They say you should never meet your heroes. However, one of my biggest heroes is such because I knew him. My great Grandpa Henry McCarty, known to my brother and I as Papa Henry was and is to this day one of my greatest heroes. When I was a child growing up it was because he had cool stories about living in 1900’s Oklahoma and being a ranch hand. As an adult it has morphed into an appreciation for the stories that he told me that I did not understand as a kid.
Henry was born in 1910 just north of Tulsa, Oklahoma. I remember being at his house one day which was a short bike ride from my dad’s house and somehow the Tulsa Race Massacre was brought up. Henry would have been 11 around that time and he still remembered it well over 70 years later. He told us that since they lived close to the railroad, he remembered seeing the people fleeing north as the smoke rose over north Tulsa. I did not realize how significant it was that he was telling us this story at the time. I honestly did not realize how significant it was that I knew about this dark time in my state’s history until the last couple of years. I just assumed everyone knew about this tragedy. However, this was not an isolated incident. The Tulsa Race Massacre did not occur in a vacuum. I learned from my great grandpa that racism had been a big part of the area around Tulsa when he was a kid. He told us of the existence of the KKK and how our family had stood against them many times leading to threats against the family.
Those were the extreme stores but there were others that he would pass on to us that carried a similar message, stand up for what is right. It might not always be easy, and you may be faced with violence or threats. He made sure that my little brother and I knew that was what we were to do as men. Based on the lives of his descendants I would say he taught that lesson to many of us as I can see that example in the lives of my grandfather, father, uncle, and cousins.
I believe that as a Christian this even more important. Those of us who follow Christ have his example to obey. Throughout the Gospels Christ calls out the religious leaders of the day and their neglect of the poor. He delivered sermons talking about the importance of taking care of those who cannot take care of themselves. In fact, Christ went so far as to say that if we neglect those that society neglects, we are not his followers. For Christians though this idea is not just found in the teachings of Jesus. We find it all over scripture. We see prophets calling out the people of Israel because they allowed injustice to spread throughout the people of God. We see Apostles call out churches because they were not practicing justice. One Apostle even calls out another for actions that are exclusionary.
I am thankful for the legacy that has been passed on to me. It makes understanding what Christianity is supposed to look like easier sometimes. I look forward to telling my daughter the stories of here great great grandpa Henry McCarty. Some of them will just be fun to tell because they are awesome stories, whether they are true or not. Others will be difficult conversations. I hope by the time she is old enough to understand some of the harder stories that we have changed as a nation and are better at understanding each other. Regardless of what happens in the world as my daughter grows up I fully intend to pass on to her the legacy of standing up for what is right.