I find heros fit into two categories: rescuers and inspirational. If I look into classic heroic figures they tend to have those characteristics as well. It’s sort of the Superman vs Spiderman conundrum.
Following the 9/11 memorial presentations I am struck by how well we, as a culture, treat our inspirational heros. We appreciate being helped though inspiration. Maybe it’s the “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” mentality that is so much a part of our culture.
I can’t object too much, since I aspire to be an inspirational hero. I do, however, question what inspires people and how we are inspired. Is it really the bells and whistles, bands and flags and parades that make us want to be more? Do we just need a little cheer squad behind us? Or does inspiration come from seeing someone accomplish something and knowing that since it’s been done it must be possible?
Rescuers, on the other hand, have gotten a bad rap. Again looking at the history of 9/11 I can’t help but think of how those heros have been treated. How many firefighters and first responders are suffering from the dust in their lungs? How many families waited years for insurance compensation? We honor those who died, but less so those who acted.
I remember when rescuing meant that you were saved from a situation you couldn’t have gotten out of on your own. It didn’t used to imply pandering or moly-coddling. Of course co-dependance used to mean that you could depend on each other for mutual support, not that you’d dig a hole to wallow in together.
It is harder to be a rescuer. You have to jump into a situation and you may or may not be welcome. Not everyone wanted to be removed during Katrina. The trick is being available to lend appropriate and necessary support. It takes a mindreader.
Inspiration is much easier. You just put it out there and someone may come along and take it. You may not even be aware of how inspirational you’ve been to someone along the way. Unless you’re trying to be an inspirational rescuer, offering some piece of wisdom (welcome or not) to someone you perceive needs help. Then you’re back in that tricky, mind-reading mess.
I’ve had opportunities in my life to be both rescued and inspired. I’ve had friends step in to lend a hand physically. I’ve had accommodations made for accessibility. I’ve had financial support. I’ve also been inspired to write, to speak out and to try to lead by example.
In a tidy world it would be easier to distinguish the good guys from the bad guys. There would be guidelines and we would all have the opportunity to know we had been heros to our fellow humans. We would recognize and receive recognition any time we put ourselves out on behalf of someone else.
Since we don’t live in such a tidy place, maybe it counts more when we do take the time to recognize and acknowledge the heros in our lives. So thank you, to all my friends. Because each of you in your own way serves as an inspiration to me.
Thank you to all of you who’ve covered a ticket, a meal, or even the tip. Thank you to anyone who’s ever done dishes for me or cleaned the bathroom, or cleaned anything else. Thank you for hauling and carrying anything from a cup of coffee to picking me up. Thank you for your good conversation and interesting perspectives. Thank you for cheering me on when I wasn’t sure I could believe in myself. Thank you for giving me a break.