noun, plural -roes; for 5 also -ros.
a person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed a heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal: He was a local hero when he saved the drowning child.
For the past few weeks we have been doing hose testing and washing at our station. This is a project that requires many, many, hours of labor and being that we are a small department that labor is only spread across a handful of people. Because of the circumstances this project isn't one that we can do in a single day but one that has to be spread out. As I've spent these hours standing out in front of the station with a pressure washer in hand and sweat rolling down my back I see the people of Warren County driving by on the highway. I don't know anything about these people and, most likely, they don't know the first thing about me but the thing that I kept questioning in my mind is how many of those people realize that I, and the others working with me, are doing this for free. I wonder if they took the time to read the "Volunteer" part of our station's name or did they even skip a beat to think about it at all. I don't doubt that at least some of those people driving by are heroes in their own way. As I thought more about this I realized something very important -- a hero isn't a person directly but more of an attitude.
Think of someone, in your mind, that is a hero to you. Why are they a hero? Most likely it's because of something they did and it was probably something that they completely ignored himself (or herself) in order to complete that heroic act. The thing is that people are not born heroes and, in many ways, they aren't raised as heroes but, rather, they are raised with heroic tendencies. I'm not about to call myself a hero but I can tell you that I see members of our department that are certainly heroes in my book -- and they aren't always the ones that are running into a burning building. Sometimes you hear on the news how a firefighter pulled a child from a burning building and immediately they are tagged as a hero, and rightfully so, but what bothers me is you don't hear about the wife of that firefighter who willingly let her husband respond to that fire fully knowing that he could become seriously injured or killed. There are people that take positions in a fire department that they may really not want to do but they do it because they know the department needs them who you never hear about. You also never hear about the people who work hours upon hours organizing fundraisers to help a fire department raise money for a new truck, fire hose, or any other equipment that is required for that firefighter to do their job. How about the couple that barely has enough money to live but yet they drop the single $1 bill in the boot as they pass the firefighters collecting money along the road? Heroes seem to all have one thing in common -- they are so infrequently recognized and they so infrequently think of themselves. Additionally they are heroes because of what they do and not because of who they are.
In so many ways it is heartbreaking to watch people not only drive by but go through their lives with a heavy focus on themselves without even stopping to consider whether they are a hero to someone or not but, on the other hand, there is a lot of potential for those people to become heroes. It's one thing that is fairly unique to heroes -- they can be contagious. I've responded to calls where someone was injured or somehow in trouble and later they've come back to the station with a check to donate money which will then be used to assist in saving someone else's life. People don't always think about the impact they are making on other people until someone makes an impact on their life and as long as there are at least a few heroes in existence then the potential remains for a contagious outbreak of people helping people. While I watch our world fall further and further I can't help but hope and pray that people will someday start putting themselves aside and start displaying the heroic qualities that we so desperately need -- even if it's someone spending the time with a child who needs a mentor, working around a fire department, restoring a public shelter, giving money to a worthwhile organization, or even just saying hi to someone who has had a bad day.
We all have heroic potential -- let's all start using it.