The intellectual Mr. Webster provides many definitions for the word “Hero”, including: “a large sandwich consisting of a long, split roll, having a variety of fillings [such] as meats, cheeses, lettuce, tomatoes and onions.” However, that definition does not meet the standard for this column.
One of the primary definitions is “a man noted for courageous acts or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his life.” A hero could be one of many people, either male or female. It could be a great military person like General Douglas MacArthur, a five star General during World War II, who played a prominent role in the Pacific theater. Of course, that definition fits all of our military men and women who put their lives on the line for us each day. Other types of heroes could be: fire fighters in your hometown (or those battling forest fires across the nation); police officers; doctors, nurses or medics who save lives under adverse conditions and civilians who happen upon a vehicle accident and free a driver/passenger from a burning car.
I would like to “stretch” the above definition of a hero to include whoever is thought of as a hero in a person’s mind. A young boy who loves baseball may consider a great home run hitter like Hank Aaron or a superb pitcher like Sandy Koufax a hero. A great surgeon like Dr. Christian Barnard, who performed the first heart transplant on Lewis Washkansky in 1967, would be considered a hero, especially by Mr. Washkansky and on average the 2,000 recipients of a new heart each year through 2011.
To me, an animal can be considered a hero when looking at two stories that were in the news during the past week. A dog woke his owner up during the night when his house was on fire. Both owner and dog escaped the fire. The other story that recently was on the Internet happened in Russia in 2015. A cat named Masha heard a baby, no more than 12 weeks old, crying in a box outside in cold weather. The cat got into the box to keep the baby warm and cried until its owner came to see what all of the fuss was about. The baby was abandoned and because of Masha, survived in good condition.
I personally have seen two people over the past months whom I would classified as heroes. I really would like to have sat down with them and gotten more information on their stories to pass on to you but I resisted getting too personal with them.
I frequently am at a retirement community because Barb and I have friends there. Also, I go there to pick-up meals made there to deliver them for Meals on Wheels. One day I exited one of the buildings. The first people I saw were an elderly lady in a wheelchair with her head bowed forward. Kneeling beside her on the sidewalk, so his eyes could meet his mother’s, was her son talking with her and stroking her arm. The scene would have been perfect for a photo or painting (possibly Norman Rockwell). You could tell at a glance that the son had a deep love for his mother and certainly exemplified that portion of the Ten Commandments that says, “Honor your mother.” I was so struck by this picture, that I stopped and talked with the man whom I guessed was in his 40’s or 50’s to tell him I appreciated how he treated his mother and the importance of it! I have since found out that the son visits his mother nearly every day of the week.
My other hero I have seen in a large big box store who was in a wheelchair. He is an employee who greets the customers and checks their items as they leave after paying for them. He greets you with a smile and is pleasant to talk to. Barb/I have talked with him several times. As the saying goes he is: “making lemonade out of lemons.” This gentleman is earning a living and making the best of his situation by being “Sunshine” for the customers.
Speaking of Sunshine, I have fun making up nicknames for various people. There are two ladies whom I have come in contact with through Meals on Wheels. They brighten my day every time I see them. Therefore, they have been “stuck” with the nickname of “Sunshine”. I have explained my reason for the nickname and gotten their approval to continue with my name for them.
So you see there are many definitions of what a hero is. It all depends whom you talk to. If you would be willing to share your definition of a hero, please let me know at email@example.com.
Jeff Hall of Honey Brook contributes columns to Berks-Mont Newspapers.