Who is a Hero?

Matthew - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Entered on May 10, 2008

Four years ago I decided to see a psychologist for the first time. I sat across from Dr. Bob in a big leather chair and discussed my situation. He made some

notes as he listened to me talk. When I was done he told me something I wasn’t expecting. “You’re doing great. The way you’re handling this is really

admirable. I have patients who are afraid of stepping out their door,

and here you are.”

I had suffered the shocking disappointment of a failed eye surgery a few weeks earlier. I was now grappling with

the reality that I was permanently blind. But Dr. Bob’s take on how well I was doing was a vote of confidence.

And this wasn’t an isolated case. My recent blindness evoked encouragement from just about everyone. Family

members were oddly respectful. Friends were unusually consoling.

Perfect strangers, well that was the best part. They saw me as

strong, as overcoming a huge challenge, as heroic.

I still get lost walking the same route in my

neighborhood I’ve walked for years. I have had to relearn the

simplest things, from brushing my teeth to writing an e-mail. But these challenges have been offset by

the support I receive from others.

I no longer see the faces of individuals, but I see the best side of

humanity. When I ask people for directions in the street, they walk

with me to my destination. Cashiers wait patiently as I find the

right bills in my wallet. My guide dog cost about $30,000 just to train. I spent not one cent, but I benefit from his service and

companionship on a daily basis.

And I get a lot of credit for my accomplishments. Dr. Bob was amazed

that I had come to his office on my own.

When I won a scholarship to study for a year in Brazil, an article

came out in the local paper touting my upcoming adventure as heroic. I didn’t feel heroic for wanting to go to Brazil, but I appreciated the support.

And this I believe: True heroes

are born not in the seeming difficulty of their life situations but by

the grace and love with which they live their lives. And just who

these heroes really are is not for us to decide. We can’t measure the degree of difficulty of one life against another. We can’t look into

each other’s souls and see the real intentions behind the resulting actions. When it comes to judging true heroes, we’re all blind.

So whether or not I’m truly a hero, I appreciate being treated

like one. It makes me want to live up to this expectation. when everyone is as encouraged in their life challenges as I have been, the world will be a much happier place.