We adults might put belief in giants along with our belief in the "Tooth Fairy."
While it is true that giants do appear as villains in some famous fairy tales; there are, indeed, real and heroic giants who lived in Merced.
No, I am not writing about a baseball team.
If I did, it would be about my beloved New York Yankees, not the San Francisco Giants.
One of the more intriguing definitions of "giant" is a person or thing of extraordinary power, significance or importance.
In the sciences, for example, Albert Einstein would be considered a giant. We have had such giants in our county such as Professor Charles J. Ogletree of Harvard Law School.
Both the giants of legend and the giants of the Bible are generally an unhappy, grumpy and unloving lot.
In the last few weeks, Merced lost one of its giants when Dr. William L. Stephens returned to his maker. "Dr. Bill" was a unique giant. He lived in Merced for many years and was known to everyone as a man of wisdom, trust and faith.
An evangelical pastor, Dr. Bill reached out to everyone within the grasp of his handshake.
He attended the Christian Businessman's weekly Tuesday breakfast meeting and then met with Catholic friends to study scripture on Thursday mornings.
He had a good word for everyone and never disrespected any other human being. Yet, he never strayed from or compromised his beliefs.
There are many qualities that made Dr. Bill into a Merced Giant.
As a very young man, Bill had memorized the King James version of the Bible and until his last days his memory never failed him. He was a walking encyclopedia of both the Bible and Abraham Lincoln.
When faced with difficult decisions, many of our elected officials and judges would consistently seek him out for prayer and counsel.
In a world that moves in whirlwind activity and reliance on the impersonal, Bill still had the common touch, that so endeared him to us. He cared for people and he loved Merced.
It would take myriad words to describe this giant of a man.
He built up the Christian Life Center into a major institution, he preached on almost 200 radio stations. He served as an evangelist in almost 50 countries and in every state but one. He was a counselor and chaplain to pastors and men of note throughout this county and country.
He continually drove the streets of Merced County praying for all of its inhabitants.
When most people of his age were enjoying their retirement, Dr. Bill continued to give back to the Merced he so dearly loved.
Not every person has the unique ability to reach down and touch the hearts, souls and minds of the addicted and impoverished. Yet, in weekly service to the Merced Rescue Mission, Dr. Bill was an exemplar of giving back to one's community.
Merced is losing many of its giants, and unfortunately we are slow in replicating them.
Intellectual giants are invariably described as renaissance men. They are found few and far between. William Stephens was such a man and his passing is a blow to all of us.
Herbert A. Opalek is CEO of the Merced County Rescue Mission.