Anyone can be an everday hero.
I was just watching a movie. A movie where — as often happens — a hero emerges. A hero who does the right thing, in the face of impossible odds, despite no one believing in him/her.
Because that’s what a hero is — someone who knows they can do better, and tries to. Someone who does the right thing, even when it’s hard — because it’s the right thing to do. Even if they know they won’t get thanked or praised for it.
We live in an age where superhero stories are ubiquitous, they condition us to think that heroes are heroes all the time. Every day, every hour, every minute. They’re not allowed to be fallible, because if they are, people get hurt, people die, and evil prevails. That can’t happen.
But real life heroes I would suspect are not nearly so consistent. Especially accidental heroes. And they are the ones we tend to pin the most weight of hope onto. Stumble into heroism and guess what — now the world is watching you.
The world wants to believe in you, to believe that you didn’t just do that once, that you are that noble and upstanding a human every single day. Because we need to believe someone is out there standing up when we as individuals don’t have it in us (or weren’t physically present where the incident took place).
When we do get a fallible hero (such as in the film Hancock), we are shown what might happen when that sort of pressure is dumped upon the average person.
If someone tries to rob an old lady, and another person steps up and thwarts it — that person is a hero. They did the right thing. They could have just ignored the whole situation, and gone about their life. They took a risk, and we recognize that. But then we also expect them to become Captain Purse Saver and save all the purses across the land.
Have you ever wished to get the chance to be in such a situation to be able to be a momentary hero? I have. And in the few instances where I got that chance, it is almost always more scary and stressful than it seems as an outsider.
When I hear stories of people with weapons being taken down by average citizens, I wish I could do that —even though I know I’d actually be quite scared. But that is the definition of bravery — “to act in spite of your fear”.
I think part of it stems from feeling insignificant, which many of us probably feel at least some of the time. It’s not selfish to want to matter, but it’s selfish to want to be the only thing that matters to someone.
Maybe I feel like one big heroic action can make up for all the simpler, daily things I could be doing but often don’t. The simple things that are so simple that many of us take them for granted. We assume everyone else does them so it doesn’t hurt if we don’t. The things we don’t get rewarded for, because we should be doing them anyway. So why do so many of us not do them? Maybe it’s because most of us don’t like doing things that we don’t get credit for.
There’s no dopamine hit for properly disposing of garbage or recycling in public, unless you truly believe it’s the right thing to do and to do otherwise would actually make you feel bad.
Another thing that can be really heroic — honesty. It’s another thing that many people don’t do nearly often enough, and as a result much of our lives are caked under layers of semi-sincerity that suffocates us and makes genuine interactions and deep connections so rare, and thus why we feel so alive when they happen. Why shared experiences can forge lifetime bonds with people we would otherwise never have met or spoken to.
There was a really honest moment in that movie where the hero revealed their biggest failure as a human, and at that moment everyone finally knew the hero was really trying to help. When you reveal something that vulnerable, people know you’re being completely authentic. I’ve seen that happen before — someone you think is a jerk is actually not that bad a person, but until they rip the covers away to reveal their wounds, you don’t know it.
Like I said, i’ve had a few chances to be the small time hero over the years. Sometimes I’ve come through, other times I haven’t.
When you do step up and become a real hero, suddenly everyone is looking to you for leadership, for inspiration. You can’t just be a hero once, you have to be a hero all the time. They can’t find out that Batman doesn’t always fight injustice. But everyday people aren’t generally wired to be big time heroes.
Some people carry that burden every day, and also rarely get properly thanked — Firefighters, Paramedics, Doctors without Borders.
I cannot begin to imagine how it would harden the average person’s heart and soul to have to deal with the constant stress, pressure, expectations, and I’m sure even ingratitude of the people they are trying to help. They do it because it’s right, it’s what has to be done.
As for me, I need to start doing more of the simple things, like donating blood, being a better friend and family member, and just being honest — both with myself and with others.
We can all be heroes in different ways, the important thing is to just try in each moment, in each interaction, to do your best, to be the best example of a human that you can.
We don’t have superheroes, but we do have good people out there. Do good even though you may not get praised or rewarded. Help someone just because you can, not because you expect them to help you back. Make sure to let the little heroes in your life know you notice them. In time, that will help make the world a better place for everyone.