Copyright © 2010 by Ralph Couey
What constitutes a hero? Obviously, it is someone we admire, but the reasons why are often a window into the most private part of ourselves. Thomas Carlyle said, “Show me the man you honor, and I will know what kind of man you are.” But, do we define our heroes, or do our heroes define us?
Some are elevated because of their ability in sports. Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Michael Jordan, and George Brett are just a few of the tens of thousands of athletes who have enthralled fans over the decades. Some are set apart just because of their statistics. For others, it is not only what they do during games, but how they live their lives.
Some are honored because of things they have accomplished for others, often at great cost and sacrifice. Some are artists, musicians, actors, statesmen, religious leaders, or authors. The common thread through all these lives is that in some way, they inspired us.
My parents are my heroes. My wife is my hero. She has remained strong and stalwart, supporting me through thick and thin, especially during my recent health problems. My children are my heroes as well. It's so true that there are no perfect parents; just flawed humans doing their best. But even with all the mistakes I made raising them, they have survived and are succeeding in life. The thing that makes me most proud is their absolute refusal to quit, even in the toughest times. They inspired me in ways they may not ever know.
But there are others, men and women who have led me to emulate their qualities in my life. George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, Benjamin Franklin, Dr. Martin Luther King, Admiral Raymond Spruance, Red Cloud, Winfield Hancock, Chief Joseph, Admiral Chester Nimitz, Theodore Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Michael and Jeff Shaara are among the most well known. Then there are those who are my heroes every day, teachers, police officers and firefighters who every day do things we would never even try.
Are they perfect people? No. But they were people who did the best they could with what they had. They didn't always succeed, but they never stopped trying. And in some cases, found greatness in a supreme moment of trial.
In ways profound and insignificant they touched my life, giving me a higher plane to reach for, a better example to aspire to. They gave me wisdom in times of searching, and decision in times when I wavered.
They made me a better man.