Sunday, December 30, 2007

We, the Quiet Heroes

"Yesterday is but a dream,
Tomorrow a forgotten thought.
So live today that it may be
A memory without remorse." (Unknown)

At this time of year we tend to be thinking about those things we want to change. There are those few pounds we want to lose or those extras we want to cut out in order to tuck away more money in our savings account for our later years, perhaps. We will eat better and lower our cholesterol. No more cussing. Maybe we ought to read more and watch TV less. After watching a few commercials on TV or leafing through some magazines, we can easily come to the conclusion that by the expectations of our American culture, none of us seems acceptable. We are expected at age ninety to ride our bicycles through the mountains as if we were teenagers. Women are expected to look like ingénues well into their sixties. All our children are indeed gifted or are star potential. And men still are to be mighty heroes who can save the world even if they need a bit of Viagra from time to time. While it is admirable to reach for the stars, for own well- being we have to stay grounded at the same time.

Ever preoccupied with our flaws, I worry that we in this Prozac- based country do not respect enough the little bit of hero in each of us. I see heroism in those who quietly go about their daily demands while caring for the sick or their elderly parents. I see the heroism in teachers, overworked by unrealistic demands of parents and legislators who now believe that all children can perform equally well or at “A” level, expecting a public school teacher of twenty plus students to now function as their child’s very own private tutor. I respect those doctors who must diagnose all manner of symptoms in the matter of the few minutes the insurance companies now allot them. There are the uncomplaining patients who struggle in silence so as not to burden others with their fears or needs and the too few nurses who want to take care of them. There are those silent hero parents, dads and mothers, who work long hours to pay for their children’s college educations. There are those gracious neighbors who also mow the grass of the elderly widow next door or shovel her snow in the winter. There are those valiant volunteers locally like those who work for the Flemington Food Pantry and the Interfaith Hospitality Network, and across our nation who provide food, shelter and clothing for those who need assistance. Hardly noticed but very dedicated and self- sacrificing. Our police, firemen and emergency rescue workers...our troops, need I say more about those heroes?

As much as we want to be embraced for having made the grade, we are perhaps more sustained in daily life by the quiet heroism that we seldom give a second thought. Perhaps when making our New Year’s resolutions, among them may we resolve to find the quiet heroism in others and in ourselves. May we resolve to respect that we are, each in our own way a hero of sorts, a quiet hero. There is dignity and strength of character in our daily, unsung heroism that we should be proud of. Maybe it is a bit of self- improvement too if we respect that bit of glory within us rather than highlighting the flaws we believe we must rectify because some capitalist hawking his wares tells us we are not good enough or, some talking- head fills us with unattainable goals. We quiet heroes are plenty good enough. Amid our seemingly barren flaws, within us there are some lovely roses in bloom. A little more self- respect and a little less self- criticism may mean a lot less Prozac.

Happy New Year and all the best in 2008!

Stay tuned.

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