Sunday, November 19, 2006

We could be heroes

Iwas lucky. I was adopted into a family of heroes. When you start out life that way, whatever comes your way is a little easier to handle. Now, I'm the admitted black sheep of my family, the relation that makes everyone scratch their heads, but they and I all know that I still carry the heroic legacy with me, despite the differences in style. When it came to parents, I got lucky. From my father, I learned strength, gentleness, compassion, generosity, passion for one's work and for God and discipline. From my mother, I learned charm, humor, social graces, fierceness in anger and forgiveness, the beauty of being a complicated woman, dedication and loyalty. It was and is very easy to think of my parents as heroes.

Thinking about heroes though made me search farther. Names and images from history, fiction and culture poured through me in an overwhelming deluge. Joan of Arc, Thomas Jefferson, Alice Paul, Lewis and Clark, Geronimo, Elizabeth I, Shakespeare, Mae West, Gary Cooper, Audy Murphy, John Wayne, Cornelia Fort, Pat Tillman, Superman, Batman, Wonderwoman, Katherine Hepburn, Bogie in Casablanca, Indiana Jones, Florence Nightingale... It was all too much, and I had to stop and think about what it is that truly makes a hero.

I like to go back to basics, so I looked up a definition and this is what I got:

1. In mythology and legend, a man, often of divine ancestry, who is endowed with great courage and strength, celebrated for his bold exploits, and favored by the gods.
2. A person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life: soldiers and nurses who were heroes in an unpopular war.
3. A person noted for special achievement in a particular field: the heroes of medicine.
4. The principal male character in a novel, poem, or dramatic presentation.

Courage, strength, boldness, achievement, and recognition are all good things. I won't deny that, but they still fall short of heroic to me. In my religious beliefs, we are all favored by God, the One who loves us so much. Again, according to my religion, sacrificing one's life for another is the greatest form of love, which is the greatest attribute and achievement a person can have. Still, those still aren't quite heroic to me. It was the nobility of purpose that seemed to elevate all of the other elements, separately or together, to heroism.

When one is working for a purpose that is greater than self and intended to uplift, help or improve the situation around a person, that person is a hero. If the intentions are selfish or hurtful, regardless of the results, heroism is lacking. If the means used for the most noble of purposes are base, there is no heroism. If one has the noblest ideals in the world but puts no work behind them, that person is no hero. It takes it all -- noble intent, effort and right actions.

With those criteria, my incredibly long list of potential heroes from history and culture swiftly dwindled. An honest look at my family made me acknowledge the moments when yes, they were less than heroic, but when the final tale is told, I know their heroism stands. I know that I'm not a hero yet, but the potential is there. It could happen any day, and when it does, I know that my hero's costume will include pearls.

I would like to thank Mary for introducing me to Sunday Scribblings.


Blogger Robbie said...

"I know that I'm not a hero yet, but the potential is there. It could happen any day, and when it does, I know that my hero's costume will include pearls."

Au Contrare!!

"It takes it all -- noble intent, effort and right actions."

I agree with the later but not the former. I think many times we minimize the times when we are heros because they are grand demonstrations for the world to point at but only small quiet moments that pass into our personal history. For instance the decision to upturn your life and comfort by separating from your husband after many years of marriage was an act of heroism. You are teaching your daughter to never settle and to expect the best, that change is possible at any time in life, that there is always hope, and that she can be a strong woman and unique. You are a heroine.

November 19, 2006 10:06 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

A great entry, Cynthia. I think one of the things about heroes is that they have their flaws as well. Heroes aren't perfect.

My Blog

November 20, 2006 4:11 PM  
Blogger ~Rebecca Anne~ said...

I got booted trying to leave my last comment, so if this ends up being a repeat...sorry :o)

I had wrote, although you think you aren't a hero yet, I would bet you are a hero to someone.

A lot of hero's have no idea someone would even consider them one. I don't think we can make it through life without being a hero to I guess what I'm saying, is I'm sure someone out there already thinks you are there hero...

Take care,

November 20, 2006 4:18 PM  
Blogger sundaycynce said...

Deep and lovely post, Cynthia! Thoughtful and thorough and thought-provoking. What a very nice tribute to your adoptive parents; very nice also to share with others who may not have considered it, what a plethora of excellent traits one can still inherit from one's parents regardless of blood connection. Thanks very much for sharing.

November 21, 2006 9:45 AM  

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