Character, Gladiators and the back of Garages

Driven by family obligations we are preparing our 1890 house for sale. It’s not easy on any level; physically … coming home after a normal workday to fix things that we’ve lived with for years, but may not be acceptable for the next owners, emotionally … leaving a house rich in character and memories; Christmases, birthdays and countless family dinners … but it needs to be done.

My simple goal for this week is to finish scrapping and painting the back of the detached garage. Like many houses of this era, the garage is set well back from the house. It crossed my mind many times … is it worth it? Will anyone notice? I could sell the house “as is” with the back of the garage left unpainted, but this is our family’s major nest egg, it’s important for our future to squeeze every dollar out of this transaction. And then there is this … it’s the back of the garage, it doesn’t show from the street … but I know it needs repainting … even if no one else notices.

John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach famously stated, “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” This is something I strive for, but don’t always attain.

Charactermoral integrity, are they still valued? We often look for character in all the wrong places, Hollywood actors, celebrities, and politicians. There is a good chance that the true heroes, the men and women of character, are living next door, sitting in the pew ahead of you in church, or waiting with you in the checkout line of the grocery store. It’s the dad who works a grueling job but carves out time to coach his daughter’s soccer team. It’s the single mom who forgoes her personal needs to provide for her children. It’s the family who dedicates themselves to take care of a disabled child or an aging parent. They will never make the news, never receive any accolades, but do what they do without question, because it’s the right thing … character.

One of my favorite movies is “Gladiator,” the 2000 epic historical drama directed by Ridley Scott. Russell Crowe portrays the Hispano-Roman general Maximus Decimus Meridius, who is betrayed when Commodus the ambitious son of Emperor Marcus Aurelius,  murders his father and seizes the throne. Reduced to slavery, Maximus rises through the ranks of the gladiatorial arena to avenge the murders of his family and his emperor.

It’s a movie I wish I could share with my 12-year-old grandson. Sadly the adult themes and violence won’t allow that for many years. Why do I want to share this movie with him? At its core, it’s about character, it’s about honor, it’s about integrity. Until the time we can watch it together, I will do my best to point out the soccer coaches, the single moms and the caregivers alongside us every day.

Peace, Poppy