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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Defining Heroes . . .

A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself. - Joseph Campbell

I think the word "hero" means different things to different people. On the one hand you have Olive Oyl fainting into the arms of Popeye on one of his many rescues of her from the callused and greasy hands of Brutus.

"My hero!" she announces, as she collapses into his arms, her toothpick legs looking jointless as she gives way.

While I applaud Popeye always coming to Olive's rescue, after a while I kind of have to think, "Maybe she is not the right one for you. And maybe it's not that you're a hero - it's just that you're stupid and love the wrong woman."

In many ways, I do believe that we potentially overuse that term. Idols are often confused with heroes and next thing you know, you have got some confused teenager swooning over Justin Bieber, calling him her "hero."

(Although I must say, if anyone is confused, I would be the first to admit it is me. I still don't understand the power that young man-child has over the young teen/tween population.)

An old friend and colleague of mine, Dave George, wrote an opinion piece for aol a few weeks back titled, "Sorry, the Chilean Miners are NOT heroes." In his piece, Dave laments the use of a word that he believes should be reserved solely for those who put their own lives on the line. That the word should be reserved for individuals like recent Medal of Honor recipient, Sal Giunta, who risked his life to save his friend in Iraq.

In his piece, he says that using the term to apply to the Chilean miners, is inaccurate. In his opinion, they are not heroes for they passively got handed a catastrophe and made it out alive.

I have been thinking about this a good deal. When I see CNN honoring the Chilean miners, I do still believe they are heroes. There is something extremely heroic to me in just managing to survive such dire circumstances without giving up hope or faith.

When I think about the past half year in Chile, as the country has tried to turn itself around and recover from an incredibly devastating earthquake, I think that what those miners represented to the people of Chile surpassed a news story event - they represented so much more to a country who saw the salvation of these men as something divine.

The survival of those men was most likely not expected given the catastrophic year or situation, but when they came through, it was like someone said to the people of Chile, and even to the world,

"Someone is watching over you. And you can never stop believing."

To me, heroes are those who have the power to inspire, to challenge your beliefs and to pull the best from you - whether it is to save your life, your voice, your rights. They allow you to see that sometimes, when your own hopes wane even in the most dire of circumstances, the power and strength of human will can get us through some amazing situations.

I don't believe that the action of being a hero requires you to give up your life, or risk your life - but it does require some level of honorable sacrifice.

When I look at men like Sal Giunta - of course he represents a hero to me. His actions in battle were so selflessly motivated in battle that they catapult him to a "super hero" status in my opinion.

Perhaps that's the distinction that Dave wishes to see made - because that's what it really comes down to - there is a stratification within those we define as heroes perhaps in the level of their sacrifice.

In the absence of Superman, Wonderwoman and Spiderman, we do have individuals who put themselves out there to serve and protect us each day.

They are all superheroes.

To me though, it doesn't change the fact that I see people who do heroic things every day.

Whether it is a teacher who has had the ability to inspire three generations of a town for her love of teaching, when she probably could have made a much more lucrative career for herself elsewhere given her own talents - I find her heroic.

Whether it is a family in mourning from the loss of their child, who channeled their grief into creating an amazing organization that will help other families go through the journey they had to endure. I find them heroic.

Whether it is a co-worker who has adopted three abandoned and abused grown siblings from a third world country to give them a life. A prayer. A chance.

That's heroic.

As we approach the holidays, I would like to tell you some more about some of the people in my own life who continue to inspire me. To drive me. To give me reason to believe we can all be so much more than we are.

My heroes.

Dave posited in his post that Webster's Dictionary "had it wrong" when it came to the definition of heroes.

According to Webster's, the definition is as follows: "hero (n): an object of extreme admiration and devotion."

I agree with Dave about that. That definition is too broad and potentially misleading. Again, it confuses idolatry with the acknowledgement of heroes. And he is right, by Webster's definition, the whole cast of "Glee" could be defined as heroes.

And I don't think they are.

Though I do like the show.

Over the next few weeks, I can't wait to tell you about some of the heroes in my life. If you have any stories you would like to share about people who amaze, inspire and take your breath away with their strength, please share.

Because no matter how old we get, we can all use some more heroes.

~ A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles. ~Christoper Reeve



1 comment:

webb said...

Well, I started out firmly in Dave's camp. I don't think the Chilean miners are heroes. I think they are guys who did extraordinarily well under terrible circumstances. In that event, I think the medic who rode the capsule DOWN is the hero. There was no guarantee that a) he would make it down safely, or b) up safely... and he went anyway.

But, I do like George Reeve's definition. I think there is an element of knowing it's dangerous and still willingly doing it, that defines a hero. George's definition seems to incorporate some of that.

Will be interested to meet your heroes, tho.


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