Heroes and heroines

Courage is to feel

The daily daggers of relentless steelAnd keep on living.

Douglas Malloch

We live in a peculiar time, when popular heroes are created overnight by an anxious media, only to disappear when the next new face appears.

Judging by all popular standards, we put a big premium on being entertained and amused. For that, we are rewarded with entertainers who earn more for an evening's work than most of us can earn in a year, and with premiere athletes paid more in a year than the rest of us will garner in a lifetime.

All of which raises questions about who our heroes are. Do we have our priorities right? Apparently not, if our heroes are defined by press clippings and salaries.

In the best of worlds a teacher who turns around the life of a youngster headed for a personal disaster of drugs and illiteracy should be rewarded more than a comedian who specializes in insults and vulgar jokes. In that world we'd pay more to a policeman who risks his life to enforce our laws than we'd pay someone whose skills are measured by how well he or she hits, throws or manipulates a ball.

But we don't live in a perfect world, nor anything close to it. That doesn't mean our world is without its true heroes. We simply need to know where to look for them.

Chances are, we'll find them in unlikely places. The essence of being a hero or a heroine is to possess personal qualities of courage or to perform admirable acts that others want to follow.

With that definition, our heroes and heroines could be:

A single parent, usually a mother but not always, struggling to bring up a family in a treacherous world, often with less money and resources than others.

A social worker unafraid to help those who are most desperate and in need of assistance - and doing so with a caseload that grows heavier and heavier.

A teenager, yearning for acceptance at an age most vulnerable to the pressure of friends and peers, but determined to hold on to his or her values in the face of ridicule.

A worker, surrounded by others willing to bend the rules, but holding on to a personal code of honesty and fairness.

A student, struggling to master a difficult subject, knowing that others may learn it more quickly, but persevering until the subject is mastered.

Foster parents who take vulnerable children into their homes with love and acceptance, not knowing how long they may have them, but offering a secure harbor.

Grandparents who take their grandchildren into their home to begin anew the difficult process of raising a family. And children taking on the care of their aging and sometimes ill or disoriented parents.

And many, many more.

Heroes and heroines are all around us performing their unnoticed acts of courage. Henry David Thoreau's often-quoted line, "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation" could well be changed to ". . . lives of quiet inspiration."

We have no shortage of people to emulate, if we are not led astray by fickle media chasing the latest popular hero. In fairness, we often don't even know the real personality of those singled out by the media, but we do know that the standards of popular culture aren't necessarily the criteria.

When we think of it, the heroes of many of Christ's unforgettable parables were ordinary people: the lowly Samaritan, stopping to aid an unknown traveler; the long-suffering father of the prodigal son, waiting with faith that his son would return; the impoverished widow and her mite.

Christ set the standards for us to assess our heroes, and chief among those was the life He lived. If the definition of a hero is someone to pattern our life after, then we already have a model. Jesus Himself said, "For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you." (John 13:15.)

President Ezra Taft Benson said: "Christ, then, has set the example what we should be like and what we should do. While many men have admirable qualities, there is only one man who ever walked the earth who was without sin, whose father of His physical body was God the Father, and who had the power to resurrect His own body. This Jesus is our exemplar and has commanded us to follow in His footsteps."

His standard is the one on which we should pattern our lives.

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