Sunday, November 19, 2006


A hero can be anyone---male or female, old or young, of any social status or nationality---who in a bad situation selflessly does the "right" thing, regardless of personal risk or sacrifice. The most important aspects of this, my personal definition, are selflessly and the "right," as in moral, good, proper, as well as appropriate.

As a teacher, I can remember when all of us who taught junior high English began to realize together and with great dismay that approached horror, that young people had no real comprehension of human heros. Asking students to write either journal entries or character sketches of a personal hero had been standard fare for years, when gradually we all began to realize that students had no concept of "heros" except "super heros" as in comic books and movies. When asked to write about a hero, a very few would write about Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King, Jr. or one of our other historical giants. But most would go off into wild fantasy about Superman or Spiderman, Batman or WonderWoman, or--Heaven forbid--some video game champion, none of whom I can even name except what's-her-name the boob chick (oh, I remember, Laura Croft).

If it is not sacrilege to find some good out of the horror of September 11, 2001, then that good must surely include the enrichment of America's concept of the personal or everyday hero; which is, as far as I am concerned, the truest form of hero. First to come to mind, of course, are New York City's police and firemen, and next, the courageous passengers of United flight 93, who, fully understanding they could not save themselves, nonetheless, gave their last full measure of effort to keep their plane from becoming yet another deadly missle destroying more lives and property on the ground. However, even the ordinary working people who led or carried fellow workers and/or strangers from the twin towers or from the Pentagon, completely fit into my definition of hero. Many, many others do as well, in ordinary situations too numerous and varied to even try to list. On that day and in the months that followed, all the world could again see and point to examples of personal heroism.

Finally America's young people again understood what heros were. Now, again, as when I was young, students actually see the heroism in ordinary people. We now realize that the neighbor who goes into the house of an elderly or handicapped neighbor when a fire is discovered is a hero; that the first driver on-scene at the collision of one or several other cars, who not only phones 911, but goes to check on the people, pull them out if possible, and begin artificial respiration if needed, is just as much a real hero.

There are even everyday people who can be seen as heros because they represent a valued ideal or simply treat others in such a kind and honorable way that they present a standard others strive to emulate. In this vein, many of us may consider our parents or siblings to be heros, especially after they are gone.

Heros--male or female--enrich our lives and enrich the meaning of life itself. They show us the very best of humanity. They give us hope that this world is actually a little better place that the newspaper and television tend to make us believe. If you believe, as I do, in a heavenly afterlife, it might be said that heros give us a little vision of heaven here on earth.


Blogger The Quintessential Feline said...

A hero does enrich the meaning of life and I pray that your students recognize as much as you do your best to demonstrate for them yourself.

Great post!

2:48 AM  
Blogger paris parfait said...

Such a great post and a wonderful tribute to real life heroes. It's sad to hear about the experience with young people who rarely recognised heroism in real life. Yet another example of some negative impact of too many video games, Hollywood action movies and not enough reading and learning about the real world. Thank goodness for teachers like you!

6:55 AM  
Blogger miss magic said...

You're so right about them making our lives better than they look on TV. Hope your students realise this too, just like their teacher!

4:33 AM  

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