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Published: Thursday 31st of October 2013
What is a hero’s raw material? Could it be saving other people’s lives? Acting correctly (heroically) at the precise moment? Speaking out loud? Sacrificing your life or your resources on behalf of others? Is there any true superhero alive and present among your relatives or friends, school teachers? Fortunately for the mankind, there is no shortage of people who are truly kind and gallant, but they’re not given credit for it that often. That’s why recognizing a hero can be very hard at times. Authentic heroism is not that hard to come by. It’s about a person who is courageous, charitable, and empathetic towards others and, above all, who does something that’s just a little beyond what he or she is supposed to do.
Let’s start with courage. Hero requires courage, which is the lack of fear you can show when you realize that somebody else needs your help, and you are willing to stand up and do the right thing on their behalf. Let’s remember Gandhi. He was a peaceful Indian revolutionary who fought for bringing the caste system down and achieving independence and self-determination for India from the UK. The Indian caste system was one, in which there were higher and lower classes. The lowest caste of all was one called the Untouchables, and they used to do all the dirty work for the upper classes. They were considered to be sub-human within the Indian society. Gandhi thought this to be utterly unfair because your own humanity, in his view, should not depend on the caste you are born in, but it should be all about the merits and the character you develop over time. The authorities sent Gandhi to jail for opposing the caste system. But he didn’t give in; he showed courage and stood by the things he believed in, even if the price to pay was a criminal record and time in jail. Being cowardly means not standing up for your beliefs, while courage is the basic ingredient in the true hero recipe.
Then there’s charitability. This means that other people’s interests, rights, and needs have to be as important to you as your own. Think of Mother Teresa. She’s one of the most well-known charitable people in history. During her life she initiated many missionaries to assist the poor, she built homes and hospitals for people who suffered from serious injuries or were at death’s door. Greed could stop you from doing this. It would put your own risk as a priority and would prevent you from putting yourself and personal interests in danger. Being charitable is one of the highest values promoted by most of the world’s great religions, but it is also one of the most relevant features in heroism.
Another essential characteristic of heroism is empathy. This means you can understand the situation, often a difficult or disadvantageous one that other people are in. This understanding is supposed to drive one towards helping people to overcome and get out of this bad situation while making sure that they do not end up involved in another situation that is even worse. We all know this case about a man called Adam (according to pg. 48 in our Spring Boards; by Ara’s son, Adam). He was worried about his mother’s health because she was sick with cancer. She remained strong, in spite of her own situation, because she knew her family was worried about her. She didn’t want them to be worried; she wanted them carrying out their ordinary life as normally as possible. She was more worried about her loved ones than about herself. You cannot help anybody else unless you know what they are going through. This understanding is the seed that allows you to cultivate the power of generosity and, thus, heroism.
Every time you are staying strong on somebody else’s behalf, every time you give away just a little money to a local charity or save somebody from a fire, you are behaving as nothing less than a true hero. People in your life are being heroic all the time. The reason you don’t see it in the news is that there’s so much of it going on around you that the media can’t possibly cover it all.
Heroism is about courage, charity, and empathy. Do you know people in your life who are true heroes because they have all those three traits?