In every profound tragedy there are signs of hope, small acts of love that remind us that evil doesn’t have the final word. The recent shooting in Las Vegas was no different. In the midst of senseless violence we heard about concert goers risking their own lives to help wounded strangers, we heard about the overwhelming donations of blood and the countless counselors who volunteered their time after the shooting. We heard about people like Jack Beaton, who gave his life protecting his wife Lauri, using his body to shield her from the gunfire. And it wasn’t only Jack, multiple reports involved random men protecting random women during the night of violence.
As a former Marine, and as a man, these stories got me thinking about the innate male desire to protect and provide. It’s the same heroic impulse I see in my son, who just this morning attacked me with a foam sword and shield, pretending to be the chivalrous knight he sees in books. It’s a desire that changes as boys grow into men, but it’s within all of us, and it makes me wonder why.
I think this impulse comes from love. I believe that as humans we’re made for love, that only love will satisfy us, and that real love involves sacrifice. Men tend to associate this with acts of bravery, but at the heart of it is a desire to put other people first. Love isn’t the cuddly images we’re usually presented with. Real love isn’t first concerned with how I feel, it’s concerned with how I give. It’s the sacrifice of Jack Beaton. It’s protecting random strangers when everything in your body is telling you to run away. But it’s also the daily sacrifices that are found in every relationship of love.
As a child I imagined this sacrificial instinct would be lived out in heroic adventures where I could prove my valor and strength. In part that’s why I joined the Marines. I wanted to serve something bigger than myself and to risk myself for the sake of a greater good. Combat or a tragedy like Las Vegas can produce acts of valor. But I’ve learned that the desire to protect and provide, even if it requires sacrifices, isn’t limited to extraordinary circumstances. I’ve been married seven years, and now I see that I put this instinct into action by changing the car’s oil, grinding out work projects instead of playing video games, and speaking well of my wife while other men complain. It’s a different sacrifice, but it’s still rooted in protection and providing, in what it means to be a man.
I think we are all called to be heroes, in our own way, every day. Watching my wife get up at 3 a.m. to nurse a child, or seeing her clean up whatever bodily fluid comes out of my children next has convinced me that she gives her life away in a way I admire and hope to live up to. The sacrifices that we make for the people we love might be different, but there is one thing that is universal: the reality that love requires sacrifice, it asks something of us, and that’s a good thing.