with fewer emotions because human history is one of men needing to build and kill things. Emotions can get in the way of being productive in those pursuits. Nonetheless, as a man ages, emotions start popping out of the ground like saplings.
As a 30-year-old, being introduced to Dick Hoyt, emotions burst out of my chest because I was seeing a man do what a man is supposed to do: love those closest to him and carry those who need carried.
My manhood isn’t dependent on the truck I drive nor the guns I shoot. It is dependent on how I lay down my life, how I inconvenience and pain myself for those who God has placed in my path. Jesus did that. Dick Hoyt did that. I choose to do that as well.
Dick Hoyt short circuited my emotional biological clock because he tapped into something primal. Love isn’t feeling something. Love is doing something. It is laying down your life for someone else. Dick Hoyt didn’t do that once. He did it for his son every day, over the course of his entire lifetime.
Thank you, Dick Hoyt, for making me feel alive. Well done.
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