A Couple of Heroic Moments in My Life
Indelible optimism in a world of failures...
First off, lest anyone judge me for writing about how great I am, let me prefice this essay by saying, I am not so much a hero as I am some guy who is just trying to pay the bills and abide by the shoes, shirt and pants rule laid out by society. That pants one is a tough rule to follow, but I abide.
I have met many heroes in my life, and the real heroes as I see it, are those selfless people that do good at all costs. I know of a man who has a bone marrow deficiency and he has to take steroids every day just to keep his body from falling apart, despite this, he is a professor and a husband and a hero from here to sunset. I had a relative who spent her whole life saving money, pennies and dimes, scraping by on old food and rags she found or bought on the cheap. Although she lived on the cheap (and oftentimes I wished she had lived it up maybe a little more) she still left a massive proportion of her million dollar legacy to charity for the poor.
I will tell you about a few heroic moments I've had in a bit, but first I wanted to relate an observation I heard on the radio the other day. British author Terry Eagleton recently wrote a book called Across the Pond and although I haven't read it yet (shame on me, unheroic...) I did get to hear the authors take on Americans in an interview. He has a good grasp on us to some degree, he makes some harsch observations and even some light-hearted condemnations. We are too patriotic! People in Britain would laugh if they flew as many flags as Americans. We are too optimistic. Europeans are more guarded after World War II, espeicailly regarding nationalism which also ties into the flag. But what I found most sad, was that he said Americans admire or put our hearts into heroes, which is dangerous from Eagleton's point of view. I get his point too, we are all human, heroes too. We are fallbile. He essentially goes on to say Americans need to get over it, accept failure, it's all around the world. I appreciate that, I have more trust in people who admit their failures. But we like to rise up on this side of the pond, and yes I too am plagued by indelible optimism, but I still like it.
Hero, what's a hero?
Me and one of my favorite heroes...
So there it was, that day I was a superhero
The fact is, anyone can be a hero, it just takes some goodness. That's all it is to be a hero, be good. Help out. Lend a hand. Share what you've got. Forgive as hard as you can. Lift up someone who has fallen down, and you've just become a hero.
I've experienced a lot of these little heroic moments in my life and I'm grateful for them. There have been a few specific instances though, that I would like to share.
One very rainy day in Chicago, I was down in the loop serving papers. The streets were flooded and the herds of business people moved accross the streets without relent, charging across water filled potholes and the morass of washed up spit, cigar stubs and bubble gum. I was in a hurry to my next serve and was crossing the street when I noticed a blind man in front of me with his red and white safety cane. Now there's a hero I thought, can't see a thing and still out and about on a hurricane-kind-of-day getting done whatever he had to get done. I looked ahead and saw that he was in the direct path of a wide and deep puddle that most people were stepping around or nearly swimming out of ahead. I sped up to him and queitly said to the man, "deep puddle up on your left".
He responded with a quick, "Thank you". I walked next to him and made sure he didn't fall in, and he didn't, he moved over and away from the puddle on his own. I guess a real hero would've dropped everything he was doing and walked with the man to where ever he was going, but I was working for my daughter and I, not enough time in the world for everything I guess.
Another time my car had broke down, I had to replace the engine. I should've replaced the whole damn car but that's another story. Anyway, I was on my own living in Chicago and my daughter had to get to school. Her school was about seventy blocks away and taking the bus and el train to get her to school would've taken hours each way. So instead, I placed my little third grade angel on the back of my bike, side saddle, and proceded to bike her to school through Chicago's morning rush hour traffic. So dangerous, probably less heroic and more idiotic I'm sure some would say. But she had to get to school and I had to get to work. So I would bike the seventy or so blocks to get her to school, then bike down from her school another fourty or so blocks to get to the loop to get to work. Then bike another eighty or ninety blocks during the day for work. Then bike the fifty or sixty blocks back to my daughters afterschool program, pick her up, put her on the bike side saddle again, then bike the fourty or so blocks back to our apartment. That was one long, exhausting and dangerous week! But we made it through and have quite an everlasting memory for the experience.
The last self-applied heroic moment I want to share, isn't really very heroic at all, but it was one of the few times I was literally called a hero. Again, I was in Chicago serving papers. It was summer and it was hot and sunny and I was on rollerblades. So if you can picture this, I had a black leather side bag full of summons, inline skates with socks pulled up, shorts on, sunglasses, and my earphones in, hopefully listening to David Bowie. I also had a cigar in my mouth, probably an Arturo Fuente cedar wrap. Anyway, I'm standing there next to what was probably fourty or fifty people all waiting for the light to turn green to cross the street, I believe it was the Wabash and Randolph intersection. Everyone is on the sidewalk, but I'm on the street in my skates. Rollerblading in the loop and throughout Chicago was one of the toughest phsical activites I have ever done, my muscles will probably never be as ripped again as they were then, my sinew and tissue was hardened. Anyway, I'm feeling all eyes on me, realizing I probably looked like some sort of apocolyptic road warrior. I look over to my right and sure enough I am the soup du jour for all the throngs of business people staring at me, good I thought, give them something to talk about around the watercooler or whatever.
Anyway the light still hasn't turned green. I look again to my right and there's this tiny little asian boy, maybe a kindergartner? With his dad who is in a thousand dollar suit. Just then I see him tug at his dad's vest and point at me and he says, "look dad, a superhero!".
That immediately dissolved my scowl. The dad smiled and nodded at me and I smiled back at him and his son and the little guy waved. So there it was, that day I was a superhero. The light turned green and I skated off into traffic.
Nothing will turn us away, we can be heroes just for one day...
Can anyone be a hero?
Do you think just anybody can be a hero?
She tripped and fell on the broken glass and was bleeding profusely from an open wound.
There are so many heroic moments that I have witnessed in my life, it would take a lifetime to recall them all. I remember once at a family party, there were throngs of grown-ups and children carousing and having a good time at my parents house. Then several hours into the party, my neighbor friend Shawn's dad ran up to the house with my sister in his arms. She had run down the street with a glass soda bottle in her hand. She tripped and fell on the broken glass and was bleeding profusely from an open wound. My relatives grabbed my sister and ran her to the hospital and she was patched up and better. Props to my old school buddy's dad, just a neighbor there right on time.
Heroic people everywhere
There are so many people in my life that have been heroes. Mostly just ordinary people sans cape and mask. There is my dad who would play football and basketball with me and all the neighbor kids when we were little, why didn't more dads do that? There is my daughter's grandpa Sonny who helped raise his brothers and sisters when he was orphaned when he himself was a kid. He later became a union boss and helped a lot of ordinary working people make a good living. There is my wife's dad Bill who went to Haiti to help people learn about medicinal plants and later donated his time bussing poor people to the hospital. There's my mom who did the laundry, made food and still worked a full time job raising six kids. There's my friends Jason and Amy who adopted an orphan who is turning into a friendly little angel. There's my grandpa who used to go to the Veterans hospital and try to help vets get past all their beauracracy to get the health care they deserved. There is my uncle Charlie and aunt Brenda who raised and cared for my cousin Niely who was born with severe disabilities. There's my neighbor who was raised by a mom with severe substance abuse problem but still fought for his country overseas and now raises a family of four. There's the kids I used to teach in Milwaukee, that lived in squalor, in boarded up old houses, that still found ways and reasons to smile and be optimistic despite their adversity. There's my daughter who has been through some tough experiences for a kid and who is rising above the past to be a vibrant young woman in the present. There's my wife who works tirelessly at her job and still somehow keeps our house running smoothly. There's you too of course, you did something great, you might even do some good today. I know I'll be giving it my best try.
These window washing superheroes are great, the biggest heroes there are the children, nurses, doctors and volunteers getting past the suffering,moving on to h
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