At the end of May 2014, Hunter Gandy gave the eighth grade graduation speech. He is a straight A student and captain of the wrestling team. But his favorite title was given to him by his little brother, Braden, who thinks his brother is Superman. After hearing their story, I am tempted to agree.
Braden has cerebral palsy which makes it hard to control his muscles. He attends the same school as his brother; thus, Hunter knows all too well that Braden’s walker does not move well on the playground. So Hunter, a.k.a. Superman, had an idea. He decided to walk 40 miles with Braden strapped to his back. He believed that if he could bring some awareness to Braden’s situation, some engineer somewhere might be inspired to build better equipment.
On one bright sunny Saturday, they started out, one brother strapped to another with special harnesses and slings to distribute the weight evenly. On the first day, they made it a whopping 25 miles. Their spirits were dampened, however, as they awoke on Sunday to a steady rain. Yet, like champions they walked. The wet conditions gave Braden blisters where his legs rubbed against the harness. His face was an indicator of his pain. Tears filled his eyes with almost every step. At one point, his big brother said, “If we need to stop and get the wheelchair, that is what we will do.” But Braden would not stop.
They kept on walking. At some points, Hunter had to switch him to the front and carry him like a baby, cradling him in his arms. At other times, he moved him back into the harness. As they walked on, the sun finally came out. The brothers beamed as they crossed the finish line together. An articulate reporter described the scene with these memorable words, “They crossed the finish line as one, showing the world what courage looked like.”
Sometimes we feel our weakness. During those times, we have to remember that you have a strong and patient big brother who carries you all the way. You see, no one who stood at the finish line that day walked away saying, “Braden is strong.” Instead, they saw his weakness, but marveled at the strength of his big brother. You and I are weak, but our weakness only magnifies the strength of our big brother, Jesus Christ.
Knowing that Christ gives us strength also gives us the courage and confidence to serve others.
As many in our community have experienced loss in recent days, we are reminded of our need to serve. Houses and business are lost, and people feel the sting of that loss.
Yet, at the same time, we also reminded of how a crisis can bring out the best in individuals and communities. That has certainly been true in McMinn County over the last couple of days. For we have seen countless volunteers working alongside emergency personnel to help their neighbors. God bless them all.
As our community faces many challenges ahead, it is my prayer that God will be honored as we serve our neighbors. After all, there may come a time when we need the service of our neighbors ourselves. In all this we pray that the world sees what courage looks like during this difficult time!