Saturday, April 2, 2011

Where Have The Heroes Gone? (ver 1.1)

I just finished chatting with a friend. At the end of the conversation, she asked me for a favor "when [I] had time away from saving the world". Trust me, I'm no hero. I am nothing like Siegel and Shuster's boy in blue. I don't even come close to being like Bob Kane's black-clad knight. I am not out saving the world, per se. I am just doing my duty, doing what needs to be done. I'm just doing what I think is right within the boundaries of what my country asks of me. I'm just a man doing his job and trying to make things a little better in the process. Isn't that what everybody is doing: trying to make their corner of the universe a little better?

Along with a few other thoughts to cross my war-scrambled brains, this urged me to blog about heroes in the world today. I composed a blog a couple of years ago about "everyday heroes". Unfortunately, that profile was lost and that blog along with it.

When I was growing up, it seemed as though I had heroes all around me. There were the comic book superheroes teaching us to stand up for right and good. There were historical heroes to learn from (Like Jefferson and Lincoln). I had Neil Armstrong walk on the moon in my life. He was a sort of a hero. There were the rescue workers who pulled a little boy out of a well. There were sports heroes who not only performed athletics but seemed to live life with grace and honor.

Today, it seems like most athletes are more interested in a paycheck than making a difference in little Johnny Anybody's life. Joe Namath visited sick kids. Michael Vick runs illicit gambling involving killing animals. How things have changed!

I was never an avid comic book reader. But I like Batman. He had style. I liked Spidey for his wit (and the redhead). Superman was never a favorite. But in the early 90s when Superman 75 was released, I mourned Supes' death. To quote Batman's reaction: "We didn't always agree on methods, but he was the best of us and the world will never be the same without him". Now, I am an avid fan of "Smallville". It is nice to see that Clark is not so perfect. But it is even better to watch him struggle to not abuse his power. It is not his faults that make him a fictional hero, but what he succeeds in despite them.

So, Superman is dead (let's not dwell on the whole "return" storyline... it was lame). Football heroes are getting in gangland shootouts. Presidents are dipping their cigars in interns. Governors are selling Senate seats. Priests are raping children. Where are our heroes now when we need them? Who are they? What makes a hero? Heck, even today's superheroes like those on the TV series "Heroes" lack the role-model of hope and virtue aspect. At the end of "Chapter 3" I couldn't tell the good guys from the bad guys anymore. They all seemed like a bunch of super-powered screw-ups who wanted to dominate or destroy the world rather than make it a better place.

A hero serves, protects, and saves.

A hero sets an example of virtue and values. He/She takes a stand and acts upon it. Somebody with a pro-life sticker on their car is not a hero. They are not doing anything for their cause. (I'm pro-choice, BTW). The lunatic who bombs a planned parenthood clinic is not a hero either. Sure, he acted. But how is killing and destroying a good example for the cause? Maybe the best example is the pro-life counselor that works at that clinic, giving people options such as adoption, etc; leaving the choice to the potential parents. That is acting. That is taking an active stance on a set of values and doing so in a positive way.

A hero is humble. (I guess that leaves out WWE wrestlers, pro-basketball players, etc).

A hero thinks of others above him/herself.

A hero leaves a place better than he/she found it, strives to make a difference.

A hero acts while others pay lip service.

A hero appears bigger-than-life to his/her admirers.

Now for the important aspects of a hero:

A hero inspires! A hero sets that example and leaves others striving to live up to it. A hero is a role model. A hero is somebody that most people look up to and aspire to be more like.

A hero brings hope. I mean real hope, not empty presidential campaign rhetoric, but real, tangible, noticeable hope. Though being that role model, and that inspiration, others follow the example. When that happens, real growth takes place. (The difference between growth and change is that change always happens -- and it can be for the worse -- growth is ALWAYS progress!) The world becomes a better place. This causes things to go from one person doing all he/she can to many doing, acting, making real growth.

A hero acts because things need to be done. Accomplishment is the only reward, not money, not fame, not adoration.

So where are our heroes today? Who fills these requirements?

I wrote of everyday heroes in an old blog. There are heroes out there, in aspect. There are rescue workers. There are police and firemen. There are service members. There are parents who adopt "special needs" children and love them unconditionally (though sometimes seemingly unrequited). The single parent who works long hours but still manages to help Johnny and Janey with their homework is a hero (or should be) to those kids. "Everyday Heroes" are all around us.

What I am searching for is today's larger than life hero. I am looking for our MLK. I am looking for our SGT York. I am looking for our Emelia Earnhardt. How about our Gus Grisolm? What about Superman for today, even? Who do our kids have to look up to? With today's media, the small-town hero doesn't cut it. Our attention span has dwindled. If we cannot download it in seconds, we lose interest. We need that individual who can rise above. We need the one that doesn't crave attention and exposure yet appears ubiquitous. Where/who is he/she? Looking at the world today, we could use one. Is it you?

So, I'm keeping my eyes open and my ear to the ground. When this era's hero finally emerges, I want to be among the first to thank him/her.

Who were your childhood heroes? How did they inspire you to become who you are today? What are you doing to inspire the children of today to make a better tomorrow? Who do you think today's children's heroes are or will be?

Could one of them be you?