When I set out to write this blog, I quickly realized that in order to cover everything I could about heroes, it would take more writing than this simple post could contain.
First of all, I wish hero wasn't a gender-specific term, but since it is for most uses, I want to include female heroes as well. Yes, yes, I know they are referred to as heroines. But truly, what is the first thing that pops into your head when you hear heroine? For me, it's the female lead in a story. Yes, usually they are strong and brave, but do they really have that "save the world" persona that is often attributed to a hero in a story?
But I digress.
To me, a hero is anyone who, in the face of danger, shows tremendous courage. Heroes are willing to sacrifice their own time, comfort, health, safety, and sometimes even their lives for those who are in a position of needing help to survive and/or thrive.
I think of heroes as men and women risking their lives in the military, serving us, fighting a war far from home to help protect people like me. Or firefighters and police officers, and search and rescue teams, often putting themselves in extreme danger to keep us safe.
And what about people who might not risk their lives, but still save ours, sometimes in a manner of speaking and sometimes quite literally? Doctors and nurses, for instance. And I can't forget teachers and life mentors, those who put in long hours and lots of work in the hopes that the individuals in their care will have successful and bright futures?
Let's not forget those who may not be working in particularly heroic professions, but when coming across life-threatening situations will jump into a raging river to save a stranger, perform CPR to try to get someone's heart beating again, drag accident victims out of a burning vehicle when they are the first on the scene?
These are heroes.
I would like to add, that my idea of a hero extends beyond the obvious. Which doesn't diminish the importance of the heroes I mentioned above. They are different kinds of heroes.
The person who sees, really sees, suffering and sadness in a fellow human being, and offers a kind word, a warm coat, a few dollars, or even a simple smile.
Caregivers to the sick and dying, putting their own comfort aside to give peace to those who suffer.
A neighbor who doesn't ignore the neglected or abused child next door, but takes action to save that child. Or who sees mistreatment of defenseless animals, and tries to do something about it.
The person who does something to help another living creature on this planet that we all share, even if it seems like such a small, inconsequential act. I'm reminded of this little quote:
You may be one person to the world, but you may be the world to one person.
I think that for most of us, we should just strike may be, and replace it with are. Because every one of us has some type of influence on each person we meet, whether it's profound or seemingly inconsequential. Whether it's fleeting or lasts for eternity. Our thoughts and actions matter.
I really love the Starfish Story, adapted from "The Star Thrower" by Loren Eiseley.
Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.
One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.
As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.
He came closer still and called out "Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?"
The young man paused, looked up, and replied "Throwing starfish into the ocean."
"I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?" asked the somewhat startled wise man.
To this, the young man replied, "The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them in, they'll die."
Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, "But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference!"
At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, "It made a difference for that one."
Just because you can't change the world doesn't mean you can't change a part of the world.
One of my heroes is a very dear friend of mine – Eric Hansen. He is a musician who shares his gifts of love and hope to the world through his music. Although his life hasn't always been easy, he is a testament to strength, perseverance, a positive attitude, and love for his fellow human beings.
Eric wrote and recorded a song called "Hero in the Dark", from the album of the same name, which I would like to share with you. It is a beautiful way to illustrate what I want to say in this post. I do hope you take a few minutes to listen to it.
Thanks to all the heroes in my life, and especially my unknown - and unsung - heroes.