Pastor Vinette says we each need to thank heroes and be a hero

The Enterprise — Sean Mulkerrin
Daddy and daughter: Joseph Vinette recently wrote his first book,“Hero Status: Living Every Day Bolder than Ever.” He and his wife, Jennifer, and their daughter, Joslyn, live in Altamont.

ALTAMONT — Joseph Vinette has a lot of the “heroes” to thank.

“How can I live to my fullest, if I’m not appreciative of the people around me?” he asks.

He writes to his wife, Jennifer, “I could not have been on this journey without you,” in his book, “Hero Status: Living Every Day Bolder than Ever.”

Vinette, 35, is a youth minister at the Abounding Grace Christian Church, in Rotterdam.

He grew up in Syracuse, New York, and attended Fowler High School, where 83 percent of students, including Vinette, were considered “economically disadvantaged,” according to the most recent data from the New York State Education Department. “Sewage oozed into the notoriously smelly cafeteria when it rained hard enough,” according to one account; it was among the poorest schools in the country. The school was shutdown in 2017.

Vinette is grateful to Pastor Bill Kingsley, who was instrumental in his entrance to the ministry.

“He came alongside me when I needed a hero,” Vinette said of Kingsley. “Because I was in an inner-city school and I was dealing with issues … Trying to figure out different approaches to how I lived for myself, and how I lived in front of other people. He was somebody who really challenged me to live.”

Vinette enrolled at the University of Valley Forge and studied youth ministry. He then earned his Master of Divinity degree from the Ashland Theological Seminary. His has worked in Syracuse; Pennsylvania; Ohio; Orange County, New York; Guilderland; and now Rotterdam.

Vinette encourages his readers to acknowledge their heroes, and to thank them.

“Not just send them a Facebook message,” he said, “but meet up with them; call them — have a voice-to-voice conversation and say, ‘Thank you, for all that you’ve done in my life because I wouldn’t be the same person without you.’”

He thinks of Pastor Ken Tinklepaugh.

Tinklepaugh had been in his 80s when Vinette was a 20-something pastor.

He died before Vinette’s book had been published and released, but not before ensuring that the young pastor finished what he started.

“When I felt like giving up on being a pastor and I felt like giving up on writing the book, Ken saw something in me that I needed to see for myself,” Vinette said. “He was able to tell me time and time again, ‘Joe, you’re going to do great things; I believe in you.’”

Vinette wants to show his heroes gratitude, he said, adding, “I don’t want to wait until they die to give them flowers.”

Gratitude, Vinette said, is the most powerful human emotion that we can have. “And so, by going to your heroes, it’s probably going to be a humbling thing,” he said.

Being humble, in spite of current evidence to the contrary, he said, is a good thing. Often, especially around the holidays, he said, we forget that lesson.

“We’re too busy thinking about how we want the macaroni and cheese baked, and who’s baking it, and who’s sitting where, and who’s the favorite,” he said.  “Rather than thinking, ‘I could show everybody in my family respect, and love, and grace, and be somebody who sets that tone.’”

However, Vinette is not so pious that he doesn’t include himself among those who may lose focus on the bigger picture during the holiday season.

And if he does, he can just open his copy of “Hero Status: Living Every Day Bolder than Ever,” and start reading.

The Book of Daniel

His goal in writing the book, Vinette said, “Is to inspire people to remember their leaders, to remember their heroes, the people who have inspired them.”

Remembering those who have inspired you, he said, “Gives you the opportunity to look deep within yourself, to know that there’s a responsibility that we have to also be heroes.”

Why heroes?

Isn’t that a little boisterous, and not humble?

Why not, like the Bible says, be a good person?

Well, Vinette said, in living humbly, people may not recognize the power of their actions. “And so, when we use the word ‘hero,’ we’re looking at the fact that, maybe [our actions] were heroic for somebody who needed a hero.”

In his own book, Vinette uses the Book of Daniel from the Old Testament to create a modern-day parable that, he hopes, will help readers live heroically.

Daniel was was taken captive by King Nebuchadnezzar, a tyrant, according to Vinette, when the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem. The king quickly recognizes that Daniel is a wise man.

Nebuchadnezzar challenges Daniel, who remains devoted to God and is rewarded for that devotion; Daniel becomes counsel to the king.

The story of Daniel shows that courageous devotion to God, even under the most extreme duress — like being taken captive by a tyrant — will save you.

For today’s reader, Vinette uses Daniel’s dilemmas — as well as examples from his own life — to illustrate that there is opportunity in our obstacles, that little actions and big actions are both actions.

“They both can make a powerful difference,” he said.

In Altamont, Vinette saw an opportunity for his daughter, Joslyn, and took action. Joslyn has Down syndrome and Altamont Elementary School, he said, had an excellent program that would help her.

Three years ago, Vinette and his family moved to the village.

“I could sit back and do nothing,” he said, “or I could look for an opportunity.”