Heroes don’t have to wear capes or possess super powers
By Timothy King
“What is a hero without love for mankind?” Doris Lessing
The Grand Junction Lions Club honored Carma Brown recently as this year’s Hometown Hero. Mrs. Brown started Grand Junction’s Challenger Baseball program a decade ago, dedicated to bringing the game into the lives of children with mental or physical disabilities.
Well done, Carma!
Are there any other heroes out there? How about Melanie Kline, founder of Welcome Home Montrose, a program designed to create a place of warmth and welcome for wounded veterans? Out of that sprang the Dream Jobs Program, run by wounded veteran Jared Bolhuis, bringing in wounded veterans and pairing them with someone who would mentor them in their, well, dream job.
Again, well done, Melanie and Jared!
But do these kinds of achievements really warrant bestowal of the title of “hero?”
Heroes are generally characterized as having a degree of superhuman qualities or performing extraordinary feats. In the pop culture realm, they occupy the pages of comic books and graphic novels. They’re hunks and hotties with impossibly buff bodies squeezed into a couple-of-sizes-too-small spandex outfits. They possess super powers that, let’s face it, we wouldn’t mind having.
They possess super strength, super vision, telepathic powers and, everyone’s favorite, the ability to fly. Guys, raise your hand if, in your youth, you donned a cape (one of your mother’s good towels) and jumped off your roof. Yeah, you know who you are. Of course, we were always thwarted by our arch-nemesis, Dr. Gravity, weren’t we? But that was a pretty exhilarating half-second.
Closer to home, we think of heroes with special and exceptional training who risk their lives to protect others. Think law enforcement. Think first responders. Think the military. These are the folks who go face to face with crime and hazard, risking life and limb for the sake of others. To these men and women, we certainly owe a debt of thanks
I want to dig a bit deeper, pondering another class of heroes that is often overlooked. It’s thought that the time for heroes is when we face a grave danger, when our very existence and welfare is in danger. It is then that the hero emerges to face the menace.
It could be argued that life is not defined as living from crisis to crisis. Life is not a series of “MacGyver” television episodes where tension builds and resolve comes in the last five minutes. We are not beset daily by alien invasions or zombie outbreaks (at least not yet).
Life is more realistically characterized as a moment-by-moment, day-by-day adventure where some fall victim to more mundane trials such as sickness, accident, financial hardship, broken relationships and the like. Who steps out of the phone booth when these trials strike?
I think there is a class of people who rise up for these occasions. Unlike comic book heroes, their bodies aren’t always muscle-bound and their costumes are off-the-rack and unassuming. Unlike sports heroes, their incomes are modest, maybe even minimal. Unlike soldiers, firemen or law enforcement, they are not highly trained in combat or disaster control.
The enemies these heroes face do not wield guns or knives. Their foes are sadness, apathy and indifference. Their super powers are not shown in strength of body, but in strength of character. They do not swoop in to save the moment; they just persevere for a lifetime.
Their powers are not super-human abilities like invisibility or being impervious to bullets. They’re more powers of the soul: compassion, love, mercy, empathy, patience, grace and kindness. These qualities cannot stop meteors from falling to Earth, but they can sooth the suffering of those afflicted by tragedy or hardship. They can give the suffering hope where there once was none.
These people can be nothing more than parents who take the time to love their children and get involved with their lives. It can be a child who looks after an aging parent. It can be a neighbor who takes a meal to someone who’s lost a loved one. It can be an injured party offering forgiveness to a contrite soul. These heroics pretty much go unnoticed by all except the recipients of these mercies.
It is my opinion that the term “hero” is well deserved for people like Carma, Melanie and Jared for what they’re doing on the Western Slope. While their efforts are not considered as an act of heroism that will “save the planet,” they certainly brought joy and purpose into someone’s small world.
As I said, thank you to those who serve in times of crisis. But thank you, too, to those who sustain the joy in life by daily, simple demonstrations of love and compassion. May these heroes multiply a thousand-fold!