Our time is our most precious resource. Each of us are given 24 hours a day filled with many choices of how we spend our moments.
There are times when we are called to make important decisions, either to maintain the status quo or to choose the path of daring adventure. In the hero’s journey, the protagonist is also faced with a decision to stay the same or venture into the unknown. Heroically, Jerry Henson has dedicated his life to answering the call to serve others.
Growing up in Arkansas in the early 1960s, his home life was, at times, not the most encouraging environment for growth, but Jerry found his power of perseverance among people and in his faith.
“I grew up a very insecure person, but very few people know that about me,” says Jerry. “I never knew my impact.” Throughout school, his personality developed into the compassionate, outgoing, and charismatic person he is today.
Nearly 25 years ago, Jerry and his wife, Star, built a home in Bryant with their two children, Stephanie and L.J. Their neighbor, Margaret Sorrows, was also building a new home and had children the same age. An instant bond was forged between the two families with their children growing up together.
More than 20 years of meals, trips and experiences were shared between the two families, and to this day, the families remain close friends. “I was a single parent with two kids,” says Margaret. “Jerry was a great friend and helper in the neighborhood. When he says he is going to do something, he is going to work to get it done. He is one of those men who does the right thing even when no one is looking. There are not enough Jerry Hensons in the world.”
Between raising a family, helping his community and running a business, Jerry was constantly on the move.
Then in 2001, Jerry underwent an operation on his abdomen that would result in months in intensive care. Throughout the next 17 years, Jerry would have 18 operations, receiving treatment from around the country. His super power of perseverance was tested daily, yet instead of retreating, Jerry continued to connect with those who needed help. “For years, I’ve wondered what God’s plan is for me,” explains Jerry. “Why can’t I get well? It’s gone on for years and I’ve finally figured it out. He used me to encourage hundreds and hundreds of people. I had no idea I was doing that.”
Three years ago, Jerry decided to run for city council to serve in an official capacity for his beloved community. However, his health kept him off the campaign trail and back in the hospital, this time at the Mayo Clinic. When he returned home, his friends brought “the nicest golf cart I’d ever seen,” he says. He would use the golf cart to go door-to-door, visiting constituents and encouraging them to vote for him for city council. Jerry won by 10 votes that year and has served two terms as a city councilman.
Even while serving in office, Jerry still felt the need to do more. He began volunteering with the Boys and Girls Club of Bryant where he became a mentor of an older male class. Despite the challenge of teaching tweens, Jerry was all in for the kids and worked hard to gain their trust. “I tried to find a place where I thought I could be used. The Boys and Girls Club has been the best opportunity of my life,” explains Jerry. Earlier this year, he was able to host a birthday party for an 11-year-old child who participates in the Boys and Girls Club. This was the child’s first time having a birthday party. “The child wrote me a letter, talking about how inspired they were. That’s my proudest moment. I know for a fact I’ve made a positive impact in life of that child, and I’m good with that.”
In the midst of so much good, in December, Jerry received devastating news. He was diagnosed with stage IV liver cancer and given a handful of months to live. Again, Jerry has persevered. He continues to spend his days working on a final project: a playground for children of all abilities for the Boys and Girls Club.
The current playground lacks sufficient covering from the sun and does not drain properly. With the support of many from the community rallying around the cause, this new playground will be a state-of-the-art, $750,000 investment for the children.
Suzanne Passmore, CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Bryant, says, “Jerry personifies all five qualities that truly heroic leaders have in common: courage, selflessness, humility, patience and caring. He is an amazing hero who has done extra-special things for his fellow man, his community and for those who are unable to do for themselves.”
In 2016, Jerry was honored with the Hometown Hero Award and last month, he received the Charles Broadway Community Excellence Award.
“God has shown me my worth,” says Jerry. “He showed me my legacy as a man. Will I leave this world better than I found it? You’re damn right I will. That makes me the happiest man on the face of the earth.”