Regular readers of this blog may have noticed a slight but significant shift in its theme over this past year. When I first began writing on the topic How to Become a Hero
four years ago, I described the theme of these reflections as "stepping into your own greatness to be of service to others." Later on, this became "finding your right livelihood on the path of service." But recently I made the decision to declare a new theme for these entries: "you are the champion the world is waiting for."
I first began thinking about the need for more heroes in our modern world after the 9/11 attacks. There were many people who became heroes on that day, called forth by the urgent need of others. But so many aspects of this catastrophe could have been prevented if there were more people called to heroic acts before it began. "Why do the heroes appear only after
the tragedy," I wondered. "We should be taking steps just as bold to prevent the causes of terrorism, not just responding after it occurs."
Then the U.S. invaded Iraq, and the news was again filled with stories about heroes. But this time many of those profiled weren't just saving lives – they were also responsible for taking them. "What about the warriors for peace and justice?" I asked. "Where are their stories? Aren't they also heroes?" I launched this blog three months after the war began.
And then came Hurricane Katrina
. I watched helplessly from San Francisco as people in New Orleans suffered and died. Days passed, and it seemed that news cameras could reach every area of the flooded city while rescuers and supplies could not.
There were many heroes on the ground, doing what they could under desperate conditions with limited resources. But with very few exceptions, those in charge failed to show leadership, courage, or even a sense of responsibility. Instead, rescue efforts moved forward at a snail's pace as government agencies and elected officials protected their turf, pointed fingers at each other, and delayed critical decisions. Meanwhile, supplies, volunteers, and vehicles sent from outside the area were refused admittance to the city.
It was during that awful week that I realized three compelling truths about becoming a hero:
1. We cannot wait for a hero to come and rescue us.
Like the people of New Orleans, we may be waiting for a rescuer to help our community or cause, but it just may be that no one is coming. The most likely place to look for leadership is not out in the world, but within ourselves.2. We cannot wait to figure out the best possible course of action.
Seeking our ultimate life purpose is a worthwhile endeavor, but meanwhile, we should take action to make a difference where and how we can. We will develop our heroic qualities more by exercising them than by contemplating possibilities. 3. We cannot wait for a disaster to hear the call to heroism.
If the only time we are compelled to act is when a disaster is at our door, many options are already closed to us. We can make much more of a difference in the world around us by working steadily to address chronic problems and prevent major disasters from occurring.
There is no one better qualified, smarter, braver, or more talented than you and I to redress the ills we see in the world. There are no grownups to tell us what we should do. There are no leaders we can count on to do what must be done. In the words of Freddie Mercury, we
are the champions of the world. It's you that the world is waiting for.
Labels: heroism, life purpose, social action