Did the “Hero” in the title get you? That was my goal. It was cheap. Some of my earlier blogs call out others who use flashy titles to grab attention and I pointed out my disdain for that tactic, yet, I specifically did just that. My goal in stooping to that level is to use the New Year as the starting line to get everyone to consider adding “hero” to their list of resolutions. Now, I understand being a hero can seem out of reach. But let me add more details of my version of a hero: anyone who takes a step away from their job, family or friends and makes an effort to help someone else. That’s it. Everyone can do that, right?
The end of a year often leads people to review their resolutions that were either accomplishments or failures and then evaluate how they can improve with next year’s goals. I have a feeling that if everyone kept each year’s resolutions in one binder and went back a few years at the end of every year, there would be a few resolutions that were repeat offenders. For instance, if I had such a binder, which would be helpful as well as shameful, “exercise more” would be an unfulfilled repeat resolution, but that doesn’t mean I will give up on it. I also try to learn from the accomplishments of others to inspire my resolutions.
My review of this year included two milestones that struck a chord with me: one was the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination; the second was the death of President Nelson Mandela at 95. Both men were educated and had opportunities to do easier things in life than lead their countries. Thankfully, they did more. Doing a report about President Kennedy when I was in the seventh grade was what first sparked my interest to become a Peace Corps Volunteer, but what have I done lately? What would our country look like if John Kennedy had chosen a lucrative law job over politics? Where would South Africa be without the persistence and reflection by Nelson Mandela? I’m not asking you to become a president, but remember, the first time they helped someone wasn’t as the president. They had to start somewhere.
Boy, it sounds like I am leading us down a dark path of unattainable goals, but I promise I am not. I’ll switch gears.
This next section might seem like a tangent but it relates closely to hero development and a fun movie. One of my favorite animated movies is The Incredibles. The premise of the movie is that all superheroes were forced into retirement with secret lives like the witness protection program because recipients of their assistance had started suing the supers (supported by the government) based on how they were saved or IF they wanted to be saved. Suing superheroes is a sad statement I don’t have time to get into. The movie is clever and creative, but I love the simple fact that the main character, Mr. Incredible, now a regular guy with a family, a receding hairline and no waistline, so misses helping people in need that he tells his wife he is in a bowling league on the nights he goes out to find damsels in distress. The jaded anti-hero character in the movie says something about if everyone were to become a superhero and have like superpowers, then no one would be super. I disagree. I would be absolutely thrilled if we all became heroes, secret or otherwise, doing even a tiny part to help each other. Give it a try. Just like it was for Mr. Incredible, you will get addicted to it and want to keep helping more and more people. My perspective is that if everyone became just a hint closer to becoming a hero, if they pitched in to help do at least one thing for someone in need, imagine how great the world could be!
In my opinion, we have become a society of complacency and entitlement. I don’t have political aspirations so I’m giving my pitch here to get more people involved in helping others. It doesn’t matter to me if it is through a community organization, your kid’s school, your job or your church. Find a way to make a positive impact. Some people work better with explicit direction, bullet points or making a list, so I will get you started.
#1. Put someone else’s concerns above your own. Many of you who are parents already do this and may have a schedule that limits what else you could do, but there are often ways you can combine the interests of your work and family with areas that you can help.
Example: Let’s say you work full time, have a family and coach your kid’s soccer team. Well, not everyone can afford to join the non-school soccer league, so start a fundraiser to sponsor a kid or two next year. Participate in organizing the fundraiser with the help of other parents during the season.
#2. Find a cause. Discover (or rediscover) something that you are passionate about that when you are tired, you still look forward to doing it.
Example: I love dogs but don’t live somewhere I can have one. A friend sent me a link to explore.org, a non-commercial website with a mission “to champion the selfless acts of others, create a portal into the soul of humanity and inspire lifelong learning.” Not only can I see live webcams of several different animals in their habitats, I can also see puppies and dogs in training to help veterans any time of day or night. It isn’t an edited reality show; it shows things like live births.
- The leader of one service dog organization, Service Dog Project, in Massachusetts gives many creative ideas about how to pitch in if you don’t have the money to donate.
- I have also “volunteered” with a service dog group closer to D.C., Warrior Canine Connection, in Brookeville, Maryland. I put my “volunteered” in quotes because I don’t think it is fair to count babysitting two month old lab pups for an hour as work, but I know the organization relies on just that type of help.
My point is, there is something out there for everyone to pitch in and that will make you a hero in my book. You have a year to find something before next year’s review takes place, but don’t wait. You could end up finding something you love to do!
Sidebar: In making a connection with the two revered leaders above, I also noticed that they were born only a year apart, which makes me wonder what kind of an impact Kennedy would have had if he had lived the last 50 years that Mandela did. And on the flip side, where would South Africa be if Mandela had died 50 years ago? These thoughts take me back to my annual reminder about my impact on the world around me, which I envision every year after watching George Bailey* experience it. *See last year’s New Year’s blog (Resolving New Year’s Resolutions) for further explanation.