Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Have You Thought About Everyday Heroes?

When we think about heroism, we almost always think of some courageous person saving others through dramatic, physically dangerous acts. Heroes are celebrated with parades and medals, speeches and awards. They are someone other than us.
It is very true that these celebrated individuals are heroes and deserving of our recognition, admiration, and respect. It is also true that limiting our definition in this way narrows our ability to see and appreciate other heroic people. Worse yet it can cloud our vision for the fact that heroism can be a part of everyone’s life and that it is our option, even our responsibility to become “hero ready.” By that I mean ready to take a stand, to affirm another person’s value and dignity, or to uphold a value even if it means paying a cost. The world needs everyday heroes to stand in opposition to cruelty and dehumanization, to question the legitimacy of and sometimes to defy mistaken or wrong thinking authority, to work toward life affirming goals, and to think about and take responsibility for the outcome of their actions.
Charles A. Smith, Ph.D. from Kansas State University developed a program designed to celebrate everyday heroes. The program teaches children the characteristics of heroism and helps them recognize the potential for heroism within themselves.
Smith lists five conditions for heroism. They are:
Real heroes realize the risk or sacrifice they are taking.
They value all life without reservation
They manage fear
They make smart decisions
They commit themselves fully to a noble goal.
The program encourages participants to look around, identify, label, and celebrate the everyday heroes in their lives. They are then asked to apply the same standards to themselves identifying their own heroic behavior. What they find out is that heroic behavior often begins by just not running away in fear or pain.
Most people do not intentionally put themselves in situations where they are called upon to be heroic. Nevertheless, it is not uncommon in the course of a lifetime for a person to be faced with a situation that calls for heroism. These opportunities come and go without fanfare or warning and the choices made are both powerful and irrevocable.