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"Do you have a story of heroism?"

The healing angel has an English assignment he really doesn't like: he has to have someone he knows tell him a story of personal heroism--they have to tell him about something they did that's heroic. It doesn't have to be capital-h heroic; it can be everyday heroism ... the point (if I understand it right) is to think about what heroism is and how it can be present in anyone's life.

We talked about it a while. What sparked in my mind was a world filled with heroes, how everyone surely does have stories--though I think lots of people have been too beaten down or derided to feel bold enough to acknowledge their own heroism.

I had to pick up something the next town over, and I got it into my head that I'd ask--if I could do it without making the people I asked too uncomfortable--about heroism.

I asked two people. One was a woman at the cash register at a shop where I bought something. The other was a guy sitting on a stoop collecting money in a plastic cup. I was really tentative both times, asked if it was okay to ask a strange question, etc. etc.

The woman at the cash register was nonplussed. "A story of heroism, huh? I don't know; I've never thought about it. That's a really hard question!"

"Should I let you off the hook? It's okay if nothing comes to mind," I said.

"Really? Okay! Yeah, it's just--I can't seem to think of anything right now," she said.

"I understand! I don't know what I'd say if someone dropped the question on me, either. I guess it's lucky I'm asking instead of being asked," I said.

She had very pretty red lipstick on and the dramatic eyeliner that's popular these days. That's what I remember about her looks.

The guy on the stoop did have a story for me:

"My daughter had her son taken away from her because she's a heroin addict. So three times a week, I make my way to B-town so I can spend time with him. Whatever he wants to do, even if it's just watch Power Rangers, that's fine by me," he said.

I was practically overcome.

"Wow, that's really great. That really is heroism. Thank you, you've really made my day," I said, and he really had, because what an amazing thing to share.

"You've made mine, too," he said, and extended a hand, and we shook.

What I remember about him was that he had sandy-colored hair and a goatee, and tattoos on his neck.

... Please feel free, but not compelled, to share a story of heroism...


( 42 comments — Leave a comment )
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Dec. 16th, 2015 01:39 am (UTC)
Oh, what a great assignment! Yes, stories of heroism in people I know spring to mind - not my stories to share online, but yes! I know heroes, and none of them the kind who make the papers. Oh, my! Just thinking of two or three of them is making my day begin to shine! Thank you!
Dec. 16th, 2015 05:16 am (UTC)
I think it's a great assignment too, and even though the healing angel resents it, I feel like through him, it came to me, and from me to people I've talked to, so it's woven connections between people far beyond what the teacher had even intended, and that makes me happy.
Dec. 16th, 2015 01:40 am (UTC)
I love that he recognizes his own heroism. I wish more people could do that. I'm not very good at it myself.

My local friend, restoman, does renovations of historic properties here in town. This is heroic in two ways. First, because he's primarily doing it because he loves these buildings and loves this neighborhood and wants to see it get better. He rents his properties out, but does not expect to ever make back the money he's spent on renovations. It's a labor of love for place and community.

Second, because the crew he deals with are all local, troubled people who have little other work available to them. He's often really stressed dealing with the trouble they get in, mostly related to substance abuse, and sometimes he has to fire them, hopefully temporarily 'till they get things together again. I see him as this amazing, and probably underappreciated, pillar of a somewhat dysfunctional community here.

Edited at 2015-12-16 01:40 am (UTC)
Dec. 16th, 2015 05:19 am (UTC)
He sounds like a marvelous person, a great neighbor and a great member of the community, and a good friend.

A woman I worked with at the jail really loved the time she had working on a Habitat for Humanity house, and she was full of affection and praise for the woman who was running the project--who indeed sounds like a wonderful person, very much like your friend: patient, encouraging, giving--and as a labor of love.
Dec. 16th, 2015 01:46 am (UTC)
I love you.

And specifically at the moment, I that you asked someone staffing a cash register, and someone sitting with a plastic cup, awaiting change.

Oh, may we all inhabit the mild boldness that might lead to general sufficiency, that might even (I dream big) lead to us all treating each person we meet as-- a person. Precious, dangerous, needy, rich.
Dec. 16th, 2015 05:22 am (UTC)
So precious. I'm feeling all emotional tonight, and if my thoughts linger on it too long, tears start bursting out all over the place.

I love you too--with a tight-squeeze hug.
Dec. 16th, 2015 01:49 am (UTC)
The greatest hero I know insisted he wasn't one, he was just keeping the vows he'd made in church before God when he married his wife at a young age. Unfortunately, she contracted MS in her mid thirties, after fifteen years of good marriage, and what followed was forty plus years of slow, painful disintegration. Her body went first, and her mind stayed but at the end no one but him could tell how much of her was there; he insisted he knew in her breathing and tiny pressures of fingers as he bathed her helpless body every single day, brushed her teeth, and once a week took her in her wheelchair to have her hair done. He did her nails, and dressed her in the clothes she liked, rather than dreary hospital stuff, until at last she slipped the leash. And he was there for that, too. She was a second cousin of mine, a little younger than my mom (who is 18 years older than me), and when I met her in 1969 she was a lovely, lively, active person.

He hated the family lauding him as a hero--to him, he was a loving husband keeping his vows.
Dec. 16th, 2015 05:33 am (UTC)
Blessings on him. He's a model for love and devotion.

Dec. 16th, 2015 01:51 am (UTC)
What a wonderful man! Doing good--and acknowledging it. I hope that helps him stay the course.
Dec. 16th, 2015 05:34 am (UTC)
I hope so too. So grateful to him for sharing with me. (Grateful to everyone here, too..)
Dec. 16th, 2015 03:42 am (UTC)
A lady on my FL once told the story of a man she saw while at a convention who was asking for money outside a restaurant. Instead of giving him money, she offered to buy him a meal.

He went inside with her and they ate together and talked and she discovered he was someone who was laid off during the recession.

I always thought what she did was wonderful and that it made her heroic.
Dec. 16th, 2015 05:40 am (UTC)
It does make her heroic. Our shoulders shine because we're rubbing them against heroes <3
Dec. 16th, 2015 04:38 am (UTC)
That's a good, if tough, assignment. I hope he finds someone he can talk to comfortably who can relay such a story.

This assignment brought a memory of mine to mind. I wasn't sure if I should share it, in case it sounded like horn-tooting (it certainly isn't an example of heroism with a capital "H"), but here it is: When I was in college, I was walking with three female friends late at night near campus, and a couple of drunk guys started harassing them. The most obnoxious one was running in circles around us. After a few mouthy circuits, I stopped walking just in time for him to run into me. He and his friend immediately focused all of their attention on me, which is what I wanted, and my friends continued on safely, not knowing I had done anything at all. I told Circling Guy to go sleep it off and turned to walk away. He then kicked me in the back, hard enough to seriously bruise my ribs, but I didn't feel any pain at the time. I turned around and, instead of going after him, despite my analysis that his staggering recovery from his roundhouse kick would give me a real edge in a fight (my grandfather was a Marine Corps boxer and had taught me to defend myself), I told him flat-voiced how unimpressed I was with him. I then began walking away again and dodged a charge from another drunk buddy of his. I realized then that there were three of them, but they stopped trying to do anything after the missed charge. I caught up with my friends a few minutes later but didn't tell them what happened. For a long time after, especially when my ribs were really hurting, I kicked _myself_ for not pounding Circling Guy. (I was young.)

Edited at 2015-12-16 05:32 am (UTC)
Dec. 16th, 2015 05:48 am (UTC)
Whoa, that is serious bravery and I'd say pretty capital-h heroism. Thank you **very** much for sharing.

I think it's so hard to share our own stories because we *do* feel inhibited about horn tooting, but it doesn't need to be that at all, and yours certainly didn't seem like that. I imagine now-you looking back at then-you and thinking, You were crazy! They could have killed you! But good going: you helped your friends get clear away, safely.

You can know about yourself that you can be brave, and that you protect your friends--that's wonderful.
(no subject) - ericmarin - Dec. 16th, 2015 02:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 16th, 2015 06:41 am (UTC)
I love this. You are so brave. I have a hard time just walking up to people asking them questions. I'm normally pretty outgoing, but I don't talk to strangers a whole lot. I don't really know why, I'm not afraid. Well, afraid to get personal, maybe. This is a hard assignment for your son!
Dec. 17th, 2015 12:53 pm (UTC)
These days I'm so conscious of the fact that questions can be intrusive and I'm so worried about making people uncomfortable, but fortunately, neither of these people seemed to take it that way. The cashier felt maybe a little on the spot? But she also seemed to think it was a cool question, and when I didn't push the matter it made it all all right. But the guy asking for change really seemed to *like* the question, and it felt like we really connected over it.

I did have to nerve myself up for it. Like jumping in cold water.

For the healing angel though, the assignment was specifically to talk to someone you **do** know, so it wasn't quite so bad in that respect (though difficult in other ways).
Dec. 16th, 2015 12:18 pm (UTC)
Being who I am I have issues with the word hero because it's been used to describe my dealing with what I dealt with. Nope! And being a military historian also make me pause for thought as to the definition.

I meet heroes every day- they're women bringing up kids single handed on little income........
Dec. 17th, 2015 12:49 pm (UTC)
I turned out to have the wrong end of the stick regarding his assignment: it was actually to talk to someone about a big struggle they'd had, where in the end they prevailed--with that becoming the heroic story (they're doing Campbell's hero's journey).

I agree with you, though, about the single mothers: that is daily, unrecognized heroism.
(no subject) - cmcmck - Dec. 17th, 2015 04:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - asakiyume - Dec. 17th, 2015 04:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - cmcmck - Dec. 17th, 2015 04:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 16th, 2015 05:13 pm (UTC)
My great-uncle is Jewish. During WW2, he stayed in France to help Jewish children cross the border into Switzerland. He didn't cross it himself.

A colleague of mine is also Jewish (no, I'm not specifically looking for stories of Jewish heroism, it's just what comes to mind ;)). Recently, a couple of students in the school started to draw swastikas on the walls and wrote an inscription in the toilet indicating that she was Jewish. It was discovered after a couple of days that they were her own students she had been taking care of for two years already. She still comes to work, still organises projects with her students, still shows the same passion about her work. I should also mention for context that after the Paris attacks, a kippa-wearing Jewish teacher was stabbed in Marseilles, very close to where we work. And that it's extremely easy for teachers in France to get medical leave for phony reasons, there are no consequences at all. Still, she hasn't given up.

I'm glad I have people like these around me...
Dec. 17th, 2015 12:41 pm (UTC)
That teacher is so very brave, and she's doing good work, showing faith (or identity) can be strong even in the face of hatred--and perhaps showing them implicitly how wrong that hatred is.

And your great uncle--♥

I'm glad too, and glad to know these stories. Thank you.
Dec. 16th, 2015 06:42 pm (UTC)
I admire your courage for asking that question of strangers... I wonder what it must be like for the teacher to read all those assignments!
Dec. 17th, 2015 12:39 pm (UTC)
It's actually all done orally: she has asked the kids to record the stories and to turn in the recordings. I don't know if they play them for the class or only for the teacher, but they also have to give a two-minute presentation to the class about their own reaction to the story and to how it relates to Campbell's notion of a hero.
Dec. 16th, 2015 07:23 pm (UTC)
To honor your courage in asking strangers such a difficult question (as well as your flist) I wanted to share a story. However, like the cashier, none come to mind. I think of times I've been kind, generous, fair, brave, and so forth, but I can't recall an instance when I would call my actions heroic.

When I asked J, he reminded me of the time I stopped a guy from breaking into someone's car, which reminded me of when I stopped a pickpocket, but yeah, maybe just stick-up-for-what's-right and brave...not heroic...
Dec. 17th, 2015 12:43 am (UTC)
I wish I had some stories of heroism. I guess the wildlife center is pretty heroic in a way, I mean the animals don't pay us.

I also wanted to share this.
Dec. 17th, 2015 12:37 pm (UTC)
Your 2015 song list--excellent!

And yeah, I think what you do at the wildlife center is absolutely heroic, and I'm so grateful that you do do it. And sharing the stories, too--I'm sure grateful that you do that, as well.
(no subject) - yamamanama - Dec. 17th, 2015 03:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - asakiyume - Dec. 17th, 2015 03:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 17th, 2015 03:34 am (UTC)
I thought this was a cool story. Not mine.
(no subject) - asakiyume - Dec. 17th, 2015 12:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - xjenavivex - Dec. 17th, 2015 05:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - asakiyume - Dec. 17th, 2015 12:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - xjenavivex - Dec. 17th, 2015 05:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - amaebi - Dec. 18th, 2015 01:09 am (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 17th, 2015 07:07 am (UTC)
That's a great story...I wonder what our definitions of heroic are. I'd normally consider heroism to be a big thing, but when you preface it with "every day" I think of lots of small heroisms that people I know do on a daily basis. Listening to friends or acquaintances when they need someone to talk to, or paying for someone's meal so they can go out with friends.
Dec. 17th, 2015 12:22 pm (UTC)
Absolutely. I think those small heroisms are what the healing angel's teacher was hoping the kids discovered.

I realized, through talking with the healing angel, that I'd misunderstood how the assignment was framed. You weren't supposed to ask people what heroic thing they'd done, but to tell a story of a struggle they had, a hard thing that they overcame. Then that becomes, by virtue of their struggle and accomplishment, a sort of heroism.
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