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Three Characteristics of Ordinary Heroes

A recent business trip gave me the opportunity to watch a couple of movies I’ve wanted to see for a while.  42 is the story of how Jackie Robinson integrated Major League Baseball in 1947.  I followed that up with Captain America, a comic-book adaptation about how an ‘average guy’ became a superhero during the Second World War.

As I watched these two films, one based on reality and the other based on fantasy, I thought a lot about what it means to be a hero.  I was reminded of some real heroes in my family tree.  For example, my grandfather Frank landed at Utah Beach in the first 5 minutes of D-Day.  My ‘grandfathers-in-law’ Bob and Bill were injured during the WWII Italy and Normandy campaigns respectively.  These men kept the heroic things they had done and seen mostly to themselves because ‘it was what we had to do.’  They were ordinary people who did extraordinary things.

With that in mind, I’d like to give you three things that I think help define heroes…those who get a movie and those who just deserve one.

John Richardson (left) and Frank Fields were members of the 4th Infantry Division / 8th Regiment Company G.  This picture is believed to have been taken in Germany in 1945.

John Richardson (left) and Frank Fields were members of the 4th Infantry Division / 8th Regiment Company G. This picture is believed to have been taken in Germany in 1945.

1) Heroes rarely start out intending to be one.  They aren’t looking for fame, fortune, or fun.  In fact, one thing that makes them heroic is the fact that they think that what they are doing is nothing special.  For me, adults and children who are fighting diseases like cancer are also heroes because…

2) Heroes are willing to die for a cause.  Soldiers, police officers, fire fighters…they risk their lives every day to protect others.  They place the value of others’ lives above their own.  That selfless attitude attracts others to them and their professions.  That attractiveness comes in part because…

3) Heroes control their emotions.  Bad things happen to all of us but what determines how we respond?  Planes strike the World Trade Center and New York’s first responders head toward the disaster, not away…even though all logic plus the fear they were feeling told them to run the other way.  Thousands of soldiers boarded boats to cross the English Channel so they could run toward the well-armed strongholds where the Nazis had built modern day castles in expectation of an invasion.  Heroes are able to do the exact opposite of what their emotions tell them to do.

Do any of these characteristics of heroes resonate for you?  If so, who have you seen them in?