"Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home." - C. S. Lewis

Friday, October 18, 2013

A Hero Is...

Have you ever thought about your heroes?  Who they are, why you chose them, what it is about them that you find heroic?  There's no question that we have them.  But why do we choose them?

What makes a hero a hero?

Recently my family and I spent an afternoon with my grandmother, a couple of aunts and uncles, and several cousins.  Due to the miles between us, it is rare for so many of us to be in one place, and we all jumped at the chance to catch up on each other's lives.  At one point, my aunt shared a story from her work as a chaplain in a children's hospital.

There was a little girl in my aunt's wing of the hospital.  "A precious baby," my aunt said.  She was there because her father shook her "until her brain turned to jello."  The baby's foster parents had two adult biological children, two adopted tweens, and this little girl was their thirty-sixth foster child.  "She knew she was taking her in to die," my aunt said of the foster mom and the baby.  "She was giving her a place to die."

The week we were visiting, the little girl's health had declined, and a meeting was held with the doctors, biological mother, and foster mother.  The child's biological mother was obviously struggling with the painful situation.  As hard as it was, she made the best - and most difficult - decision for her child's care, and then broke down.  The baby's foster mother, no doubt struggling with the situation as well, went over to the baby's birthmom and hugged her.  "You will always be her mother, no matter what," she told her.

Sometimes the heroes we choose have epic stories.  Just think of Captain America, Batman, or Superman.  Even when we choose actual people as heroes, we tend to exalt those like Gabby Douglas, Amelia Earhart, or George Washington.  People we have never met (and never will).  People who have performed amazing deeds, accomplished incredible feats, changed the world.  Their unforgettable stories stick with us, lodging in our minds and coming back to us even years later.  Are these people inspiring?  Yes.  Should we know about their lives and contributions to the world?  Sure.  But does a hero always have to be larger-than-life?  Could a hero be someone...normal?

"A hero is someone who excels in what we prize," I recently heard someone explain.  Remember that, I told myself.  It sounded profound.

"A hero is someone who excels in what we prize."

We pick our heroes because of what we want our lives to look like.  Whether our hero is Captain America, George Washington, or LarryBoy, we look to these figures for inspiration or even guidance as we go about our lives.  We think that, as we look to our heroes, we will somehow become better individuals.  Who we choose as heroes says a lot about who we are - and who we are becoming.

My aunt ended her story as she told how the foster mother loved the baby and the biological mother - reaching out to both in their time of need.  "I have a new hero, I guess," she finished quietly.

It is a story my aunt will always remember.  I know I will, too.  Heroes are usually hard to forget.

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