I have been pondering heroes lately. Specifically, what makes a hero?

I looked it up on dictionary.com and it said:

1. a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.
2. a person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed a heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal: He was a local hero when he saved the drowning child.

Don’t you love dictionaries? I ask the dictionary for clarification on heroes and it says, “someone who has heroic qualities.” Gee, that was helpful. But you didn’t really think I was going to be satisfied with the dictionary definition anyway, did you?

Mr. Dictionary speaks of brave deeds and noble qualities, saving a drowning child is specifically mentioned. But who decides what is a brave deed or a noble quality? I guess that it is within each of us to choose as we choose our heroes.

I believe there are many heroes who don’t pull drowning children from pools, though they would if the need arose, but they go quietly about their lives touching the lives of others in more subtle ways.

I read today of a woman who had reached “the golden years” (often not so golden, I’m told), and she was angry. She was angry that she was still alive and she wanted to die. She stopped attending church. She also stopped all social interactions. She would sit with her caregivers and complain for hours asking why she was still here, what was the point of all this suffering. She did at last get her wish, but nine years after she had withdrawn from society.

Contrast this with the story Corrie ten Boom shares about her mother in The Hiding Place. Corrie tells us that her mother had spent her life serving others. In her older years, she suffered a stroke that left her unable to walk, or to speak accept to say, “yes” or “no”. To communicate with her they would ask a series of yes or no questions until they were able to ascertain her needs. Her mother loved to sit and look out the window. Sometimes she would see someone walk by and get her family’s attention. They would begin the series of questions, and often discover that she had seen someone walking by whose birthday it was. She wanted to send them a card. The family would get the card, write “thinking of you,” and she would scrawl her name at the bottom.

I first read that book years ago and that story still touches and amazes me. Mrs. ten Boom had plenty of reason to be bitter. And yet even after the stroke, she was thinking of others and trying to serve them. To me that is the definition of “noble qualities.” When I grow up I want to be just like her.

In the movies the Super Heroes, Spiderman, Superman, etc are just average people to their friends and family accomplishing great deeds then returning to anonimity. If we use the “Mrs. ten Boom” standard to describe heroes, how many Peter Parker, Clark Kent, or Mrs. ten Boom’s, might be all around us: undetected? We could also look at this another way. There are people in my life that I consider heroes and yet I never told them. If you look in the right mirror, perhaps you would find that the Hero is YOU.

What do you think?

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