The Everyday Hero

We’ve been talking about the hero’s journey and how it relates to you, but sometimes life just seems too overwhelming to consider attempting anything heroic. Heroism, shmeroism! Draw the bath and pour me a tall one!

The world is in turmoil, and it’s causing a lot of fear and anxiety. I can’t even get through the news without Lamaze breathing. But you want to dream big, live a life of meaning and impact, so what to do when the daily anxieties threaten to drag you down?

First off, heroism doesn’t have to look like the Dalai Lama or Mother Teresa. If you aspire to that, fantastic. But most of us are thinking a bit smaller.

You want to dream big and have all those long-term, exciting goals and projects ahead, but you also need to live in the present, which can seem pretty unfriendly to anything grand or inspiring.

The Everyday Hero  I’ve been reading psychologist James Hillman’s work, and in his book The Soul’s Code he talks about the concept of mediocrity. I hit that chapter and thought – whoa! Who on earth wants to be mediocre?

Well, if you think about it, most of us are – and it’s absolutely fine. Despite the outliers like Mother Teresa, most of us live in the middle of the bell curve in terms of heroic deeds and impact.

Here’s Hillman’s take, and when he says “greatness” he means famous greatness, like the people I mentioned:

“What determines eminence is less a call to greatness than the call of character, that inability to be other than what you are… for character is not what you do, it’s the way you do it…. greatness of character matters as much as recognition by acclaim.”

Rosa Parks was certainly a hero, but she started out as a regular person, just like you and me. Granted, she was an activist before her groundbreaking refusal on that bus, but still, that one small, courageous act was a pivotal point in the fight for civil rights, and she became a symbol of all that’s great about humanity. Parks was heroism at its best.

Next month Mom and I are going to Tanzania with some of her Rotary Club colleagues. We’ll spend a week on photo safari in the Serengeti, and then we’ll spend a week at a K-12 school in Arusha to help them celebrate graduation.

Yes, the safari is going to be amazing. But I’m just as excited about meeting the kids and their families, and immersing myself in their world for a little while.

We’re going because Mom and her Rotary Club colleagues are everyday heroes.  Her club has been sponsoring three students at the school for years, and the oldest is graduating in May.

Mom and her friends have been writing small but regular checks over the years, and because of that persistent and heartfelt effort, three young people will head out into the world with a good education, and the awareness that they can pursue their dreams and have their own positive impact in the world.

This is Hillman’s “mediocrity,” which is where the vast majority of us live. You have a chance every day of the week, for the rest of your life, to be a hero to someone. All you need to do is follow the call of your character and take small actions over time.

You don’t have to write a check or travel halfway around the world. It can be as small as adopting an abandoned dog from the shelter. Or writing poems that delight, or bring someone comfort in tough times. There are an endless number of ways you can bring heroism into your life, and you’re probably already doing some of them. Those small things, over time, can lead to much, much bigger impact.

The calling of your character should be at the center of your life and infuse everything you do, because you are the next everyday hero.

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17 Comments

  1. Ron Hagg April 6, 2017 at 9:15 am #

    Yes, everyday heroes.
    Ron Hagg recently posted…HAGGMEDIAMy Profile

    • deonne April 6, 2017 at 9:23 am #

      Ron – Glad it resonated with you!

  2. Emilie Vardaman April 6, 2017 at 10:11 am #

    I do small things. I drive people who cannot drive themselves to the doctor, to the grocery, to visit a relative. I also cook and deliver food to people who are hungry. I occasionally pay for someone’s groceries or medicine.
    Small but I know these things are critically important for the people I do them for.
    Emilie Vardaman recently posted…The Prime SuspectMy Profile

    • deonne April 6, 2017 at 10:27 am #

      Emilie, that’s wonderful! Those small acts really do add up. You’re making the world a better place.

  3. Sherry in MT April 6, 2017 at 12:35 pm #

    We each have our own unique medicrity and our own unique heroism. we each need to identify with our own version of being a hero but the common thread I see in heroes is they are doing for other beings not themselves. I myself think we should strike the word mediocre from our vocabulary and replace it with fabulous!

    • deonne April 6, 2017 at 1:48 pm #

      Sherry – I totally agree about heroes doing for others. I firmly believe service is the primary reason we’re here, even though that can look a lot of different ways. I’m getting comfortable with the word mediocre! But yes, fabulous is a lot more fun. 🙂

  4. Lynda April 6, 2017 at 8:54 pm #

    Deonne, how purrfectly marvelous that you and your Mom will be going to Tanzania with her friends and also for what they have been doing for those girls!
    Yes doing things for others makes our hearts warm, and lil things can be Great!
    When im at the grocery i like to help people find something theyre looking for, start talking to someone in line, moved a wet hurt pig eon out of the road and set it by a tree, save all the extra leftover tortilla chips from restaurant, crush them up and set them out in parking lots where theres lots black birds, getting bugs out of my house safely and putting them into the grass instead of killing them, especially spiders cause im a weaver, etc.
    So we all do our lil parts
    YeiYeiYeiYei

    • deonne April 7, 2017 at 9:02 am #

      Lynda – I love all that you do with your generous spirit. Thanks for commenting.

    • Janet April 7, 2017 at 2:11 pm #

      The school is for boys and girls. The young man we’ve been sponsoring will graduate in May. Great article and wonderful memories of that old farm. And agree about the service to others, no matter how big or small.

      • deonne April 7, 2017 at 3:08 pm #

        Thanks, Janet/Mom! I appreciate the comment, and can’t wait to go on that trip with you.

  5. rob toscano April 7, 2017 at 8:06 pm #

    Have you read Cry of the Kalahari by the Owens.
    Norm MacDonald explains mediocraty this way, to summarise.

    To be mediocre, is to have the ability, but not to apply oneself.
    To have the skill, but to not take the time to use your gifts and developed skills to live to your fullest potential, to just be mediocre.

    • deonne April 8, 2017 at 7:20 am #

      Rob – I’ve heard of that book but haven’t read it, so I’ll check it out. The word mediocrity definitely has a bad rap! But it simply means average, which if you’re thinking in terms of the bell curve, most of us are. Sigh. 🙂

      • rob toscano April 8, 2017 at 8:39 am #

        You are by far extemporaniously, not average. I was asked to add that big word onto my phone dictionary. My phone dictionary is below average.

  6. rob toscano April 8, 2017 at 8:42 am #

    It’s eously, I spelled extemporaneously wrong, I’m glad I didn’t add the incorrect spelling, maybe my phone dictionary is average after all, maybe even mediocre.

    • deonne April 8, 2017 at 8:57 am #

      Rob – That made me laugh! Poor mediocre phone dictionary. Thanks for the comment and the kind words. 🙂

  7. Michelle Wing April 8, 2017 at 2:40 pm #

    This really resonated with me, because I thought of the heroes in my own life, people who have done things for me. A somewhat recent example – I can no longer drive, and 2 years ago in Sonoma County, a writer I admire was offering a creative nonfiction workshop that I was interested in. However, it was a forty minute drive from my home, and would be meeting weekly for six weeks. I wrote to ask if she would be comfortable with me Skyping into the class. She wrote to say she wasn’t very techie, but that she had an idea. A few days later, she contacted me to say that she had arranged for rides for me with other workshop participants! What I did not know until later was that one of my rides was going completely out of her way. She did it because the workshop leader comped her the workshop so I could be there. I was so moved by that…both women, giving in that way. Believe me, those small acts stay with you a long time. And it also inspires me to be generous with others, in the ways that I can. Hope you and your mom have a fabulous trip!

    • deonne April 8, 2017 at 7:27 pm #

      Michelle – What a lovely story! And I love that it inspires you to pass on the generosity. I’m really interested in both concepts of heroism – this everyday version as well as the big, grand kind. Not sure yet where I’m going with it, but I’m appreciating the conversation with you all about it. 🙂

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