They're everywhere around us...and most of them never get the recognition they deserve.
More often than not their deeds and actions are overlooked altogether. In other instances, their fates remain unknown due to the risks they take...such as Tank Man (left) from the 1989 protests in Tienanmen Square...and don't forget the tank driver who refused to run him over. He's a hero too.
For a very long time ~ for decades, essentially, in the latter 20th Century ~ society put heroes on pedestals that were attached to their feats on the playing field or in the movies.
In nearly every instance, the measure of heroes involved physical feats in the spotlight and statistical benchmarks rather than the feats of everyday bravery, smaller acts of humanity, and accounts of kindness that would go virtually unnoticed.
Then, on 9/11, everything changed and we were humbled.
We took a second look at the definition of a hero. Sadly, it involved the deaths of hundreds of brave and courageous NYC firefighters and police officers, in addition to innocent civilians, to reshape that focus.
I believe the message was delivered and taken seriously.
I think there's real signs that refocusing has held steady since September 2001...at least in my mind.
We celebrated Sully Sullenberger, the pilot who successfully and gracefully landed a crippled airplane into the Hudson River right before Obama's Inauguration Day.
Refusing to take the spotlight in the weeks following the crash, Sullenberger would ricochet all the attention and adulation directed at him into his copilots and crew, giving them all the credit. He praised the passengers for remeining calm and following protocol. He recognized the ferry boats that arrived as first responders. He expressed regret over injuries one of his crew members suffered and was quick in his effort to take responsibility...but WE weren't going to let him get away with that.
Through all of Sullenberger's humility, however, he was willing to cough up a small furball...recognizing what the actions of he and his crew, and the events surrounding the successful crash landing, meant to the rest of the country.
Sully is as wise as he is humble. He understands that the world is hungry ~ even desparate ~ for heroes. REAL heroes. People who face adversity and take action, no matter what the foreseeable cost...or it can take the form of simple acts of kindness.
In this last week, I've recognized and continue celebrating one of my personal heroes; Marvin Webster, a man whose professional basketball career shot like a star across the sky and whose life was sadly beset by unfair tragedy and ended way too early.
His acts of kindness, attention, and inspiration to me as a 9-year-old kid are what help to define him ~ not what he accomplished on the basketball court ~ although there was much to be said for his accomplishments in Seattle between 1977-78.
I realize I've been gushing about this fella all week, and I will continue to do so...so here it is again.
Thank you Marvin...again.
Then, just today, our beloved Navy Seals rescued Captain Phillips, who was the head of a cargo ship crew on its way to Kenya when Somali pirates took him hostage and held him for the better part of a week.
The only reason we were dealing with one captive was due to his selfless acts that allowed his sailors to go free and continue onward to Kenya while he stayed behind to try to negotiate his release.
These are some of the heroes we hear about, and they're the sorts that we need out there.
We need these individuals of great character and their stories to be known to us to inspire the hero in the rest of us.