Friday, August 30, 2013



I hear a lot these days about heroes. Apparently there are heroes everywhere. You just have to know where to look. Every day I hear the term “hero” thrown about in reference to someone.

I have to confess a certain jaded cynicism when it comes to applying the hero label. It’s been done so much that it seems that all you have to do to be a hero is get your face on the local news or have someone share it on Facebook, which happens about every 12 seconds.

Sports heroes are freakin’ everywhere! It’s football season, so we are about to be subjected to the term “hero” being applied to anyone who can carry or throw a football with any consistency. It doesn’t matter that they might be arrogant, selfish or greedy. As long as they help our favorite team win, they’re heroes to us!

Please, people – it’s just a game, no matter what we try to make of it. Off the field or court, life is still life. If my “hero” can score a touchdown, it really doesn’t make a difference in what life chooses to hand us. We can admire someone’s athleticism all we want and enjoy their performance in a game. Elevating them to the status of hero because of it is another matter.

Partisan politicians will get the label hero, as long as they continue to shout loud and long about how terrible/incompetent/evil their opponent is. Hero? No – just a person who enjoys power and influence without actually doing anything of substance. That’s nothing new. There’s still a sign in Dublin praising the late Senator Joseph McCarthy, calling him a real American hero. That’s not just inaccurate, it’s science fiction – bad science fiction – SyFy Saturday night movie science fiction.

With all the conflicts that have involved the U.S. military in recent years, the word “hero” has almost become synonymous with the military. Go up to a soldier and ask if he/she is a hero. I would be willing to bet that you’d hear that they were just doing their job. I admire that kind of humble realism. A lot of us are not that realistic. I take the risk of offending someone here, but the truth is that not everyone who puts on the uniform of the U.S. military is a hero. A great many of them are, but not all.

Someone is now asking if I have become so cynical that I can’t see heroic things being done in the world. Before you write me off as hopeless, let me assure you that I do believe in heroes. I think heroes are encountered on a daily basis, but we don’t see them. We’re too busy looking for the spectacular that we cannot see the truly heroic, the people whose actions chance a life and potentially change the world.

Here are just a few:

Firefighters and first responders: Often these people remain anonymous. We see only the helmets and gear. We rarely know their faces, but they risk their lives daily and even hourly for us.

Medical professionals: These folks work incredibly long hours to care for people who are ill or injured. Some get very little pay and no recognition. Still they labor on simply because they are needed and they have something to give. I work regularly with hospice professionals who are never recognized. They work long, hard and for relatively little pay. They give their hearts to care for the dying. When death inevitably comes, they take a moment with their private grief and then move forward to care for the next person in need.

Here’s one that tends to get an eye-roll from teenagers, but parents are on my list. Talk about a hard job! Being a parent is a job that never ends. The parent that helps with homework, cooks, cleans, provides needed income, tucks children in bed at night, plays silly games, gives guidance and disciplines when necessary is a hero. Single parent? Big hero.

I guess my point in all this rambling about heroes is simply this: heroes are not always where you would expect them to be, but there are also everywhere. Take a moment to think about the heroes in your life. Then do something about it.

You don’t have to embarrass them by making a big show about it. A real hero doesn’t want a big, showy display anyway. A simple and sincere “thank you” will go miles in encouraging someone who is trying his/her best. It will renew a tired spirit and lift up a sagging soul.

Do it while you have the chance.

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