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When asked to conjure up descriptions of a hero or heroism, many people would
imagine similar scenes. The firefighters pulling a family from a burning
building, a soldier saving his platoon from certain death, rescue workers
pulling a stranded mountain climber from a precarious ledge, and the Knights of
the Round Table saving a damsel in distress, are all examples of the
"common" hero. Many people display heroism in everyday life but are
rarely recognized either by their peers or by the media. Heroism can be traced
back in time as early as mythology has been present. People of that era felt a
need to worship super-beings who could solve their problems. Current examples
reflecting that age are evident on television today. Both "Hercules"
and "Xena: The Warrior Princess" are ever present to save the peasants
from the evil and cunning warlords. Mythological heroes had their deeds
exaggerated as the stories were passed by word of mouth from person to person.
Storytellers have always felt a need to liven up their stories and as they
passed them from generation to generation, the stories continued to grow.
Everyone knows what heroism is, but describing it can be difficult. Gallantry,
valor, bravery, and courage are all traits normally associated with heroism. For
the people who risk or sacrifice their own lives in an acts of selflessness,
these words are accurate in describing heroism. Few would dispute that a person
who pulls another from a burning flipped-over car ready to explode does show
heroism. The news media is always looking for acts of heroism as they make for
captivating news. Just recently, a fourth grade boy grabbed the wheel of a
school bus after it was involved in an accident. This boy may have saved the
lives of the children loaded on the school bus by preventing the bus from
careening out of control. Because of the unusual circumstances of this incident,
the media rightly focused on this child as a hero. Many other forms of heroism
do not fit this very succinct definition. The school teacher who has the rare
ability to turn students around and prevent them from throwing their lives away
is one example. Another example is the counselor who spends extra time and
transforms a drug addict into a useful person in society. The doctor, who has
the courage to stand up and yell child abuse when others are silent, is another
case. The people in these three examples all have one thing in common; they may
have saved a person’s life. The student who does not study and turns to crime,
the drug addict who overdoses on drugs, the child that is delivered to a new
caring home, all had their lives saved by one of these unsung heroes. Many would
argue that these heroes do this as part of their job and this is what they are
supposed to do. None of these saved lives would have happened without these
professionals showing heroism every day. It takes commitment, gallantry, courage
and sometimes bravery to step up and go a little further than normal. When
someone pulls a child from a burning house that person is called a hero. What
about the person who, rather than running into the house, runs to a telephone
and calls the fire department who, in turn, rescues everybody? Is this person
not a hero? If this person had not had the common sense to call the fire
department and rushed in instead, the results might have been different and
lives may have been lost. Sometimes being a hero does not involve risking one’s
own life, but not risking the lives of others. Many consider and call sport
superstars heroes. Does passing for a touchdown in the Super Bowl, hitting a
game winning home run, or making the winning shot in the NCAA tournament, make
someone a hero? Did they risk their own lives in helping others? Did they save
someone’s life from ruin? There may be several other terms to call these
superstars, but to call them heroes or to describe their actions as showing
heroism is ridiculous. They may do other deeds away from the sport that could
earn them this distinction, but on the playing field it is hard to imagine them
rising to the level of a hero. Heroism is shown in many varied situations. The
person who can make a split second decision to save someone is no doubt heroic.
What does this say about the person who has time to decide a course of action
and willingly helps someone? These types of heroes, the dedicated teacher,
foster parents, counselors and a myriad of other examples, may show the most
heroism of all by choosing to save a life. It is shameful that we do not
recognize these people more often and have these stories told by the media and
peers. They may be the greatest heroes of all.
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