Our lives are filled with real heroes; we just aren’t accustomed to recognizing them as such. This idea struck when I saw a headline stating that a spacecraft was named for mathematician Katherine Johnson.
For those who may not be familiar with Katherine Johnson, she was instrumental in the math calculations that enabled U.S. manned spaceflights. She’s a black American who didn’t, until recently, get recognized for her outstanding contribution to our space program. This prompted me to ponder “What is it that motivates people to do extraordinary work despite the obstacles they face?”
None of the usual motivations, fame or fortune, apply; these folks are devoted to making a difference. Their gratification comes from knowing that they produced results that benefit their fellow man…whether they receive recognition, compensation or neither. These are everyday heroes who deserve, yet seldom get, our recognition.
When we define heroes as those who perform selfless acts of kindness, who do things simply because it brings joy to others and, coincidentally, to themselves, we can see that we are surrounded by heroes.
Converting awareness into action
As we become more aware of the heroes in our lives, we gain appreciation for their kindness and their selflessness. With awareness comes the desire to reward these folks with recognition for their kindness. Even though they don’t seek recognition, acknowledging their generosity enhances their satisfaction and encourages them to continue their efforts.
We tend to forget how powerful simple acts of kindness are. My wife and I were fortunate to get our first covid vaccination. As we’re awaiting the end of our 15-minute observation period, an elderly woman using a walker was moving to the observation area. A woman at the end of the aisle said “Oh, take my seat. I just sat down.” She moved, making it easier on the woman with the walker. That’s extraordinary work. It was selfless, kind and memorable for all involved. I took the opportunity to acknowledge her kindness and was rewarded with a smile that warmed my heart.
You have the opportunity to be a real hero to someone each and everyday of your life, multiple times a day. Every time that you take a moment to do something nice for someone, every task well done, enriches others’ lives. That’s it. That’s all that it takes to be a real hero to everyone you meet.
Encouraging others to be real heroes is another way for you to be a hero. You can encourage them by acknowledging the results they produce, their acts of kindness, their willingness to set aside their interests and challenges to help another.
While these may seem like small things, the impact they have on others is huge. If you give someone an opportunity to smile, it may be the only opportunity they had that day. It might just be what they needed to move away from self-destructive behaviors…from their despondency.
You may never fully know the impact that you’ve had on someone else’s life and that’s okay. After all, you didn’t do it for recognition, for fame or for fortune, you did it because it helped another. And that’s all the reward you need.
Now, if you’re thinking “These aren’t really heroic acts.” Or “I don’t see myself as a hero.” You have just demonstrated that you are heroic. If you doubt that, recall interviews of people whom the media have deemed heroes, they inevitably say that they don’t feel like heroes. They say that they were just doing what needed to be done, that they couldn’t imagine not doing what they did.
Indeed, it’s the selflessness of their acts, and yours, that make the deed heroic. People who desire recognition are acting in their own self interest, consequently their acts will never be heroic. To be heroic an act must be selfless. When you take time to help another, especially when you have pressing needs yourself, you are being heroic. You may not see yourself that way, but I can assure you that the person you help will.
For our kids
When you’re with your kids and you see an act of kindness, or a job well done, comment on it. Tell your kids that these folks are everyday heroes. They do what they do to benefit others and do so without the need for recognition. Their satisfaction lies in knowing they made a difference in someone’s life. Any recognition they might get is icing on the cake to them.
Suggest to your kids that when they acknowledge someone’s kindness, or a job well done, they become a hero to that person…that they’re encouraging the person to continue behaviors that enrich others’ lives as well as their own. Let them know that while their action might not feel like much to them, it can be priceless to the recipient. Then you’ll enjoy seeing that your kids are real heroes who are enjoying life because they’re experiencing the joy of helping others.
Feel free to share this blog with those you feel would benefit from this message. It’s an easy way to say “I love you. I’m thinking of you.”
I love hearing your thoughts and experiences, please share your insights in a comment.
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