When my wife was a freshman in high school, the local Southern Baptist college, Hannibal LaGrange, had a Booster Banquet to raise funds. Her mother was an employee at the college, and the two attended the banquet together.

At every fundraising banquet, the Boosters brought in someone famous, a personality who would attract a crowd. That night, the guest speaker was a tall man with a distinctive voice. His words mesmerized the crowd, his presence demanded respect and everyone listened attentively to what he had to say. At the end of the banquet, he announced that he would be available afterwards for anyone who wanted to speak with him. All those who waited, including my wife, received an 8-by-10-inch black and white photo of him. When she reached the front of the line, she asked for his autograph. He took time to visit with her for a while, wrote something on the picture and signed his name. She still has that signed photograph.

We were watching the news a couple of weeks ago when a ticker rolled across the bottom of the screen to announce the death of the man she met years ago. At the age of 90, Paul Harvey had passed away.

In today’s world of American Idol and other television shows that promise 15 minutes of fame, we seem to have forgotten the true hero: one whose extraordinary ability or giftedness is matched only by his inner character. In fact, if his character didn’t match his outer ability, no one would give that person a second thought. Every person needs a true hero.

As a young boy, my hero was Roy Rogers. That hasn’t changed. If you ever visit Roy’s museum in Branson, Mo., you’ll read the following words:

“He gave us standards to live by that helped teach us the difference between right and wrong. His willingness to stand up for the things he believed in inspired us. And his religious faith and his concern for the less fortunate helped mold our character. Roy lived his life off camera with the same decency and humility that he projected on television and on the silver screen. He was the hero who never let us down. Despite all the success that came to him, Roy never seemed to lose his way . . . Roy Rogers was a man who unashamedly loved his God, his family and his country. He was that rare public figure who was just the same on screen as he was off. He just wouldn’t have known how to be anything else.”

When you read Roy’s story, you will become aware of the many tragedies in his life, from losing his first wife after the birth of their third child, to his daughter dying in a bus accident on her way home from a mission trip, to a son who died suddenly in his sleep while serving in the Army in Germany.

In spite of all this, Roy and his second wife adopted children with special needs, something unheard of in those days. Paul Harvey, Roy Rogers, Walker Scott . . . Oh, I forgot to tell you that I had another hero: my grandfather. This tall, lanky farmer was larger than life. He could till the soil with the best of them, and when someone was in need, he shared whatever he had. A grandfather can have a critical influence on a young boy’s life. Like the rest of my heroes, Grandfather Scott was a man of integrity. What showed on the outside came from the depths of who he was on the inside.

A hero doesn’t have to be perfect, just consistent. The Bible is full of heroes, many of whom had lives of tragedy. Look at Joseph. His brothers first dumped him and then sold him into slavery. For a true hero, though, the external doesn’t determine the internal. After many years in Egypt, including a stay in prison, Joseph chose to bless his father, his brothers and their families.

Mom and Dad, take time to help your children find a true hero. They still exist, maybe not on television, but in your neighborhood or among the senior adults at church. I have two heroes whose names are Don and Dean. They have been business partners for more than 55 years. These two have spent most of their lives on their knees seeking God together. If I told these godly men that they are my heroes, they would be somewhat embarrassed. They would also remind me to model my life after the one true hero they have served for so long. His name is Jesus. And that, my friend, is . . . the rest of the story.

Walker Moore is president of AweStar Ministries in Tulsa, P.O. Box 470265, Tulsa 74147, e-mail walker@awestar.org., phone 800/AWESTAR (293-7827).