hero1

Recently a young woman, Brittany "Bree" Newsome, climbed a flag pole. She felt inspired to do so because of a series of events that gave her the confidence and the sense of 'the time is right'. Quite an heroic act especially since she was arrested, which is intimidating for most of us. What is it that makes us come out of our shell to do inspirational things? Pitching a baseball for a few million doesn't require the same kind of motivation. It's much easier to practice a profession when one is highly rewarded such as politicians, celebrities and executives are. It is when we act without reward, when we do something for the betterment of another human without the promise of reward that we become heroic. Our local news often high lights a story about just such people and it is my favorite part of the news. It reminds me that the world is still full of exceptional people, many that we will never know or read their biography. It is important to learn of these people and share their stories because it helps inspire us so that when we are tested we may find the courage to act heroically.

For a long time I have collected stories from people I know about their life experiences, in particular, heroic experiences, often they had no idea they were being heroic. They were just doing what they thought was right at the time. I call them Little Heroes. It has nothing to do with home runs, profits made or structures built. These are people no one hears about they just go about the business of life, quietly and unobtrusively.

My great grandmother was one of these people. She was the post mistress of her little town, not because she was trying to make a statement about equal rights for women in a small rural town in 1930's Manitoba, but because she saw a need and filled it. One of her daughters operated the town's credit union. She saw what her mother had done and just assumed she could do the job and did it. People like this are heroes because they don't do something for the glory or the adoration of the public but because they step in when they see a need and fill it. Sometimes a hero is someone who enters a burning building to rescue someone but sometimes a hero is someone who steps up and does a job without worrying about if they should or if it's politically correct- they simply step in and quietly get a job done without fanfare. Often the job isn't glamorous or lucrative.

Another woman I know was a young mother in Latvia as the country was being invaded during WWII. Her story stays with me and when I tell it I get choked up and tears come to my eyes. I ask myself, "What would I have done? Would I have made the same sacrifice?" I am not sure we can answer until we are faced with such a serious threat. er story stays with me even though she has passed.Her husband had already been dragged away from their home and imprisoned because he was educated and knew two languages so it was assumed he was a spy and was sent to a POW camp. She did not hear about him until the 1990's when the Russian government released old documents. He had died in a concentration camp. As the Russian invasion was imminent the people of Riga packed a bag. Yes, a single bag because they didn't have time for anything else. The train station was about to be invaded and trains were leaving, people were scrambling to get on the train and out of harm's way. She had an 8 year old boy and a 10 year old daughter. The trains were so packed with people it was hard to find even standing room or get on board. People were crammed into the cars, standing room only was an exaggeration. After a brief moment of thought she literally threw her children up on to some people on the train and into the arms of strangers. The train started moving before she could climb aboard. Her children thought it was going to be the last time they saw their mother. They were alone in a packed train heading to places unknown. Alone. Meanwhile she had run to the back of the train and jumped onto the last car. She scraped and shoved and scrambled until hours later she was able to reconnect with her children. What went through her mind at that time? What were those frightened children thinking? They had already lost their father and home. People can pull from a reserve of strength that we don't even know we have until we are tested, that is where heroism is born. We see something bigger and more important than ourselves. The only reward she had was- life. The life of her children and herself.

Years ago I worked with a lovely young Vietnamese woman. I had heard about 'the boat people of Viet Nam' but had never met anyone who had come to America that way. As we became friends I asked her how she came to be living in the US. She told me that when she was 14 and her sister was 13 her parents scraped together their savings and paid a man who put them on a boat to the United States. She was a 'boat person'! I was curious and asked her more about her experience. Here was a successful, happily married young woman with a nice husband and children. I wanted to know more about her. How had she managed? I was amazed at the living conditions that would induce a woman to place her children on a boat and ship them to another country. Alone. As the mother of 3 young children at the time I thought things would have to be really horrible for me to ship my children off like that. She didn't see her parents again for 30 years after she left Viet Nam. She said that as the end of the war became apparent her parents worried about what would become of them and had heard about some who were leaving the country on boats to Australia and the US. It cost a lot of money. Similar to the Syrian refugees arriving on Greek shores. How deep does one's despair have to be that one would willingly place their children in a dangerous situation because the situation they are in is even more dangerous? Such a brave sacrifice and what faith they are placing in humanity to take care of their children. Hard to compare to the image of a man paid a lot of money to throw a football.

When my father was 5, his father died, leaving his mother alone with 5 children and a farm. Unfortunately, the farm was going to be taken away from her because she a woman and not allowed to own property in her own name. She asked questions and studied alternatives and decided that she would speak to her elected official 1500 miles away. Leaving her children alone with relatives she boarded a train to Ottawa to meet with the political leader of her town. At first he would not see her but she persisted. Grudgingly, he met her and was so impressed with her tenacity that she was able to convince him keeping the farm would enable her to raise her children and not force them to become dependent on the government. All of her children grew into fully independent, self-supporting adults. Perhaps because of the role model of a woman who did not take no for an answer.

That is what heroes do for us. They show us that we can overcome obstacles, achieve goals. They prove to us that we can dream and hope. Heroes are in our everyday lives, working next to us. They are our neighbors. They are our family and friends. When we think situations are too difficult we can remember the person we knew that did something special even when others told them no. Right now the voice of NO is very loud. NO is on TV, social media, in the work place, on the streets, even within our own families. The world seems like it is slipping back and the majority of people have to work for nothing. It hasn't always been this way. It won't always be this way. Because there are always those who don't stop. Those who plod on despite setbacks. An accumulation of everyday heroes can inspire us to try harder. Look for them, they are probably right next to you.

"Never believe that a few caring people can't change the world. For, indeed, that's all who ever have." Margaret Mead

 

Deborah Baron

Deborah Baron

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