Fifteen months ago, my husband, along with three of his fellow soldiers in the Iowa National Guard helped to rescue CBS News Correspondent Kimberly Dozier and her entourage after a deadly car bomb explosion in Baghdad. Cory and his convoy happened to be driving on an adjacent street when they heard the explosion. Most of the soldiers in my husband’s convoy were too shaken to leave the safety of their armored humvees, but four of them, including Cory, called up for additional assistance, started IVs, tied tourniquets, bandaged wounds, and calmed the hysterical. Since that day, Cory’s actions have been labeled ‘heroic’. But in this single act, he did not suddenly acquire the courage and compassion necessary to put his own life in danger for the sake of another’s. He was able to do what he did because it was as natural to him as humming a Johnny Cash tune or pushing snooze on the alarm; his actions were the result of habit.
Cory teaches elementary school on the rough side of town. If you open his biggest desk drawer, you’ll find treats for kids to pass out to classmates on their birthday if their parents don’t have the money or time to provide them. If you open his top left desk drawer, you’ll find hair ties and brushes for girls who come to school looking as if they haven’t groomed or slept in days. On Saturdays, you can find him loading up a van of kids who are having a rough time at home for an outing to the Science Museum or Chuck E. Cheese.
Last week was my ten-year high school reunion. As everyone mingled, shared pictures of children, and introduced spouses, one young man sat at a table all by himself, ignored. He wore oversized, thick-framed glasses, just as he had in high school where he embraced Calculus but not any friends. Reminiscing about teenage antics with a friend, I noticed Cory was no longer at our table. Scanning the room, I found him sitting directly across from the class nerd, giving eye contact and smiling, as if this was the most important person in the room. For the rest of the night, this former outcast never lacked a conversation partner. One by one, the members of my class took Cory’s lead and spent time with their classmate until even the cheerleaders and jocks were chatting away with him.
I used to believe the story of the Good Samaritan was about a single act of caring and heroism, but as I watch my husband’s life, I realize the story, and our story, is about being the kind of people, minute by minute and hour by hour, who will, without hesitation, sacrifice for a stranger in need.
I am reminded of the famous Aristotelian quotation which describes excellence as habitual. Cory’s life has shown me this applies to heroism as well. This I believe: Heroism is not an act, but a habit. My husband is living proof.
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