I believe in everyday heroes. Oh sure, I like the ones with capes and uniforms, with beams of light streaming from behind their broad shoulders. But I’m more attached to the heroes who carry on unnoticed; the ones who donate their books to the library, who crochet blankets for premature babies, or deliver meals to seniors on Thursdays. Yes, I’m impressed when a corporation writes a large cardboard check with a string of zeros for a worthy cause. But I’m more prone to cheer when Mom takes time to help her kids drop a quarter in the holiday kettle so they’ll learn the art of giving.
Heroes surround us in this volunteer nation. From selling cookies in the freezing rain to taking time to check on a sick neighbor, we all take our turns doing the menial tasks that make up being a saviora.with little thanks. Too often, our world focuses on the stupendous feats of bravery and sacrifice without recognition of what is done by ordinary people on an ordinary day. It’s the little things that create great ripples of change.
A group of local teenagers collected 250,000 bandages for a clinic in Malawi. A small rural church gathered 1000 pencils for students in Nepal. A sixth grade class collected $400 in pennies for textbooks in Uganda. Small things, but they made a big difference. They showed that someone far away cared about a stranger’s well being. And each person who gave a bandage, a pencil, a penny, felt like a hero for having participated in the effort. We need to make a big deal out of small kindness.
I’ll turn 50 next year and the trauma of the event requires desperate measures. I thought of having a big birthday party with balloons, cake and lots of friends. But I’ve decided the best way to celebrate is to give, not recieve. So I’ll be gathering up sewing needles, crayons, and soccer balls and heading to Kenya and Zambia next June. I’ll give out gifts to strangers who have so little. I’ll bring cornmeal and vegetables and sweets to have a celebration meal crouched beneath a fig tree. And the greatest gift of all will be knowing that I’m a hero for that one village on that one day. (I’d wear a cape but I think the chief will get jealous.)
We’re all hero material. It doesn’t require tremendous strength, blinding speed or great sacrifice. It just takes one small gesture of caring and the belief that each of us has the potential to be an everyday hero.