We all love heroes. We throw them parades, name streets for them, listen to their stories on TV and the Internet, and give them the acclaim they so justly deserve. The recent tragedies in Boston, Texas and now Oklahoma have made me realize how seemingly passive individuals can be called to do heroic acts. It affirmed that every one of us has the potential to become a hero; and in fact in every one of us there is that hidden desire to someday fulfill our destiny to become a hero.
Few of us personally know a celebrated hero. Fewer of us still will ever have the opportunity to save a life, find a cure for a horrible disease, save the world from another war or do anything that would label us a national hero.
Yet that desire for greatness lingers in all of us. We are all called to be heroes in lesser or greater ways.
I know many heroes. Their names will never make the news, yet to the people they serve their acts mean the difference between a desolate day – a need unfulfilled and the despair of loneliness – and a day filled with hope – a need recognized and met, and the blessings of a friend who cares and supports them.
They are your neighbors, your friends and hopefully even yourself. They are the countless “good neighbors” who are always there in the time of need to bring a bowl of soup to a sick friend, to visit a shut-in neighbor, to offer a ride for a stranded friend, to baby sit for a harried mother, to dog sit for a needed vacation, to provide an emergency shuttle to a doctor’s appointment, to cut the lawn or remove the snow from the driveway of an elderly neighbor, to stop at the druggist for a prescription refill or to pick up an extra bag of groceries for someone without transportation.
There are unseen heroes who donate that extra winter coat to a homeless shelter, the extra dollar in the collection baskets for disease research, the extra food to food pantries and the pint of blood at the Red Cross.
We live among real heroes every day. The caregivers who tend to the needs of their parents suffering from Alzheimer’s; the caring family members who remain constantly by the side of a terminally ill relative; the dedicated teachers who give added love and support to a struggling child; the single mothers juggling job and family; and the many who daily battle racial and gender prejudice to reach their rightful goals.
We have opportunities every day to fulfill our destiny as heroes. Offering a kind word to the hassled checkout clerk at the supermarket may be the only civil word she has heard all day. Holding the door for a frazzled mother with toddlers hanging from her arms may give her renewed faith in the kindness of strangers. Visiting a sick friend may be his or her only link that day to a normal, healthy world and a reprieve from the endless doctors, nurses and medications. Calling a “long-lost friend” may rekindle fond memories and brighten a humdrum day.
The heroes who run into burning buildings or toward exploding bombs deserve all of the acclamations we can give. They represent the best of us, for they have fulfilled their inherent destiny to be a hero.
Few of us will ever match their deeds, but we can all meet our destiny to be heroes, in a great or lesser manner.