Friday, November 21, 2008

Honoring Heroes '08

(News-Herald, November 20)Thanksgiving is coming up soon, and that means it’s time once again to remember our heroes.
Soon it will be too late. Thanksgiving will officially arrive, followed immediately by the Shopping Onslaught (and I expect that it will be a bigger onslaught than ever this year, as retailers battle to convince us that it’s our Patriotic Duty to get out there and spend lots of money). Then Christmas itself arrives, followed by New Years, followed by the post-holiday collapse and hibernation as we draw big blankets of snow up around us. Then our three-week-long spring turns to summer, and we’re busy with the young folks’ vacation, and on, and on.
So now is the time. Now is the time to salute someone else, someone that has been a hero to you.
I will remind you, as always, that “hero” is not synonymous with “saint.” Every hero has claybuilt feet, or hands, or elbows, or left ventricles. And really, if someone were flawless, what would be heroic about him or her? If you swat a fly or eat a piece of cake, we don’t call that heroic—we just call it easy.
We all have our obstacles, our impediments, our challenges, and on days when we aren’t very heroic, these become our excuses.
My heroes are people who get the job done and do the right thing, even if it might be hard. It’s easy to do what you feel like, without taking the time or effort to examine whether it’s a good choice or not. It’s easy to hide behind rules and policy, and not make any judgment at all. It’s easy to use your circumstances as an excuse. It’s easy to run from a fight, hide from a fight, or jump eagerly into a fight that you haven’t chosen very carefully or thoughtfully.
It’s a rare person who can exercise courage and judgment 100% of the time. If I needed heroes who met that standard, I doubt that I’d have any. Since most people are a mixture of the admirable and the less-than-perfect, we have a choice of what we can focus on. We can use the less-than-awesome portion of a person as an excuse to discredit all the rest. We can give all our attention to the bathwater and ignore the baby.
It is easy to focus on the negative, to declare our surroundings a disaster area and insist that all we can do is decide what kind of fetal position we want to assume as we wait for The End. It’s also easy to slip into the State of Ultimate Denial, pasting on a plastic smile and declaring the world a bright and shiny place by refusing to look at it. It’s harder to make a thoughtful stand for what’s good and right.
If you think the world stinks, and that people are stupid and rotten, then you are helping to make that true.
If you want to make the world a marginally better place, you have the power to do that right now. You can’t fix the economy or personally guarantee that your favorite candidates fill every political office. But if you think the world would be a better place with more courageous people, then honor the courage of your heroes. If you think the world would be a better place with more faithful people, honor the faithfulness of your heroes.
Let your heroes know that you support them, that you value them at their best. You may not be in that that particular fight yourself, but you can strengthen those who are.
I’m not proposing anything philosophical, poetic or abstract. This week, as I do every year at this time, I’m asking you to write a letter.
No phone call, no quick conversation, not even an email, but a handwritten note on paper. Something that a person could save and take out to re-examine over the years.
It doesn’t have to be long and involved. A few sentences will work. Simply start out, “You are a hero of mine because…”
Don’t hedge. No, “I admire you even though sometimes you are stupid” or “I can almost forgive the time you stole my milk money.” Positives only.
Your hero will be surprised and strengthened, that much more able to bring the qualities you admire to the world. You will never have to regret not telling them while you still had the chance.
It will only take a single stamp and a couple of minutes. Don’t wait—do your part to make the world a better place, before the onslaught begins.

1 comment:

moldyclothes said...
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