What defines heroism in your personal dictionary? Is it the police officer who breaks down the door to save a child from death at the hands of a serial killer? Is it the firefighter who bursts through a wall of flame to save a bedridden elderly woman? Or the bystander who pulls the baby from a burning car just before the car explodes? A lot of people (me included) consider our military personnel to be heroes. I’m always surprised by the news interviews with people in the above situations, when the “heroes,” shrug and say, “I was just doing my job,” or “Anyone would have done it.”
Maybe your definition of hero is something more subtle. A teacher who puts in an exceptional effort to reach his or her students. A hospice nurse, who devotes her life to comforting the dying and their families. What about religious clergy? It’s not just about sermons–it’s also about community outreach and comforting the needy. A retiree or homemaker who volunteers for Meals on Wheels. A member of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America. Someone who donates a few moments of their time helping others learn to read. My mom used to donate a day a week working in my elementary school library, and a day a month as a room mother, helping the teacher to arrange class parties and other fun events.
I believe every one of us has the potential for heroism. We don’t need to rush into fires or rescue victims from would-be muggers. We all have skills we’ve developed over the years that we can share with others. Maybe we have a lawn mower, an extra Saturday morning, and an elderly neighbor. Or a car and a shut-in friend who needs something from the store. Maybe your neighborhood could use a little clean-up along the side of the road, or your local library needs someone to read to the children.
“The characteristic of genuine heroism is its persistency. All men have wandering impulses, fits and starts of generosity. But when you have resolved to be great, abide by yourself, and do not weakly try to reconcile yourself with the world. The heroic cannot be the common, nor the common the heroic.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
How can you find your inner hero today?