Paris is like one giant monument. You can barely turn a corner without seeing France's heroes immortalized on every building, statue, bridge, and cathedral. France is a country that has such a long and rich history, and plenty of dead heroes to remember. The famous Père Lachaise cemetery is full of them, and the local international airport is named after the guy pictured here.
But finding real live heroes and heroines these days is a bit harder to come by. We used to be able to look up to our heads of state as our heroes, but more and more, we distrust them so much there's no reason to look up to them. And we also used to find heroes in the sports and entertainment worlds (and many still do), although our culture is now so obsessed with celebrity that it's gone far beyond a bit of harmless hero worship.
So when I was presented with this weeks Sunday Scribblings topic of "Hero", I had to stop and think for a bit: who ARE my heroes? Do I even have anyone I admire to the degree I would classify them as a hero? What does that word even MEAN to me?
Here's what I came up with:
For me, a hero is someone who rises above his or her personal challenges in life, and is able to follow a path toward something meaningful to themselves. Whatever that path may be, the person is committed to fulfilling it, and does so with honor and integrity.
A hero is not perfect, and a hero is not fear-less. But a hero is someone who succeeds despite his or her flaws and fears, or perhaps succeeds because of them.
The reason we look up to someone we consider a hero is that they make us want to stretch ourselves, to do better, to be all that we can possibly be. When we think: "I want to be like THAT person", we don't necessarily want to be exactly like them but we want some of whatever they've got, that "magic" (as we perceive it) that has allowed that person to accomplish something we admire.
Heroes aren't just found in "first class"; they aren't just the rich and famous, but can be found in every walk of life. You just have to look around to find them. But most people that we label as our "heroes" would vehemently dispute the title. A fireman who goes into a burning building to save a child will always say, "I was just doing my job". The same with the teacher that helps a struggling student achieve something greater than the student ever though possible, or the single mother who works three jobs and goes without things for herself in order to put her kids through college.
So, given this "definition" or perspective on heroes, I'd have to say that my personal heroes and heroines are the people I consider my teachers. Whether they are my personal friends or people I've only known from afar, they are people who exhibit everyday courage or people who are using their lives and abilities to do something for someone else, no matter how grand or small the gesture might be.
My heroes make me want to be a better, bolder person. On those rare occasions where I'm feeling sorry for myself about something, or struggling with something in my life, I can think of the struggles my heroes have survived and conquered, and my own problems no longer feel so overwhelming. My heroes help to remind me that if THEY can achieve some of the wonderful things they've achieved, then why can't I do the same, or similar, or perhaps something even bigger if I so choose? In particular, all the people I've read about or heard about that had to the courage to pull up stakes and move abroad are my heroes, in terms of helping me realize that if they could do it, so could I. And here I am.
I'm really grateful to my heroes and teachers, because whether they know it or not, and whether they even know ME or not, they've had a big impact on my life and really helped me to become the person I am now.
I'm raising my virtual champagne glass to all of them!