What Does It Take to be a True Hero?

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. They can be young or old, black or white, rich or poor. If you look up the word at dictionary.com, you’ll see this is the first definition:

a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.

9/11 afforded many people the opportunity to look within themselves and find the hero within. We all have that quality within us. It’s that drive that enables us to put the needs of others before our own in times of trouble or sadness. That selflessness becomes a mark of maturity, demonstrating that we’ve learned a vital lesson. The world does not revolve around us.

Take a few minutes this day to watch this video, reflect upon it’s message and look within your own heart and mind.

The world needs more heroes. Where can you step up and make a difference in someone’s time of need? Whether it’s volunteering on your kid’s soccer team, mentoring a fatherless child, serving at a local soup kitchen, helping someone out financially, visiting with an elderly neighbor, or something completely different. When average people step up to fill a need, coming together and pulling together, they can accomplish amazing things.

As the narrator, Tom Hanks, shared:

The great boatlift of 9/11 became the largest sea evacuation in history, larger than the evacuation of Dunkirk in World War II, where 339,000 British and French soldiers were rescued over the course of nine days. On 9/11, nearly 500,000 civilians were rescued from Manhattan by boat. It took less than nine hours…

Don’t live your life wondering “Should I have?” And don’t wait for tragedy to strike to call up that inner hero. You have the ability to make the world a better place today.

I’d love for each of my readers to share whatever they’d like in the comments below, whether it’s their memories of how 9/11 affected them, or how they are inspired by this post and video to step up and commit letting their own inner hero loose. For those of us who lived through 9/11/2001, the world was forever changed. But we have it within ourselves to continue that change, embracing the spirit of self-sacrifice that made us proud to be Americans, to make a positive difference in our communities today.

Are you going to step up to the challenge?

Those Left Behind

Iwo 9-11As many of you may already know, my sister was deployed to Kuwait last year. She had originally signed up for military service after 9/11.  Living in a bedroom community of NYC, my family and I still clearly remember that day in 2001 and how helpless we all felt watching the same horrific images over and over again on the TV.

Not long after, my sister found her way of addressing that sense of helplessness and became the official property of the U.S. government.  With three years of active service behind her, she was ready to get back to her own life.  A couple of years later, the government had second thoughts.  They informed her days just before Christmas in 2008 that her services were required once more.  So, back into action she went; putting her life, career and future plans on hold so that you and I could appreciate the freedoms we each have and often risk taking for granted.

Just days after 9/11, we saw communities band together, strangers helping one another without fear or expectation of reward.  A Romanian reporter, Mr. Cornel Nistorescu, said it best in his “Ode to America:”

What on earth can unite the Americans in such a way? Their land? Their galloping history? Their economic Power? Money? I tried for hours to find an answer, humming songs and murmuring phrases with the risk of sounding commonplace.

I thought things over, but I reached only one conclusion…

Only freedom can work such miracles.

True leadership means stepping up and doing what needs to be done when no one else is willing or able to do so.  It means focusing on the greater good, and sometimes taking on onerous tasks we would much rather avoid.  It means sacrificing our time, our talents and, sometimes, our lives.  When people are running out of burning building, true leaders run inside of it to bring out the last man.  If you are content with the “status quo,” don’t aspire to be a leader.  Leaders bring change and they make a difference.  There’s no room for the “status quo” there.

Leaders come in all shapes, sizes and ages.  Having seen an unmet need, the Bangor Troop Greeters, Bill Knight, Joan Gaudet, and Jerry Mundy transform their lives and the lives of others by greeting U.S. troops at a tiny airport in Maine.  On call 24/7 for the past 6 years, this group of senior citizens is showing true leadership by ensuring that every troop passing through the Bangor airport en route overseas or returning home receives a personal greeting, no matter what time of the day or night they are passing through.  To date, they have spoken with nearly one million soldiers, helping them along their way.  Just this past week, my sister had the pleasure of being greeted by Jerry as she returned home from overseas.  As with so many others, he gave her a friendly welcome, offered her a cell phone to call loved ones, and let her know how much her service was valued.  (For more information about the Bangor Troop Greeters, I highly recommend watching a documentary called “The Way We Get By.”)

A full year after she left to report for duty, my sister is home again.  We are delighted to have her back in our midst, and thankful for her time of service.  As Memorial Day approaches, take some time to think of the freedoms you enjoy here as an American citizen.  Whether you agree with the War on Terror or not, think of the sacrifices being made on your behalf so that you can have your own opinion and voice it freely.  Those sacrifices are being made by soldiers, their families, their friends, and their employers.  And those same sacrifices have been made time and time again throughout American history to ensure that we retain the freedoms we now have.  Rather than standing around the water cooler, complaining about the way things are in this country, these leaders have generously paid the way for us.  So, be sure to take a few minutes out to thank them.  Our soldiers and veterans deserve it!