There seem to be all kinds of heroes in the world. Most of them appear to share certain qualities like; bravery, conviction, courage and determination. Others exemplify honesty, strength, moral integrity and protection of the defenseless. And then there are those who offer themselves as a sacrifice for what is often considered, the greater good. Heroes seem to possess a selflessness and inspire others to do the same through their actions.
Several dictionaries believe a hero is a person who is admired or idolized or endowed with divine or mythical characteristics. They may be a warrior or one who has achieved unusual success, far beyond normal people.
I decided to check out the internet and see who is listed as a hero. This is one list I found; Minnie Vautrin, Norman Bethune, Alan Turing, Raoul Wallenberg, Chiune Sugihara, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Oswaldo Payá, Óscar Elías Biscet, and Aung San Suu Kyi.
I was surprised to discover I only knew four of the eleven names on the list. Why was that? Am I that out of touch with the idea of a hero?
And where were Mahatma Gandhi, Jonas Salk, Winston Churchill, to say nothing of all of the divine spiritual teachers who have lived and walked the earth?
I wondered what would happen if I went to a crowded place and asked people, as they passed by, who they considered to be a hero? A famous sports figure, a nurse or doctor, a musician, a super wealthy person, perhaps especially if they donated large sums to charities?
My heroes are closer to home. They are simple people who decide that it’s important to form deep relationships with others. They understand that listening is the key. They suspend their own opinions and beliefs, in order to understand another person’s point of view.
And, after listening carefully, they ask lots of questions. Ones aimed at revealing what is important and meaningful. They express empathy, so that they feel what it must be like to live in another’s world.
They consciously choose to explore. To move outside their own world and imagine a different kind of life. And yes, they choose to ‘walk a mile in someone else’s shoes’.
To me, that’s a great image because it prompts a person to realize what it is like physically, to either squeeze into smaller shoes or slid around in larger ones, while still trying to walk. Neither is comfortable and both present their own complications.
Sometimes I can do this, but most of the time, I can only take a few steps before I fall out of the shoes or kick them off.
In my world, I see and have seen heroes, who brave others worlds. They move into and beyond the struggle of truly knowing the challenges others face and they stay with them until they understand. They stay and help figure out the best way forward.
Somehow, they make their feet fit into others shoes. They are splendid people who show a kind of daily courage I find extraordinary.
For thirteen years I worked in the field of assisting and supporting those with physical and developmental disabilities. There were incredible heroes I came into contact with every day. Those who received services and those who provided them, both walking a mile in each other’s shoes. It was truly an amazing experience and one I carry with me wherever I go. I salute them all.
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