UPDATE AUG 24 – I wrote this blog a short while ago only to learn of true actual real heroes who thwarted a terrorist act on a train in France. And still these heroes say they are not heroes but simply people hoping to survive what would have been a deadly attack. They deserve our praise for their actions and the reminder that we need to take action in the face of terror and for that matter injustice.
U.S. Airman Spencer Stone, National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos, and their longtime friend Anthony Sadler and British businessman, Chris Norman – you are inspirations. http://mashable.com/2015/08/24/top-honor-americans-briton-train-attack/?utm_cid=mash-com-fb-main-link
“I hate people.”
I’ve said that not a few times when especially worked up about cruel and senseless acts or incomprehensible meanness. So I’ve learned to self medicate by internet surfing for ‘hero stories’ about animal rescuers and people who care. If I’m having a bad day or lacking direction in the universe, I binge on hero stories to remind myself not all people, not even most people, are miserable pieces of crap.
For a couple of days now, I’ve been thinking of the way our society uses the word “hero”. We apply the hero label equally to animal rescuers to firefighters to whistle blowers, to the guy who shoveled the walk for his elderly neighbor, to sports figures or celebrities to someone who returns lost money, as well as the men and women who run into burning buildings or fight for our country. And if you’d read as many hero stories as I have, you’d notice something. Most of the real heroes don’t want that label. And that got me thinking, maybe these doers of exceptional deeds of selflessness understand some things we need to share.
First, believe me, I don’t want to belittle or be disrespectful to any people making sacrifices and helping out – but I was wondering if maybe we should just call them “people”. It might encourage us all to adopt the premise that compassion, getting involved, and putting ourselves out there does not require anything extraordinary; it is what is expected of us as humans sharing space on this planet, that these responsibilities do not and cannot fall only on the shoulders of designated heroes or super heroes. That caring is a natural reaction from any people witnessing need.
A second thought about heroes, I mean ‘people’, – they don’t wait for the perfect scenario. They don’t stop and contemplate, they don’t worry about not having training and certification for this or that, or the right tools or the right clothes or the necessary amount of time. They reacted to the best of their ability at a given moment, a moment they recognized because they were present in the real, rather than the virtual, space around them. How many of us would have distractedly walked by, missing the sound of the whimpering puppies in the dumpster, or avoided the desperate gaze of a frightened runaway? (Personally, I might have heard the puppies, probably missed the gaze.)
I guess what I am wondering is whether the label “hero” for what should be everyday acts of compassion is a detriment to compassionate acts. Making it seem too extraordinary to do things like help a neighbor, call the fire department when smoke is smelled, pick up trash on the neighborhood street. Does the label provide an excuse (I’m not hero material) not to act?
It’s pretty obvious that there are way, way more ‘people’ in the world than ‘heroes’. So if we, the people, each stepped up and acted out of a desire to fulfill a need, what a force we would be.
That dream lets me imagine a day when we could feel proud to be called one of the ‘people’?
Well, that ends today’s rambling.
Love to you all, except the mean and cruel people. (If I was as good as I’d like to be, I’d write “especially to the mean and cruel people”, but I’m not there yet, I’m still a work in progress).
What are your thoughts?
(c) Alison Colby-Campbell