Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Hero



"A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is braver 5 minutes longer."
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Yet another tragic act of violence in our country. Of course we immediately start to ask why?

That question we have no control over. But in true American resolution we have also learned to focus on the men and women who defy the violence by being heroes. The first rescue workers, law enforcement, military and scores of spectators that ran toward the chaos to help the victims in any way they could are what keep the creators of such tragedies from ever winning. 

I love the fact that we can recognize the level of courage such acts take. We've had the sad opportunity to witness so much courage in our history. The most recent example being the amazing faculty at Sandy Hook who gave their lives for their small charges.

But what does it take to have that level of selfless courage, whether it's running into a bomb site, facing a shooter, entering a burning building, going willingly into war, or any other scenarios where people are tested to their core?

That act of brave self-sacrifice has to come from an understanding that the vast majority of human life is worth saving. Of course it has to have courage as the catalyst to react toward the chaos instead of retreat for self-preservation.

I remember watching the carnage during the Oklahoma City bombing. I was living in Virginia and my new son had just been born. So I held my baby close as I witnessed daycare children's bodies extracted. 

That same baby is now 17 and hoping to be a Marine. Does that scare me? Hell yes. Do I think he'd be excellent at it? Hell yes. So I get to be supportive and help him in any way I can while internally screaming a little. 

But being a hero is something we can all be in our own way. We experience smaller heroes all of the time. It can be that high school teacher that takes the time to listen to a troubled student, a volunteer at a shelter or Boys and Girls Club or a loving foster parent. Or even smaller versions; helping an elderly person with packages, adopting a pet, giving food to the homeless person you pass every day on the way to get coffee or doing any number of other "pay it forward" acts of kindness.

I propose that we always look for the hero moment even in the small events of the day. By always acknowledging those around us, really looking, we are showing the courage to see what others hide from. The struggling mother in the grocery store, the overwhelmed waitress that made a frazzled mistake, the sadness in the older women's face that hands you coffee every morning, all could use just a small bit of kindness and acknowledgement to lighten their hearts and feel less alone.

Because as our recent history has shown, we are never truly alone. We are actually surrounded by heroes.

"Courage: the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can't practice any other virtue consistently."
~Maya Angelou




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