Who do you most admire?
Admiration is a subjective thing, of course. Rooted in the emotional side of our brain, one person’s pain can be another person’s pleasure. You might consider the qualities that I deem admirable to be inconsequential or even counterproductive and vice versa.
Etymologically speaking, the word “hero” means “protector” or “defender,” and so “heroes” are traditionally considered to hail from positions of strength — presidents, soldiers and in everyday life, first-responders — those who risk their lives to protect ours.
In more recent times, sports figures, entertainers, and celebrities of various stripes are often assigned heroic status. In fact, whenever they “fall” from their pedestals for any number of reasons, we often lament their dwindling numbers. What we’re mostly mourning, I think, are people our children can look up to — as well as figures we can aspire to emulate ourselves.
The truth of the matter, though, is that I think there are probably almost as many heroes out there as ever before — it’s just that we’re either valuing the wrong attributes in a person or we’re looking for them in all the wrong places.
These days, good mothers and fathers represent my idea of modern-day heroes.
Many of these individuals will never write a book or become a household name. They won’t own mansions or drive luxury cars. Instead, they’re more likely working hard to squeeze another few years out of the family minivan and maybe use a bonus to pay down the mortgage – or cover the cost of their child’s braces or glasses.
Heroes come in all shapes and sizes, and in a world that often ascribes status to the rich and the powerful, true greatness is often quiet and even unassuming.
Heroism is standing up and speaking out when the cultural elites try to bully you into sitting down and staying silent.
It’s a husband and wife remaining faithful to one another for a lifetime. It’s caring for a spouse with Alzheimer’s, a child with Down syndrome or a parent in the sunset of their life.
It’s a mother and father sacrificing for their children, forsaking personal luxuries in lieu of small shoes and expensive school supplies.
It’s a father who lets dust gather on his golf clubs and instead gathers the kids for a camping trip or outing that feeds his sons and daughters interests – not his.
It’s the single mom working multiple jobs or the woman, unable to parent, making an adoption plan for her child.
Heroes are pastors in the pulpits on Sunday mornings, proclaiming increasingly unpopular truths — and hours later sitting with a grieving family whose whole lives have been shattered by an incalculable loss.
They’re nurses and medical personnel patiently treating the sick, teachers helping a dyslexic child to read and volunteers at the soup kitchen or parents serving on the local PTA board.
I know women who knit blankets for babies they’ll never know and who bake cookies and bread for families they’ll never meet.
Heroes don’t always make a million dollars — but they always make a difference in the life of somebody else.
Earlier this year after a family dinner, my wife and I were chatting. The kids were out of earshot. I asked Julie what her big dream was for 2024. She’s been homeschooling our children for nearly fifteen years. Our two youngest boys are dyslexic, and it’s been a heavy lift. But when I asked about her dream, I thought she might talk about a hobby or trip or maybe an entrepreneurial pursuit. Instead, she said – with tears in her eyes: “My dream for 2024? I would like to see our boys know how to read and write more comfortably.”
That’s the dream and prayers of a hero.
Look for the heroes, many of whom won’t be in the headlines but instead in your own homes and neighborhoods.
Image from Shutterstock.