- A person noted for courageous acts or nobility of character
- A person who, in the opinion of others, has special achievements, abilities, or personal qualities and is regarded as a role model or ideal
- The principal male character in a story, play or film (Heroine, for female)
- See: submarine sandwich
I thought, given today’s proximity to our celebration of Independence Day, it would be nice to reflect on heroes and heroines. The people in our lives who have special achievements, abilities or seem to be our role models. Absent in these definitions (I don’t know, though, I didn’t go to the submarine sandwich link) are those who inspire us to live our lives a certain way or influence our vocations. More on them in a bit…
There have been many heroes and heroines in the news lately; those who are on the front lines of fighting this pandemic and those who provide for our everyday needs. Those who selflessly serve others are some of the most heroic of all. Jesus tells us that “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13) We are seeing much of that right now. Does that inspire us to do the same? Hopefully, it does. Instead of just admiring heroes from afar, the ripple effect of heroic action should inspire all of us to love and serve each other better.
One hero who has inspired me greatly is Pope Francis. From his example of choosing to live in a guesthouse (not the papal palace) to his plain, black shoes (and not the fancy red ones!) he’s inspired me to make simpler choices—take the bus, dress simply, live generously. Heroes inspire us to love others better by the choices they make in their lives. Some health care workers from the Treasure Valley have chosen to go work in the heavily affected pandemic areas, like New York City. They have made selfless choices to serve those who need help. That heroism should light a spark in all of us to do whatever we can do to help too. Even if it is to just to stay home or wear masks when we have to go out. Just thinking of others, and not just what we want to do, has an element of heroism to it.
Another hero I have just come to know since becoming Lutheran, is Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was a man who lived John 15:13, giving his life for others, as he fought against the injustice of Nazism. He inspires me to do whatever I can do fight injustice in our own day; standing up for those who are tossed aside to the margins of society and pointing out the errors of the system when warranted. Bonhoeffer listened to the voice of God in his life and it gave him the courage to do the right thing—the hard thing—but the right thing. Are there heroes helping us listen to God in our own lives? How are they inspiring us?
Sometimes, heroes and heroines influence the course of our lives and guide us vocationally. When I was just in middle school, I was inspired by blind Puerto Rico singer, Jose Feliciano. (I know, it was weird, but hear me out!) I was inspired by his longshot success as someone born very poor and blind and yet, here he was, a successful musician. Wanting to make the connection between other blind people having a chance at success and wrestling with my own vision issues, I was inspired to study in the field of Blind Rehabilitation. I spent nearly forty years working in the field and met many wonderful heroes and heroines! If we look behind most people, we will find a hero or heroine who inspired them to go into a field of study or work.
So, what about all the entertainment stars, politicians and sports figures who seem to be heroes for many? Are they creating positive ripples, helping others to do and be the good in the world? Maybe. I was certainly inspired by a musician! But a good question to ask is what positive, encouraging messages are they sending? Are they promoting justice and edifying change? Are they inspiring people to be their best selves? Do good things? Love each other? How does their message compare with the message of Jesus? Jesus, who commanded we love each other, feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, visit those in prison (see Matthew 25:31-46).
A new term I find mystifying is the term “influencer.” Someone is considered an “influencer” when people see what they do on social media and it influences them to buy certain products or do certain things. It’s probably less connected with altruism or loving others better, but who knows? Like I said, it’s mystifying to me. But so was my fascination with Jose Feliciano to my 8th grade classmates!
As we embark on this weekend of celebration, let’s take a minute to think about the heroes and heroines—the “influencers,” if you will, in our lives. Was there a mentor or a way-paver who encouraged or inspired us? Would it be possible for us to reach out and let that person know how grateful we are for that influence? It’s a good time to thank those we encounter who are everyday heroes and heroines right here and now. And it’s also a good time to pray for God’s guidance in how we can help others…
Gracious God, thank you for the heroes and heroines you have placed in our lives! Thank you for their inspiration and selflessness. Please guide us and help us see where and how we can help those in our circle of influence in our own day and time. For as St. Teresa of Avila said, You have no hands or feet but ours. Amen!