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On The Existance of Heroes

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It would be difficult to go through this world without believing in heroes. While every person wants to believe they are intelligent, or strong, or special, it is also comforting to know that there are people in our lives who are braver or humbler or kinder than the average person. Everybody has their own heroes, those individuals who encouraged them to try or guided them through failure, whether they are siblings, parents, coaches, or teachers. People can share heroes; a group can admire a particular person like a state can admire a sports team. Some people themselves are heroes, doing their work in anonymity as good Samaritans to make the world a little brighter. In trying times, looking ahead to a suddenly obscured future, America has grown smaller as communities have come together to help, to build, to act in order to rectify old wrongs and create a better tomorrow. Even as the media broadcasts sin and violence, it is heartening to believe that there is more good in life than bad, and heroes are the ones that make this distinction recognizable.

Everybody has someone they lean on when obstacles seem insurmountable. From the beginning, America has looked to its parents, mothers and fathers balancing home and work and lives, to set an example for its youth. This nation has looked for its teachers, coaches, clergy, music instructors to create that spark in children that make them suddenly believe their goals are not unreachable. It is not necessary for a music student to grow up to play in an international orchestra, but there was always that one teacher who made them practice longer, harder, better, until they were as close to perfect as man can get. Football players thank their high school coaches, novelists think of their grammar school English teachers even years later because at the time they viewed these people with respect and no small amount of awe. These adult figures in everyday lives managed to touch people at a young age and mold bodies and souls into the adults they would one day become. Those are childhood heroes, when people are still young enough to want to grow up to be a fireman, a doctor, an astronaut. These heroes made it easier to believe it is possible to land among the stars.

There are people who, years after their deaths, are regarded as heroes by millions, Civil Rights activists like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who, through his words and actions, brought rays of peace on people who had been struggling for so long. People like Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates, who have foundations that devote millions to charities ranging from girls’ schools in Africa to rectifying homelessness in the United States. These people are regarded by many as heroes, speakers for an entire race or country of people, emissaries of hope to the rest of the world. There are men who are heroes to thousands of American boys who grow up with a picture of Michael Jordan or Eli Manning taped on their bedroom wall. Heroes like Elvis and Stephen King and Neil Armstrong who, knowingly or not, inspire multitudes of people, young and old, to want to be just like them.

And in some way, America must have answered that call that is shouted by its idols because the most prevalent form of heroes in America are the everyday heroes. People who volunteer their time to read to ancients in a nursing home, or be a candy striper at a hospital or a dog walker at a local animal shelter. People who cook for the hungry and clean up in time for Bingo, who ask for no compensation in return for hours given. Occasionally, the spot light is put on these heroes, like Chesley Sullenberger, who managed to land a failing airplane in the Hudson River and went up and down the aisles to make sure that everyone had gotten out safe, or the dozens of firemen who charged into the burning World Trade Center.

Heroes do not only exist, they make up a part of the magic of the American story. Heroes are necessary as role models, as sounding boards and pillars of strength. They act as guides for education, spirituality, and morality in an age where such ideals are considered a sign of weakness. Heroes teach that you do not need superpowers or cool gadgets to fight bad guys, that sometimes a little does go a long way, and if it is possible to change the life of one person in our limited time on Earth, than your own life is worth that much more. Above all, heroes, whether they are a celebrity or a kindly neighbor, show that there is a hero hidden in every person, and it is up to each and every person to change the world.



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