Revisiting Heroes

A few years ago I wrote a couple of blogs about heroes and the fact that we are a bit confused in this country as to just what a hero is. At the time I was especially hard on the young people in camouflage who prance about — especially at athletic contests — and who are all referred to as “heroes” by the media. And we buy into it.

At that time I knew of a couple of young men who joined the National Guard for the bribe money the government provides in order to convince them that they can “be all they can be” only in the Army or the National Guard. I knew that one of them only wanted the up-front money to buy himself a truck and he never left the country or risked his life in any way. I tended to dwell on young people like him and to ignore the many who really do make sacrifices. I should know better than to generalize from a few samples.

So, since then I have come to realize that young men and women like him are heroic in that they are willing to do something they don’t particularly like to do for something larger than themselves. Yes, there was the truck, but after that there were days and weeks of sacrifice. I was wrong. Those who are willing to give of themselves for others are the real heroes. And this doesn’t even scratch the surface when we think of those same young men and women who serve in the Armed Forces around the world and, many of them, risk their lives for the rest of us. They are, indeed, heroes.

Why do I say this? I say this because our culture has become increasingly self-absorbed and those who commit themselves to something other than themselves are the true heroes. It takes courage, determination, and a willingness to be different — all heroic traits, I would say.

Thus, to continue, there are also the quiet ones whose lives are heroic as well. I am thinking of a former student who now teaches and who loves his job and the students he works with. Like so many others who teach he works hard for little pay in order to help others realize their true potential. These folks are legion and they, too, give of themselves so others can benefit. And let’s not forget the health-care workers who risk their own health to take care of others — and the emergency responders such as EMT teams and the fire department.

And we must not forget those folks that Jill reminds of us each week who are very special because they do extraordinary things to better their world and help other people who are in need. We are surrounded by these people who go about their quiet lives without making a stir but also making the world a much better place — at a time when there are many out in front who are calling attention to themselves and reminding us that there are also buffoons as well as remarkable people.

The media, which tend to ignore the meaning of words, have mislead us into thinking that folks like the athletes who make millions of dollars are the true heroes and the kids lap it up and want to be like them. But those who should provide the role models are ignored because they are quiet and refuse to call attention to themselves. They just go about their business helping others.


The Ridiculous and The Sublime

A brief story in Yahoo News tells of the ridiculous behavior of some people:

OSHAWA, Ont. – A southern Ontario man says he will fight the $5,400 bill he got from a fire department for rescuing him after he went through the ice while fishing.

Neil Robbescheuten, 62, was ice fishing on Lake Scugog earlier this month when a dense fog rolled in and he became disoriented trying to find his way back to the shore.

The Oshawa man says he went through the ice in a marshy area near some bulrushes so he was able to pull himself out onto a tree stump while he called 911 and three firetrucks responded to rescue him.

He later received the invoice of $5,392.78 for the rescue and says he plans to fight it because he worries it will make people think twice about calling emergency services when they’re in trouble.

Scugog Fire Chief Richard Miller says . . .  the temperature was warm and rainy that weekend and the local conservation authorities had issued warnings urging people to stay away from bodies of water.

I don’t believe for a minute Neil’s claim that his concern here is that others will not call for assistance if they fall through the ice — as though they will be thinking of Neil and his plight as they struggle to free themselves from peril. More than likely Neil is just pissed off because he got a bill for the help he received in extricating himself from the ice. Or he is just embarrassed. Let’s face it, he did a stupid thing in face of the fact that warnings had gone out to stay off the ice and he went out anyway.

We seem to have yet another example of a man who simply doesn’t want to accept responsibility for his own actions and would prefer to turn attention elsewhere — his own and that of others who hear about his experience. He chose to ignore warnings and go ice fishing when he shouldn’t have done so. He has no one to blame but himself and should shut up and pay the firemen — and be thankful they came and pulled him out of the water. Indeed if everyone were punished who took unnecessary chances that require others to risk their lives to save them there might be fewer stupid people doing risky things. I would suggest that Neil might be a good candidate for this year’s Darwin Award for stupidity. If they gave awards for ingratitude, I would certainly nominate him for that as well. No wonder he wants to direct attention elsewhere.

While mulling over Neil’s behavior, however, I came across the following story that restores my faith in human nature. It centers around  a group of 13 members of the University of Iowa’s AirCare unit who were returning from a memorial service in honor of three of their members who were killed in a helicopter crash. After their meal, as they waited for the check at Applebees, the waitress told them the bill had been taken care of. She showed them a note written on a napkin by an anonymous patron:

“For all you do and in memory of your team mates … This meal is on us.”

From the ridiculous to the sublime! We need to read more stories about the good that people do and fewer stories about stupid and ungrateful people like Neil.