What is a hero? Who are our heroes? Presidents, firefighters, sportsmen/women, people who stood up for something, overcame great obstacles, beat the odds. Who represents the hero better? The man who was born with a million dollars in the bank and made a Gazillion? Or the poor man who started a small business in his mother-in-law’s garage and turned it into a worldwide company, earning a ton of money in the process?
Look at the books you read, the movies you watched. None of the heroes started out with the prize. Even the ones who seemed to have it all didn’t (because the prize wasn’t what they already have). They had to work hard, overcome obstacles and sacrifice in order to get what they want. If they didn’t… they wouldn’t really be heroes, now would they?
And who are these people?
Who’s John McClane?
When we first meet him, he’s a separated cop from New York who has no control on his life. Some would say he’s a loser. His wife knows better than to stick around him. He doesn’t appreciate her. Later we learn that even his kids are not exactly his biggest fans. But still, at the end of the movie we all smile and say whatever catch phrase with him. Was it just because we wanted to see Hans Gruber fall out the window? Or was it that we thought that he sacrificed enough for 90 minutes?
Who’s Rosa Parks?
Rosa Parks was “just a woman”. Like millions around us. Why is she (rightfully) considered a hero? Because she stood up (no pun intended) for what she believed in. Because by her act of defiance against the villain (make no mistake about it, that’s what she did), she inspired a great amount of people to press on with their journey. She still is an inspiration for every person facing adversity and injustice. We might not know her personally, but we all do. We all would like to think we would’ve sat down and did the same. We identify.
Who’s the firefighter?
The firefighter doesn’t know you. He came in to do a job he gets paid to do. Like the plumber your wife called the other day. Only when the plumber came the house was, shall we say, a little safer to enter. So of course they get paid (some say not enough), but they still put their lives on the line for yours. Oh, did I mention that they don’t even know who you are? People (rightfully) admire firefighters because they are willing to walk into a burning tower to make sure that you get out.
All of these people are, as the song says, ordinary. They became heroes through sacrifice and overcoming obstacles. We applaud them and want to be like them.
But what happens when a hero turns out to be an anti-hero? See Lance Armstrong or OJ for instance…
In books and on film it can easily be fixed. We can always write a great redemption story. And why not? The reader wants to see the hero who fell from grace rise up again and redeem himself. It’s simply the new chapter in the hero’s book. We want to forgive as readers.
Guess what? We want to forgive as people. We want Lance Armstrong to come out of this. However that’s where the similarity to fiction ends. In “real life” this is a lot more difficult than on paper. It’s going to take a hell of a lot more than an interview with Oprah to convince us that he learned from his mistakes. It will take more to show us that he’s willing to fully accept responsibility. It will take hard work, overcoming obstacles and a great deal of sacrifice to win us over again.
Now, Lance Armstrong is an ordinary man. and the above is exactly what a hero is made of!
So what do you think? Is Lance going to make it? Do you see yourself forgiving? Have you already done so?