I believe in True Heroes.
Hero. We hear the word used constantly these days. Seemingly, everyone is a hero these days. I find this troubling. When you look in the Oxford English Dictionary you find the definition of hero: “A name given (as in Homer) to men of superhuman strength, courage, or ability, favored by the gods.”
Whew, that’s quite a definition to live up to! I admire those who choose professions that serve the public and are often called heroes today: firefighters, police, and soldiers. These are tough jobs. But are they heroes simply for doing those jobs? I don’t think so. Can they be heroes? Of course, many do heroic things.
However, I believe a True Hero is someone who goes above and beyond their job description, who heads into danger simply because another human being needs help. A hero is someone who has no reason to help other than human decency and the courage to act. I began this contemplation of the word Hero twelve years ago when a co-worker of mine named Bill came to work with bandaged hands. He was an older, middle-aged gentleman, a kind soul always willing to help, a model employee. This was his part-time job; he worked the early shift as a maintenance person at a local aerospace company too. I had to send him home that night because company policy did not allow anyone to work with bandages on their hands. Bill accepted the news gracefully with a smile and left. He never told us how he got the bandages.
Well, we found out the next day. In the newspaper was a small item mentioning that two men driving on the freeway on their way to work in the very early morning came upon a car nearly engulfed in flames, with a woman trapped inside. It seems that Bill pulled over, ran to the car and pulled the woman to safety. In the process he burned his hands and melted the soles of his shoes. Of course, afterwards, Bill got his hands bandaged and went to work all day and then came to work at his part-time job that night. That’s the kind of guy Bill is.
All these years later, when I think of the word Hero, Bill comes to mind. It seems to me that Bill was surely favored by the gods with superhuman strength, courage and ability that day. I believe in True Heroes. I believe we should use the word for those it truly describes. As my two little girls grow up, I want them to understand the real meanings of words and use them carefully. I want them to know a real hero when they see it. I believe we should admire those who take up professions that serve the public, but I believe we should save the word Hero for those who truly do the work of the gods for a brief moment so that we can all experience wonder and awe for an everyday person who becomes truly extraordinary.
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