Whether you believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, or in Him as just a man, or do not place faith in His existence at all, the cross - His crucifix - has become a universal symbol of human sacrifice. It is weight, struggle, punishment, burden, pain, suffering and surrender. It is a gift, a remorseless giving of life. And for those who refuse to believe, then at least look upon that gift of life as yet another symbol - the symbol of giving up one's life in exchange for the lives of others. The cross - symbol of unremitting sacrifice and figure for thankful worship - remains universal in image.
Two weeks ago, I attended the Red Cross "Real Heroes" awards breakfast in Reno. I was one of the presenters. There were more than 300 people in attendance.
There were many touching moments at the Red Cross event. I can say that I know now that I have overlooked the real purpose of the Red Cross. I always knew of its purpose, but to me it was a name with no faces in front of it to make it real. I will never think that again.
The real heroes of the "Real Heroes" awards ceremony are real people. They are people who were born with a spiritual cross of thoughtfulness and sacrifice. They are people who do not second-guess their charge of helpfulness in the hour of someone else's critical need. They are people who do not offer themselves for the safety of others with the hope of public reward. Their intentions are real. Their emotions are real. They are real people of the highest order.
I found my senses shaken by many of the astonishing acts of heroism at the awards ceremony. The range of human emotion is different in all of us. When the path of that range becomes uneven, we involuntarily give ourselves to the detours of sadness or rage. But for my heart, the most moving moment belonged to little Emma Brewer, a fifth grader who nominated her grandfather, Larry Brewer, for the "Family Hero" award. And the effect on me was unexpected and caught me off guard.
On a widescreen video projection, little Emma spoke of how her grandpa looks under her bed every night for monsters. I cracked a small smile with a soft laugh. I turned away from the screen to write down what Emma had said. While looking at what I was writing, I could hear Emma's voice of innocence though I couldn't see her image on the screen. With my head still turned away, she said something, something so simple, in a small doll-like voice: "I nominate my grandpa (pause) because he is perfect." I immediately drew a hard and painful breath. It was involuntary and quick - an uncontrollable reaction that made an audible sound of one catching a breath when all oxygen has been consumed and exhausted.
I could feel my eyes grow puffy in fractional time. I impulsively raised my eyes to my employees sitting at the table to see if they might have heard that sound I made. But I could tell they had not.
The heart of a child had called out one simple claim to her loving and beloved grandpa, and it tore into me to find my heart, and make it bleed. It was a child who reeked of purity. The uninhibited beliefs and unaffected faith of a child that can inexorably break down the worn and weakened walls of protective armor that we wear in guarded fashion as adults. "I nominate my grandpa because he is perfect." A little girl's worship of the cross her grandpa so willingly carries for her every day of his life so that she may have a better life. The cross as a symbol of sacrifice of one; the cross as a symbol of worship by another.
Belief in anyone or anything like that of Emma in her grandpa should be a resurrection of faith for even the faithless. Faith is that simple, and it should not have to wait for the uncertainty that hinges our lives from death.
In a world of unsettling imperfections, the unshackled expression of undying faith by one little girl in the powers of her grandpa whom she sees as "perfect" is what I call perfect. Happy Easter.
• John DiMambro is publisher of the Nevada Appeal. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.