Wednesday, May 18, 2011

We are all a hero to someone

In real life, no one ever sets out to become a hero. Certainly, the world is filled with men and women who could be described as heroic. But, no one ever says to themselves, “that’s what I want to be!”

Comic books and movies teach us that heroism arises from great acts of gallantry, daring feats of strength that can change the world. Needless to say, real life heroism seldom resembles this mythology. The caped and masked figures that populate our fantasies are, if nothing else, merely indicative of the feelings that heroes inspire within us.

Heroes make us feel good about ourselves. They make us believe in the power of the human spirit to overcome the greatest of obstacles. We revere and admire heroes, and rightfully so: they do what takes courage. Strength, both physical and metaphysical-spiritual, becomes a sought-after trait.

Anyone can be a hero. Our communities are filled with people who are doing extraordinary things with their lives. We don’t read books about them and we don’t see them in the news. Their acts come from a place of pure selflessness. They are not doing things to become famous or to make money; they don’t seek attention.

Prior to writing this, I asked some of my friends who they consider to be their heroes. The responses I got were quite telling: mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and grandparents. Next-door neighbors, priests, military men and women, teachers, coaches, students, firefighters, and police officers. Ordinary people. These are the real life heroes we look up to.

What do we see in these people that’s worth admiring? I submit that it is altruism. It’s the willingness to do good for others and for society despite personal hardship or pain. These people make a difference in the world with their small, but powerful acts of kindness, mercy, and compassion. They make us see the good in humanity and they inspire hope for a better tomorrow.

On January 18, 2011, my friend and personal hero, Balei Chinski, passed away from a burst brain aneurysm. She was in a coma for five days. She spent 47 days in ICU and had 5 brain operations. She was only 16 years-old. But, Balei will never be forgotten. Those who knew her and who heard her story were empowered by her courage in the face of suffering and death. Her strength could move mountains.

Take the time to look around and acknowledge the heroes around you. They are out there. And they are changing your world. Take an interest in their stories. Listen to their motivations. You may just be inspired to head out and perform your own act of goodwill for the betterment of society.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Quiet Determination of True Commitment

"If there's magic in boxing, it's the magic of fighting battles beyond endurance, beyond cracked ribs, ruptured kidneys and detached retinas. It's the magic of risking everything for a dream that nobody sees but you." -Clint Eastwood as Eddie Dupris, "Million Dollar Baby" (2004)
What does it mean to be determined? When we think of a goal - whether it's running a marathon or losing a bit of weight - we tend to think of the payoff first. We visualize ourselves crossing that glorious finish line or finally slipping into that sexy two-piece bikini and heading to the beach. Our minds become set on the glory of success. And that is fine. It's good - necessary even - to envision the accomplishment. But, it takes more than wishful thinking to attain any worthwhile dream. Hard work and determination are the paths to realization.

So what does commitment look like? In movies, we see heroes fearlessly charging into war, teeth bared and muscles bulging, the volume of the soundtrack cranked up to a frenzied intensity. Or we see the captain of the high school football team valiantly taking his team to the championship game, crowds cheering on the final dramatic clash of competitors. By Hollywood standards, commitment is a dramatic grit-your-teeth-and-bear-it kind of showdown where true endurance is forged in fires of battle.

But, real commitment is not nearly as loud as all that. Real commitment is silent. It is not attention-seeking nor is it boastful. It does not put on a show for the world to see. That's why I love the movie "Million Dollar Baby." The main character, a female fighter named Maggie, is an underdog in many ways. She comes from a poor background. Her mother a selfish and ignorant woman. Maggie dreams of becoming a professional boxer. She is willing to work hard to make this happen.

There is a wonderful montage in the movie where Maggie shows up to a run down little gym and practices her moves on a punching bag late into the night. It is a quiet scene. It gives you a sense of the depth of the commitment of this athlete. Here is a woman who is determined to make something of herself. There is nothing showy or ostentatious about her.

Ever notice how, in a gym weight room, the lifters who grunt and snarl loudest through a workout tend to have the worst form? The dramatics they put on are all show. The quiet determination that characterizes the truly committed rarely goes noticed in our society. That level of diligence is to be commended because it takes courage and a certain depth of the soul. The people who have it are the true heroes. They are the ones who get the biggest payoffs.