I recently had reason to enter a facility that had a huge notice on the door: “Heroes work here.” This I can still understand, but when someone tells me that a certain pop musician is their hero because of their success, I want to shout: WHAAAT???
Perhaps it is an age thing, but increasingly I find myself at odds with the understanding of so many popular words, memes and fashions. Maybe it is because as a writer I really appreciate the power of a carefully chosen word? Or maybe I am just being pedantic. But I ask myself – what or who is a hero, anyway? It seems all dictionary definitions come down to these two things: heroism occurs in service to others in need and it's engaged in voluntarily, as heroism remains an act that goes beyond something required for reward (pay) or duty (obligation).
Looking down the long years of my own life, I am ashamed to say that I often missed getting to know the quiet heroes who crossed my path. Youthful ignorance can be a blinding thing but, if allowed, painful experience will bring understanding and insight. Life has taught me to see that widowed mother desperately seeking to give her children the life she never had, and I weep over the old husband who despite his own frailty, escorts his aging wife to the bathroom. The patient kindness of the family who day by day tend to the twisted body of a beloved family member who far outlived all expectations, is a miracle to me. The diligent husband who goes the extra mile every day because times are hard, the kind daughter who takes time to help an aging parent feel useful, these are my heroes. I pray for the pastors who keep prayerful watch over their flock in the war-torn parts of this old world, putting themselves at risk for the sake of others. The more I live “life”, the more I have come to recognize the quiet courage and generosity of spirit these people display, sometimes in the face of appalling circumstances.
Are these perfect people? Of course not! My grandmother never let anyone leave her home without pressing a gift of produce in their hands, but she also had a sharp tongue and a lively temper! Heroes don’t decide to ‘be’, they just ‘are.’ They recognize a need and get on with it.
Of course, our Lord Jesus told the perfect ‘hero’ story of someone who has become synonymous with doing good where others couldn’t be bothered. My brother-in-law David Khoury died 3 months ago and when we as a family got together, we celebrated him in the telling of many wonderful stories about this Good Samaritan, for that is what he truly was. In the little town where he lived, people knew where to go when they were hungry or needed prayer. His good deeds never appeared on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, but they were written down where it matters: “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew6:3,4)
May we all be unsung heroes to someone, somewhere, somehow.