A recent writing challenge on the subject of heroes gave me pause for thought. In scripting this topic, a virtual parade of heroes crossed my mind. It occurred to me often we think of heroes as those who make headlines for great acts of courage, for making outstanding contributions to country, for leading exemplary public lives, or on a personal level those whose words or actions have had great impact on the lives of others. Beyond that, though, I like to think there are nondescript heroes among us every day, leading quiet lives, yet touching others such that the results of their actions are wide-ranging and long lasting, just as the ripples in a stream move ever outward when a pebble is dropped into the water. Sometimes called the “butterfly effect”, simply put the concept is that small causes can have large effect. Mother Teresa cautions us to do small things with great love.
So, when I was shopping last week I began to look, really look, at the people about me and wondered who among them was someone’s hero. What small kindness had they extended that unknowingly influenced the life of another, who then paid it forward to others who in turn had done the same. A quote by Shirley Abbott says “our ancestors dwell in the attic of our brains as they do in the spiraling chain of knowledge hidden in every cell of our bodies”. I am molded, I thought, by all those heroes who came before. Who was that long ago hero ancestor who imparted the knowledge I might have passed on that had positive impact on those I met? Perhaps he was a barefoot Samaritan on the dusty road to Damascus who stopped to help a fellow traveler. Perhaps she was an Aztec queen who changed lives with a flick of her finger. Perhaps a peasant girl sold into slavery who became the favorite wife of an Arabian chieftain, and spent the rest of her life in silken saris surrounded by the scent of mysterious spices. Perhaps a warrior who charged into battle to defend that which he held most dear.
It seems perhaps we all have an opportunity to be a hero every day in some small way.
In retrospect, approaching this writing challenge has made me mindful to give more thought to my own words and actions, to be more aware of their possible effect on the lives I touch on my own life journey, and to be more aware of the heroes among us.