Sunday, August 31, 2014

Redefining heroism

From my Dad's medal citation
I have an embarrassing confession:  Since I was a small girl I've wanted to do something "heroic."

Save the world from destruction. Invent something to make people's lives better. Make a discovery (historical, archeological, scientific) that would enlighten the knowledge of the ages. There was even a time when I very much wanted to go to Africa as a doctor or at least a nurse and help the suffering children.

Pretty grandiose ideas.  No one could ever accuse me of dreaming too small.  (In fact, my husband used to tease me about all the "hero" dreams I used to have.  He would ask in the mornings, "So, who did you save last night?")

Even into adulthood I had some not-quite-as-grand aspirations of saving this, or fixing that, trying to make things better but always on a scale much larger than my immediate sphere of influence.

Is it because the world only attributes "heroism" to those who perform some mighty deed, such as staying cool under fire and saving lives in a battle or a natural disaster?  Isn't it even more important for each of us to do our best to influence those around us for good?  Smiling at an elderly lady in the grocery store may not seem like much, but what if she'd had a really bad day and felt like no one in the whole world cared?

I never will have the opportunity to become another Mother Teresa or Albert Schweitzer.  But that's okay.  There's been other work for me to do that will never be "recognized" but is just as important.  I now believe that heroism is, at least in part, how we treat the most helpless among us.

To paraphrase Jesus when He commended an otherwise unremarkable woman, "She has done what she could." (Mark 14:8)