Gary Birch

by St. George from Laguna Beach

"You just can't let it all get you down. You have to fight it."

What makes a hero? Would someone still be a hero even if no one acknowledges him as one? The term "hero" has been given many varying degrees of worth and class, but why are some held higher than others? It is my belief that the best heroes aren't the ones that get known for one thing that they did, but the people who spend most of their days giving people hope, even when things in their lives aren't at their best.

My hero is someone who, from the moment upon meeting me, took an interest in wanting to help with my situation. Within 5 minutes, he did more for me than any other staff member has yet to do. When I moved here to California, I only knew one family, and they lived 72 miles from the school. My only option was to try to get to school by taking 3 buses, 2 trains, and walking/hitchhiking through the canyon (while carrying all my supplies for every class). It took two or three tries before I was able to get it right.

I went to Gary Birch's office, feeling tired and mentally drained, wanting to speak to the dean of illustration. Gary informed me me that the dean I was looking for wasn't in. Though I was smiling, he could tell that something was wrong, so he asked me what I needed help with to see if there was anything he could do. He spoke to the teacher, who wanted to drop me from a class because of what I had missed, and got me back into the class. Then he made a phone call to a close friend of his and asked if she wouldn't mind having me stay with her family for a bit.

If it wasn't for Gary, I wouldn't have met this family that I have become quite fond of. A lot of the opportunities and the good things that have come my way at Laguna College of Art and Design, have happened because Gary took the time to listen. I am also not the only one who appreciates Gary's kindness and willingness to help. Gary has managed to help countless other students and faculty. There were times when I've seen him with a hammer in one hand and a saw in the other, fixing things for the school on his own time.

For all of these reasons and more, I look up to Gary as a leader and a friend. But all of his actions have become more admirable when I found out about his wife. She has been ill for some years now, but when I met her she seemed to be just as strong-willed as her husband, and just as pleasant. Then I heard Gary's health was in jeopardy, as well, and thought how could this be happening to two good people. When I spoke to him about all of this, he said something that will stick with me for a long time: "You just can't let it all get you down. You have to fight it."

The reason I asked, "Would someone still be a hero even if no one acknowledges him as one?" was because, with all the things Gary has done, I have never heard him say "you owe me one" or ask for recognition. He does not call attention to himself or to the things he does. It's as if helping others comes as naturally to him as breathing does to everyone else. Though this is just one story about one hero in a sea of stories, it is my hope that at least one other person will come upon this and consider how much of an impact you can make just by offering to help.

Page created on 5/29/2008 10:56:56 AM

Last edited 1/4/2017 9:40:19 PM

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Author Info

My name is Saint, a student of art. I have a generally optimistic nature and have received the greatest compliments from people who appreciate kindness and gentlemanly tact. I was an athlete in my younger days, but back problems forced me from my love of playing sports. Seeking a new outlet, I started to practice drawing and taught myself to draw in high school since we didn't have any art classes, other than literature. After a series of coincidences spanning the next few years after high school, I decided to move to California with nothing but a suitcase, one contact in Woodland Hills and an acceptance letter.