Sunday, June 21, 2009

Not (Quite) a Hero

"Hero" is a word that's over-used. Anyone who helps someone else seems to own that title these days. I disagree with such a broad use of the word. The dictionary definition of hero is, "A person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially at the risk of personal safety." I think most people would agree that those serving in the military, law enforcement or fire fighters unquestionably fall into this category. The lady who tutors a kid free of charge or the teenager who baby sits without pay for a single mom are generous but not heroes.

While there are a good number of heroes out there, not all of us are called to or capable of risking life and limb to save another. What every one of us is called to and capable of doing is being a responsible citizen. These seem to be in short supply. Personal responsibility is a disappearing trait as more and more people expect their living expenses, education and health care bills to be covered by the government. Even in school, children are allowed to make extensive excuses as to their lack of assignment completions. If a crime is witnessed, people often don't want to "get involved."

Given this pervasive attitude of apathy and entitlement I was moved to write about a young man who simply acted as a good citizen. He didn't risk bodily injury or directly perform a life-saving act, so I'll not call him a hero.

He is my 24-year-old neighbor, Daniel. On June 5th while in Alaska I got a phone call from him. "Is Brad (my husband) around?" he asked. I told him where we both were and he explained that he'd noticed a suspicious stranger lingering around our yard and talking on a cell phone. The man was paying close attention to my husband's truck. I confirmed that he wasn't anyone we knew and Daniel walked over to investigate then called police and tracked the man and his partner casing another truck in the neighborhood. Crime prevented!

Later that same day Daniel, who is a radio runner for tech services at the Phoenix Fire Department, heard an Amber Alert on his radio. He began to investigate and based on a bit of deductive reasoning located the suspected kidnapper and called police. She was later apprehended, baby unharmed.

I still won't call him a hero. He went out of his way, inconvenienced himself and sacrificed some time but he didn't risk his life. Still, most people wouldn't have gone to the trouble to do as much as he did.

Daniel is hoping to become a firefighter. Extinguishing a blaze, rescuing a victim or performing CPR are all difficult tasks, but they can be taught. Integrity, responsibility and character are core values. Good citizenship, a strong sense of responsibility; these are stepping stones to "hero" can't earn that title without possessing the first two along the way.

I hope the fire departments are paying attention and recruit Daniel. I'm sure they can teach him every skill he needs to know. He's already got the core values to be the kind of hero they're looking for.

Most of us could use a little polish on our efforts toward citizenship. Have you gone out of your way lately to prevent a crime, picked up an obstacle in the road or called for assistance for a stranded motorist as you passed by? Share and tell why or why not and any missed opportunities.

*Happy Father's Day! Don't forget to tell your dad how much he means to you. Is/was your dad a hero in your mind?

**See this piece in newspaper column.
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Diane Markins said...

I just found these quotes and thought they summed this piece up nicely:
"Most of us can read the writing on the wall; we just assume it's addressed to someone else." ~Ivern Ball, poet

"I must do something" always solves more problems than "Something must be done." ~Author Unknown

Joni Corby said...

I love this post because it confirms what I have felt about the use of the word "hero" lately. Because we use it so freely now, it has lost some of its value. Not every good thing that we do is "heroic". I think in our attempt to make everyone "feel good" these days, we have gone overboard. Sorta like the "everyone is a winner" attitude you find in youth sports these days. Well, both sides can't win in a contest. One side wins, and one side loses. Winning or losing doesn't have anything to do with the value of the player but we seem to feel the need to completely level the playing field. Real life doesn't work that way. We need to learn to persevere thru "losing" and learn how to humbly accept "winning". Not everyone who does something good is a hero. We want to thank those who do good but let's save the word "hero" for those who truly act courageously, nobly and with sacrifice.

Anonymous said...

I found out that Daniel, a close friend of mine, was involved with helping solve an Amber Alert. I immediately called him and asked him what had happened. He replied as I should have know in saying that God helped him find her and he would tell me more about it later when it doesn't feel as though he were boasting.

Love that boy!