Older Than Dirt: My Hero

What really makes someone a hero?

My dictionary defines a hero as "A person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements or noble qualities."

I think we all may have heroes who come in and out of our lives and we just don't always give them the credit that is due. I believe that all those who serve in the military are heroes. Even if they don't end up in a war zone, they are committed to doing so if called upon. I believe that people who open their homes to foster children and love them as their own are heroes.

How sad it is that so many former heroes have been shown to be much less than they were thought to be. Over the last 50 years or so, some in high places have fallen from grace. From sports figures to presidents, too many have lost their hero status. Perhaps that is why so many youngsters have their own super-hero movies, tee shirts and play toys. Make believe is much less disappointing.

I like to see young boys find a hero in their mother, father, or some other close relative. Little girls will often see their Dad as their super-hero. Nothing wrong with that. But what happens if Mom or Dad fall off that pedestal? Sadly, even a divorce can rock their world.

To be a hero does not necessarily mean you are perfect, or without any flaws. Maybe you have not always lived a perfect life, but have gone above and beyond on several occasions. I have a nephew, in fact, who took on raising three of his grandchildren. For reasons unimportant to this blog, he found himself working six days a week, and caring for three boys - all of them under 10 years of age. He had no housekeeper, baby sitter and, of course, no life for himself. He could have let the children go into the system and be raised by strangers, but instead chose to step up!

There are now many grandparents raising their grandchildren. Caring for babies and toddlers is not an easy job, especially as the grandparents age and have their own health issues. Raising more children was probably not something they anticipated they would be doing after retirement. But they still chose to make the commitment.

One of my cousins started doing day care about 40 years ago. From there, she started taking in foster children. Not just ANY children, but those who had serious behavior problems, and everything from ADHD, fetal alcohol syndrome, and even crack babies. She loved them and cared for them for as long as was needed.

She also raised four of her own children during those years. She was diagnosed with cancer twice and continued to care for the children of others.

One of my nieces took care of her father (my brother) for more than five years. She worked full time and battled her own cancer during those years. There was never a question that she would take on this chore of love, and she never complained or regretted it. Until the end she was there for him, no questions asked - though I am certain there were times that she sat alone and cried.

So what is the real definition of a hero? Perhaps it is giving more of yourself to others than should ever be expected. Maybe it is stepping up when no one else does. Maybe it is putting yourself last in times of need, or just doing a selfless deed to which there is no monetary end.

I believe that there are heroes all around us. They are not given medals, nor invited to the White House. They just do what they believe is the right thing to do, and accept whatever consequences come with it.

For all of you who put your own lives on hold to give someone else a better life, you are truly my hero.