Someone recently asked me if I had a hero. Do we need to have heroes? The question made me wonder about what makes someone a hero...before deciding whether I have or need one.
If I were a movie buff, the word 'hero' would make me think of celebrities like Tom Cruise or Angelina Jolie. Some of their 'heroic' deeds are, however, just special effects or performed by body-doubles. Yet they have millions of fans and they are paid huge sums of money. Why? Because they know how to entertain people.
Are heroes simply highly paid entertainers then?
Not necessarily. A hero could also be someone who is admired for doing something brave or good. Most 'movie stars' would probably not meet this condition. Yes, we all do good things once in a while but that does not make us heroes. There is an implied condition attached – our intention should be to genuinely help others and not just to build social capital. Real heroes do not hesitate to sacrifice their comfort or interest to help others in need. Heroes have a sense of 'greater good' that transcends personal self-serving instincts.
This brings me to another confusing term, 'ordinary heroes.' If someone was indeed a hero who had done brave and good things, that person couldn't be ordinary! Yes, he or she could be 'unknown' or 'unsung' but a hero nonetheless.
Coming back to the question: Do we need heroes? And if so, how do we recognize them?
To cut a potentially long and unwieldy discussion short, I would like to quote Adgar Watson Howe who once said, “A boy doesn't have to go to war to be a hero; he can say he doesn't like pie when he sees there isn't enough to go around.” This sums it up neatly for me.
Unlike many of us who are driven by an under-current of self-centered materialism, real heroes care about others, understand what needs to be done, and don't hesitate to lead the way.