Hero Worshiping When asked to conjure up descriptions of a hero or heroism, many people would imagine similar scenes. The firefighters pulling a family from a burning building, a soldier saving his platoon from certain death, rescue workers pulling a stranded mountain climber from a precarious ledge, and the Knights of the Round Table saving a damsel in distress, are all examples of the “common” hero. Many people display heroism in everyday life but are rarely recognized either by their peers or by the media. Heroism can be traced back in time as early as mythology has been present. People of that era felt a need to worship super-beings who could solve their problems.
Current examples reflecting that age are evident on television today. Both “Hercules” and “Xena: The Warrior Princess” are ever present to save the peasants from the evil and cunning warlords. Mythological heroes had their deeds exaggerated as the stories were passed by word of mouth from person to person. Storytellers have always felt a need to liven up their stories and as they passed them from generation to generation, the stories continued to grow. Everyone knows what heroism is, but describing it can be difficult. Gallantry, valor, bravery, and courage are all traits normally associated with heroism.
For the people who risk or sacrifice their own lives in an acts of selflessness, these words are accurate in describing heroism. Few would dispute that a person who pulls another from a burning flipped-over car ready to explode does show heroism. The news media is always looking for acts of heroism as they make for captivating news. Just recently, a fourth grade boy grabbed the wheel of a school bus after it was involved in an accident. This boy may have saved the lives of the children loaded on the school bus by preventing the bus from careening out of control. Because of the unusual circumstances of this incident, the media rightly focused on this child as a hero.
Many other forms of heroism do not fit this very succinct definition. The school teacher who has the rare ability to turn students around and prevent them from throwing their lives away is one example. Another example is the counselor who spends extra time and transforms a drug addict into a useful person in society. The doctor, who has the courage to stand up and yell child abuse when others are silent, is another case. The people in these three examples all have one thing in common; they may have saved a person’s life. The student who does not study and turns to crime, the drug addict who overdoses on drugs, the child that is delivered to a new caring home, all had their lives saved by one of these unsung heroes. Many would argue that these heroes do this as part of their job and this is what they are supposed to do.
None of these saved lives would have happened without these professionals showing heroism every day. It takes commitment, gallantry, courage and sometimes bravery to step up and go a little further than normal. When someone pulls a child from a burning house that person is called a hero. What about the person who, rather than running into the house, runs to a telephone and calls the fire department who, in turn, rescues everybody? Is this person not a hero? If this person had not had the common sense to call the fire department and rushed in instead, the results might have been different and lives may have been lost. Sometimes being a hero does not involve risking one’s own life, but not risking the lives of others. Many consider and call sport superstars heroes.
Does passing for a touchdown in the Super Bowl, hitting a game winning home run, or making the winning shot in the NCAA tournament, make someone a hero? Did they risk their own lives in helping others? Did they save someone’s life from ruin? There may be several other terms to call these superstars, but to call them heroes or to describe their actions as showing heroism is ridiculous. They may do other deeds away from the sport that could earn them this distinction, but on the playing field it is hard to imagine them rising to the level of a hero. Heroism is shown in many varied situations. The person who can make a split second decision to save someone is no doubt heroic. What does this say about the person who has time to decide a course of action and willingly helps someone? These types of heroes, the dedicated teacher, foster parents, counselors and a myriad of other examples, may show the most heroism of all by choosing to save a life. It is shameful that we do not recognize these people more often and have these stories told by the media and peers.
They may be the greatest heroes of all.