The older I get the more I realize that there aren’t any heroes, there are just people who manage to make it through life with a bit more of their integrity intact than other people do. Which is why I am surprised to hear myself say that one of my heroes died today.
His name is Jeff Jonathan and he is somebody you have probably never heard of. He was the Director of the school I taught at in New Haven. And he was a great man.
Being in charge of a school is not an easy job. Yet Jeff led the school with a strength and a steadiness of purpose that inspired everybody there to be their best—or at least to be the best they were capable of that day. He hired me to teach the oldest kids in a Progressive elementary school even though during the job interview it was clear that I did not even know what the term “progressive education” meant.
He took a chance on me and I grew so much professionally because he did. Jeff made me want to be a better teacher by his example. No matter the situation, Jeff would boil it down to the bottom-line question: what is best for the child in this circumstance? That was always his main concern—what is best for the children?
Jeff put up a long hard fight with illness the past few years. Each time it looked like he might not make it through, he managed to tap into astoundingly deep reserves of strength and make it back home again. In the midst of his own struggle, Jeff lost his wife to her own fight with illness. I was reminded of Job.
It is easy enough to be kind, honest, forthright, and loving when things are going well in your life. It is a much more difficult thing to remain all of those things when subjected to heartbreaking sadness and unfairness. Jeff Jonathan, though you have probably never heard of him, was a giant among men. He will be missed, but not forgotten.