I am grateful for heroes.
I was thinking of heroes the other day, heroes whom I admired while I was in my “impressionable years”. I am still impressionable, so while I was watching the eulogies for the passing of Muhammad Ali and felt the ache at the loss of Gordie Howe, and the reminder that time marches on, I considered again those who fell under the descriptive heading of hero.
My father was my hero and continues to be so and I am well aware of the great fortune of growing up under my father’s watchful eye, surrounded by his unconditional love, a love I never had to wonder about or fear the loss of. He was every inch of him a hero. And as the years lengthen between us there is never a lessening of the longing for him, but rather an increase.
A certain veterinarian saved my horse from the perils of tetanus when I was eighteen despite the odds, despite the challenge of bringing her back from the edge. He looked me right in the face and said, “I’ll do my best.” That made him hero worthy. Teachers who looked through the veil of youth and saw the shyness and hesitation and created safety for me certainly became heroes. Friends who have held me up when life weighed me down and let me do the same for them are heroes of the lovely kind, restorative heroes. Heroes like my cousin Ken who instinctively knows there are some days we need to be reminded we are precious, that our well-being sometimes depends on it and so Ken texts a simple message and his love buoys me up, gives me strength to be a hero in my own right.
I’ve tucked these hero images away where I can call on them on any given day, when the world seems anything but safe, when society feels anything but humane, and I hold these heroes up so they can shine a light on my path.
I’ve penned in my columns on several occasions my inclination to admire those who do ordinary things that seem extraordinary in a world that is more driven by greed than sharing, more driven by judgment than acceptance, by criticism than assistance. Yet still I am witness to heroes who stop their cars to let a pedestrian cross or a fellow driver in to the flow of traffic, heroes who cut a neighbour’s lawn when she is down with the flu, people who are far more concerned about children who go hungry and live without opportunity than the inventory of things they own.
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton was the last to eulogize Muhammad Ali at Ali’s funeral, Ali a man who lived in a time when the violence of racism seemed acceptable to those wielding their hatred and all manner of the horrors of segregation, but still Ali “decided very young, to write his own life story”, said Clinton. That is what heroes do. They see a wrong and don’t shrink from it, don’t cry about it, but rather move forward to affect change, no matter how small the change may seem to others. That was the beauty of Muhammad Ali, a beauty far greater than his athletic magnificence. And that beauty lives in each of us.