Heroes...Where Do Today's Youth Find Them?
Just what is a “hero?” Have you ever had a hero or do you have one now? Consider the fact you may have adopted a hero and not really been conscious of the decision. Heroes don’t have to come with tights, capes, x-ray vision or super-powers. They don’t have to be a giant (in stature) or look like Mr. Universe. Some heroes may not even know they’re fulfilling the role.
Before we go any further, let’s define what we’re talking about. Wikipedia offers the following definition: A Hero (Greek), in Greek mythology and folklore, was originally a demi-god, the offspring of a mortal and a deity. Later, hero (male) and heroine (female) came to refer to characters that, in the face of danger and adversity or from a position of weakness, display courage and the will for self-sacrifice, that is, heroism, for some greater good, originally of martial courage or excellence, but extended to more general moral excellence.
For obvious reasons, I’m going to focus on the second (more realistic) portion. For the purpose of this discussion, let’s consider a “hero” (or heroine) as someone who contributes to the greater social and moral good. An individual who, considering the “whole person,” is judged by his/her peers to be an “all-around good guy (or gal).” Someone worthy of being looked up to by those around them.
Kids today need heroes. Why? You name it…lack of structure and discipline in many homes, an over-abundance of negative influence in society and in many cases just plain apathy. The combination of these things often leads kids to adopt a hero who sets the wrong example and/or leads them down the wrong path. One of the “iconic” characteristics of a hero is someone who is larger than life. To a kid from a family who struggles financially (for example), seeing someone making big money on the street (even though it may be illegal) is a powerful influence.
So how does a young person today find the right hero? Consider this – it may actually be a process of the hero finding the kid! And in some cases, the hero may not necessarily be an adult, but another kid…a peer. Too often, a young person looks hard to find that “larger than life” example of who they want to become…when who they are is just fine. It may only take the right person to help them realize it. By assisting someone to be a better person, you may actually become a hero without knowing it.
It’s not something you have to work hard on or go out of your way to do. You generally don’t have to spend enormous amounts of time training for it. Best of all, you don’t need a degree or any special qualifications to be good at it. You just have to care about people! Folks in many lines of work and/or vocations do it all the time: teachers, coaches, ministers, firemen, police and businessmen to name a few. Everyone is capable of being a hero to someone, if they just stop and care.
Many years ago, I read a quote in Dear Abby that she volunteered as a definition. Abby was asked by a reader how she defined “success?” The answer was actually a quote she had seen many years prior (by an anonymous author no less), that said “If by doing my job to the best of my ability, I have made but one person’s life better – then I am a success.” I’ve offered that definition many times in a variety of settings over the years. Not because it is unequivocal, but because it is so profoundly simple!
You don’t have to be “remarkable” to be a hero. You just have to care! Take time to help solve a problem with a friend studying for a big test. Do a favor for someone without being asked. Show respect to your parents and other elders. Do the “right thing” when no one is looking. The funny thing is how much this type of simple heroism can grow so rapidly. Even more important is how many people receiving the benefit will be prompted to become heroes in their own right. In a word…it’s contagious!
Back to where we started…where do young people today find heroes? If you do your part, they may not have to look far and wide. Some may be lucky enough to have a parent as their hero. Some may turn to a teacher or coach. Still others may look to their clergyman. Someone might be (very) lucky to find you…looking for them! It’s easy and it doesn’t cost anything…except maybe a little time. Take time to be a hero!