Friday, May 31, 2013

Heroes and Courage

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.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Real Torture

What is torture? Sometimes we as humans toss that word around so casually it loses its impact.

"It's torture sitting through another one of these long, boring presentations."

"Don't torture me with that delicious smell of cinnamon rolls while I'm on a diet."

Those instances might not be pleasant, but they come nowhere near the torture that some human beings can inflict on other living creatures.

The definition I'm using for today's post, according to, is "the infliction of intense pain (as from burning, crushing, or wounding) to punish, coerce, or afford sadistic pleasure."

Photo from Idaho Humane Society website
This is the aftermath of torture. This dog, a small pit bull bred especially for fighting, is one of 64 dogs rescued earlier this spring from a dog fighting operation in a rural area of Idaho. They were only discovered after a person, or persons, killed a 61-year-old man, his 32-year-old son, and the son's 27-year-old wife, all who resided at the property. The young couple's infant and toddler were both found alive and unharmed.

The people who were killed were in the business of growing and selling marijuana, and also raising and fighting small pit bull dogs. Law enforcement stated that this was not a random act, and it was also not a robbery. They found $95,000 in marijuana plants and cash in the house. Whoever killed these three people had another motive.

Credit KPVI
The dogs lived in horrible conditions, freezing in winter, baking in summer. It was thought that while some were fighting dogs, others with sweet temperaments were used as bait dogs, attacked and killed to keep the attacking dogs mean and blood-hungry.

The Idaho Humane Society (IHS) took on the responsibility of assessing and caring for these dogs. One had to be put down immediately due to severe injuries and nonstop seizures. Bad Rap, the organization that rehabilitated Michael Vick's fighting pit bulls, came out to help with the dogs. Other regional animal shelters offered to take dogs at the IHS to make room for the pit bulls.

When all was said and done, eleven dogs had to be put down because they could not be rehabilitated. Another dozen were soon put up for adoption with carefully screened families. Some were sent to outside dog rehabilitation facilities. And the rest remain at IHS, still being cared for and evaluated in the hopes that they will also find loving new homes.

My daughter works at IHS, and here are a few pictures of her with some of the pitties. As you can see, they are soaking in the love and affection from staff and volunteers.
These pit bulls were bred to be small, as many fighting dogs are. Here is one little girl who is basking in an embrace. 

This picture is so sweet, but sad at the same time. This little dog looks scared, but is simply trusting that she won't be hurt anymore.  (Idaho Humane Society website)

And my daughter getting some love from another of these "fighters". She fell in love many times over...

And I love this video from IHS – this is the first peanut butter (and Kong toy) that this dog has ever had.

So this is a happy ending for many of these dogs. But it came at a price, and adjusting to a life with a soft place to sleep, plenty of water and food, and love instead of pain, will take time.

For those of you who think pit bull dogs (which are actually several different breeds of dogs) are inherently more dangerous than any other breed, I urge you to do your own research. And realize that many dogs seem to look like pit bulls, but actually are other breeds altogether, and are often mistaken in news reports.

For those of you who think mistreating animals is a trivial act – that a slap on the wrist will do just fine – again, I urge you to do some research. Many evil people in our society had a history of animal torture when they were younger. If someone is able to tear the wing off a bird, starve and beat a dog, mutilate a cat, or otherwise torture and kill any one of God's creatures, will they have any regard for human life and well-being? 

Please, be kind to one another. Not just to other people, but to all living creatures. How we treat the least among us is a reflection of who we are in the very depths of our souls.