Everyday Heroes: My Wife

Hi, world.

This is Amanda.

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Amanda is my wife. Amanda is my best friend.

Amanda is my hero.

For SO many reasons.

Amanda is 37 weeks pregnant. She has fourteen pounds of babies growing, squirming, and kicking inside her.

She went to work today.

I’ve told her for weeks that she should take her leave early and just rest.

But that’s not Amanda.

She is always working, always knocking out to-do lists, always hustlin’ to complete the tasks that need to get done.

She is always thinking about others.

Amanda has worked in public schools in Fairfax for the past eight years. She spent seven of those years as a special education teacher. Her passion for those kids was remarkable. She never gave up on them and never judged them by their disabilities.

She’s always treated me the same way.

I have done a lot of dumb stuff, made too many mistakes, told a lot of bad jokes, and I have some weird eccentricities. I have dragged Amanda to two Britney Spears concerts and two Backstreet Boys concerts. We went to WWE Monday Night Raw on the night of our first anniversary.  I have worn silly mini-shorts, every color of pants imaginable, and I spend too much money on sneakers. I make dumb music videos and yell a lot during sporting events.

Despite all that, never once has she judged me, mocked me, or walked ten feet behind me so people wouldn’t know we were together. Being yourself is a critical part of any healthy relationship and Amanda helps make that possible for me. She has helped me become a better man, even if it has taken a lot longer than she probably hoped. She is more than I deserve.

Amanda is my hero.

Bye.

The Mistakes of Marriage

Everyday Heroes: Lamar the Lion

I know this guy who was painfully shy and he spent most of his days studying, eating junk food, and watching “Beverly Hills 90210.”

It was me.

Then I met Lamar.

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I knew there was something special about Lamar the first time I saw him.  Most noticeably, he was dressed like a secret agent and leading an enormous “Men in Black” song and dance routine at Tallwood High School’s freshman orientation.  He was confident, he was charismatic, he was captivating.  I didn’t know him, but I wanted to be like him.

I still do.

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We both like to fly under the radar.

Lamar is the most gregarious person I know.  He’s also hilarious, and fifteen years later, he still captures my attention.  When Lamar walks into a room, you notice. (His bright shirts, loud voice, and enthralling personality are hard to ignore.)  He has a heart of gold and spends his workdays serving local kids and communities through various programming activities at YMCAs in the DC area.  There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of people around the world who look up to Lamar, who have been impacted by Lamar, and who call Lamar a hero.

I’m one of them.

Like I said, I was a shy dude back in the day and I was floating through life aimlessly.  I met Lamar, he took me under his wing, encouraged me to get involved at school, and taught me what living a passionate and engaging life is all about.  Thus, if you think I’m loud and annoying, blame Lamar.  This guy had hundreds of friends and thousands of things on his to-do list, but he took the time to mentor me.  He changed the entire trajectory of my life. For the better.

I’m not the only one who feels this way.  Here’s what others had to say about Lamar:

Cristina F. (@cristinamary):  “Lamar is the most resilient person I know, hands down. He has overcome so much, and I attribute that to his natural talents and abilities, which are plentiful. He is a born leader. He is an amazing friend. How long has it been now, 17 years? And NEVER a dull moment. I’m grateful for his loyalty and love. He has made me laugh more times than I can count. He has been at all of my shows, with bells on. So much support! We have seen each other through a lot of trials, tribulations, joys, successes and life lessons. Here’s to 17 more years, my dear friend!”

Amy H. (@AMH5):  “Lamar is the true definition of one-of-a-kind. He’s not only my best friend, but the brother I never had. He’s selfless, always knows how to put a smile on your face, full of words of wisdom, he is the guy who will take his shirt off his back for his friends.  Anyone who is able to call Lamar their friend should consider themselves lucky. He is one of the few people in my life that I will cherish forever. He’s been a hero to me in more ways than I could ever say. I’m proud to call him my best friend.”

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Chad H. (@chadhartigan):  “My impression of Lamar in high school was that he had the most school spirit of anyone I knew. He was involved with absolutely everything: school government, theatre, administration, even cheerleading (I think). Now that we’re more than a decade removed from that context, I know that it had nothing to do with school spirit. It was people spirit. Lamar was involved with everything because he loved mingling and working with every type of person. It’s an attitude he brings to his work, his play and his relationships, and it’s infectious.”

In short, Lamar is a fabulous human being, a hilarious person to know, and a faithful friend. Most importantly, Lamar loves Miley Cyrus and he’s a great rapper:

Thank you, Lamar.  You make the world a much better place.

Everyday Heroes: Ron DMC

2013 has been a really special year.  I turned 30, found out I was going to be a babydaddy, later discovered I was having twins, and I finally got to see the Rolling Stones in concert.  Most importantly, I got a bunch of new Jordans.

Oh, and I met this incredible dude named Ron.

Everyday Heroes - Ron DMC

You may recognize him:

That video has gotten more than 4,000 hits on YouTube.  That sort of scares me.

In addition to his beautiful “falsetto” T-Swift voice, I love that Ron wears boots every single day.  If you try to put Ron in a box, he will use those boots to break those walls down.  He loves Jesus, but he also loves tattoos.  He rocks out to heavy metal music, but never misses an episode of “Gossip Girl.”  Ron is a tough military guy, but he spends more time fixing his hair than any other guy.  Ever.

Ron SelfieRon is also a veteran.  While movies and video games are the closest most of us will get to experiencing the horrors of war, Ron has witnessed it up close and personal. He’s lost friends.  He’s also struggled with depression, drugs, and divorce.  Less than a year ago, he tried to take his own life.

Now’s he the lead guitarist at Capital City Church’s new Kingstown site and one of my best friends.  Sadly, he’s leaving DC for music school in a few months.  Although I’ve only known Ron since April, he’s already meant so much to me.  We have a pretty sweet bromance and I will miss him.  A lot.  Ron has seen the best of life, but he’s also seen the transforming power of redemption, hope, and change.  When I have doubts about my own faith, Ron’s story reminds me why I believe.

He’s hilarious, he’s energetic, and he’s a perfectionist.  Both with his hair and his guitar game.  Ron makes everyone around him better.  In fact, he makes the entire world better.  Although I didn’t have a chance to interview all seven billion people on Earth, here’s what a random sample of eight really smart people had to say about Ron:

Eileen (@eileenwild): “What I appreciate about Ron is that he does life with his heart ‘all in.’  Whether it is meetings, music, or friendships, nothing is done halfway or without his contagious joy.  This one thing is for sure:  when Ron walks into a room, everything just got better.”

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Gio (@gio32r):  “Ron is a perfect example of God’s love.  His heart came in a box full of gift and talents.  His heart is big and willing to serve.  Mi amigo Ron eres el mejor.  You are the best, my friend.”  

Hannah (@lovehannxoxo):  “Ron is the coolest.  He is not only literally a rockstar, but he also has an incredible heart to see people connect to God and is willing to do just about anything to see that happen.  On top of that, he’s fun, can sing Taylor Swift (and everything else!), and can save your life if you’re choking or fall off of a curb.”  (Ron is also an EMT.  And Hannah is kind of clumsy.)

Jeff (@jefforzo):  “Ron is very inspirational in his tendency to dive in headfirst when he’s involved in something.  He puts himself in places where God can activate his passion and creativity, and it’s awesome to witness.”

Ron and Orzos

Ben (@benevans01):  “Ron’s a hero because he’s not just one person. He’s a talented musician, God-loving citizen who cares for everyone.  He’s also a friend who will do anything for the ones he loves and calls friends.  Doing those things aren’t easy in today’s negative-minded society, but that’s why he’s a hero!”

Alicia (@aliciaorzo):  “Ron is an encourager.  He is always working to get people excited and he is the first to “like” everything!  He brings the mood wherever he is!”

Ashley (@ashmichelley):  “Ron keeps me in stitches. And when I’m not laughing at/with him, I’m just feeling honored to call him a friend.  He’s a true worshiper who has a great head on his shoulders!” 

Amanda (@ajmccormick1):  “He’s cool.”

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Ron has survived life’s toughest and darkest challenges.  When I see Ron singing and playing guitar, I’m reminded that life is a miraculous and precious gift.  It is also remarkable to watch Ron play guitar and see someone doing exactly what they were born to do.

If you want to learn more about Ron, his guitar game, or his sweet hair, you should follow him on Instagram at @imronmillward.  Seriously.  Do it.

Everyday Heroes – Alex the Real Rockstar

For better or for worse, most of you know about my unyielding love for terrible pop music.  However, it may come as a surprise to you that I also love classic rock.  A lot.  I adore the Rolling Stones, am convinced that AC/DC’s “Shook Me All Night Long” is the greatest song ever written (other than Britney’s “Email My Heart”), and I may or may not pray for a Guns N’ Roses reunion tour.  What I love most about those old rock anthems is that you know from the very first strum of the guitar that it’s time to party.

That’s exactly how I felt when I first met Alex G.

Real Superheroes - Alex. G

(FYI – That’s just a really good Photoshop and not a real photograph.)

Like the opening guitar salvo in “Paradise City,” I instantly knew this dude rocked the second I met him.  His beard was fly, his smile was infectious, and you could immediately tell he was a cool cat.  His confidence was strong, but not in a “Real Housewives” or Kardashian kind of way.  (No offense, Kim. Call me.)

The thing I appreciate the most about Alex is that he’s authentic.  Whether it is non-hoopsters like me who wear Jordans, the carefully-crafted lives we post about on social media, or the scary chemicals we drink each day, our world is full of fakeness.  Not Alex.  This guy oozes authenticity and realness.  It’s amazingly refreshing.

alex, xabi, and adam

I met Alex at Capital City Church a year ago.  I think he started volunteering as a greeter the next Sunday.  Ever since, he’s been leading a group of college rockstars to bigger and better things and helping out wherever there is a need.  He also shares a home state with Tom Brady, so that automatically makes him a cool dude.  Last, but certainly not least, Alex has recently started rocking skinny jeans.

Mission.  Accomplished.

Alex is going to do huge things in this world. I hope he runs for Congress one day.  We need leaders like him.  Desperately.  I’m not the only one who feels that way.  Here’s what a few others had to say about Alex:

Adam – “Alex is a great guy and a strong leader. He’s classy, well-mannered, and respectful.  He’s organized and intentional, always investing himself in things that matter.  He’s always positive.  When he gets overwhelmed, he doesn’t shut down – he laughs and keeps going.  He cares about people and is a good friend.”

Xabi – “I think Alex is a rockstar because of his love for God.  His attitude is contagious (his new look is too). I appreciate just spending time with my brosky because I learn a lot when we have those deep talks.”

Liz H.- “I love Alex because he is so passionately focused on serving God and blessing the people around him.  Also, his sense of humor and willingness to be goofy whenever you need encouragement brightens even the rainiest of days . . . (continues on weird rant about soup).”

Tyler – “Alex is truly a servant.  He genuinely cares about people and is a true leader in the way he serves those around him.  Whether that’s cleaning the kitchen as a roommate or leading the college ministry for church, he always devotes time and effort to those around him.”

In short, Alex, everyone around you respects, admires, and adores you.  It’s time for the rest of the world (i.e. – my mom, wife, and the two other people who read this blog) to meet you.

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Our world is full of depressing news.  I want to start using this blog to highlight the everyday heroes among us, like Alex, who are doing great things and making a difference.  For better or for worse, these posts will pretty much be a surprise to the heroes I’m writing about.  (That’s your warning to take down any embarrassing Facebook photos.)

If you’re not following Alex on Instagram, you should.  @bruingarcia.