When Heroes Fall

By Erin Drushel
[avatar user=”ErinDrushel” size=”thumbnail” align=”left”]Erin Drushel[/avatar]

It hurts my heart when heroes fall because it hurts us all.  This past week we saw two very public incidents of our heroes falling.  One was a world hero.  The other should have been a hero.

Oscar Pistorius, the South African paralympian showed the world that our disabilities do not define who we are.  He was the first paralympian to be granted the right to participate in the Olympics typically reserved for the so-called “able-bodied.”  For his determination and grit he was elevated to the status of hero by an awe-inspired world.  This past week he was charged with murdering his girlfriend.

Chris Dorner should have been a hero.  This was a man who served his country through military service and his community as a police officer.  No matter what the specific circumstances may be in his particular case, these roles tend to elevate you to the status of protector and hero.  Over these past couple of weeks he became a fugitive and killed four people.

Now, these two news stories are terribly extreme when it comes to falling heroes.  But sadly we don’t have to look too far to find the less extreme cases.

Look at Lance Armstrong and his doping controversy. Look at paralympians who harm themselves to get an edge over their fellow competitors.  I love NFL football, but I’m disappointed that they can’t reach an agreement on HGH (human growth hormone) testing. These are not heroic actions.  But these actions (or lack thereof) are coming from people who are our heroes.

Humans are not perfect, so I don’t expect perfection.  But what pains me the most is that many of these stumbles are not merely human failing.  Alleged murder goes beyond that.  Self-inflicted wounds go beyond that.  It’s pathological and damaging to our society.  When our heroes fall it reverberates through our collective psyche…

So, does this mean we give up on our heroes?

No.

We all need heroes because we need to know that we can be something more.  We need to know that “even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”  (Galadriel, Lord of the Rings)

Perhaps what we need to do is look elsewhere to find our heroes.

I look to the Dalai Lama. He is a simple man who knows himself, failings and all.  He is a man with a simple message and a good heart.  I only wish I could understand more of his philosophy.

I’ve also recently begun to look at Colonel Chris Hadfield, the soon-to-be first Canadian Commander of the International Space Station (ISS).  Now here’s a man who is an accomplished engineer, scientist and astronaut.  But he is also just a wide-eyed little boy sharing his experiences from the ISS by way of social media.  It doesn’t reek of ego.  What he’s sharing is the gift of wonder.  And his recent song with the Barenaked Ladies reached into the heart of this homesick Canadian and made her feel less alone… now that’s a hero.

We also need to look within ourselves.  From there we can temper our expectation of others and – more importantly – discover the hero within.  The hero that someone else can look up to as they try to find their place in this world.

– Erin Drushel

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