Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Where Have All the Heroes Gone?

We are losing our heroes. They are dying off at an unseemly rate. Hundreds if not thousands of World War II veterans die every day. Soon, there will be no more. Our astronauts are aging or dying of disease.

We lost Sally Ride, a hero for women all over the world. We just lost Neil Armstrong, whose "one small step for man" stiffened the shoulders of Americans everywhere. 

I was in a tiny mountain village on that wonderful day. After three weeks in a Zen nunnery, my abbess called me to walk into town with her. We weren't supposed to leave the grounds for the six-week program I'd enrolled in, but this 90+-year-old tiny holy woman walked me down to the town. We stopped in front of a television store, where I swear the entire town's population was standing around, watching grainy black-and-white images of a man in a bulky space suit stepping onto the dusty surface of something other than Earth. I never felt so proud.

Our heroes are leaving us with memories and few people to replace them. No space program, although the men and women at JPL should be recognized as heroes for landing Curiosity on Mars. Every person who served in Iraq and Afghanistan is a hero, but they are unsung. We're not throwing parades. Neither are we throwing insults the Vietnam-era vets received when they came home, broken and bent.

We need heroes. Some are small heroes whom few people will ever meet. Like Travis Redman. Who's Travis Redman? Certainly not a sports star. Travis is nine. He was upset last year when a schoolmate came to school wearing clothes that didn't fit. He asked his legal guardian Joyce Riley if there wasn't something he could do.

From a simple question to a room full of donated clothing, Travis had his answer. Yes, there was something he could do. Travis posted some flyers at local churches, attracted the attention of the Roanoke Times. Before long, donations flooded in. By the time school was a week away, the donations filled an entire room.

Riley washed and folded all the donated clothes, even burning out one washing machine before a friend donated a used replacement. When the day came to distribute the clothing, each child received two outfits, plus shoes purchased from cash donations.

Where have all our heroes gone? They are under our noses. We just need to look harder for them. Like Travis Redman. He saw something he could fix and fixed it. He is my hero.


C. Neuroticus Absolutus said...

Well, obviously you are back and in good form. Maybe the rest did you some good? As for your hero, he's mine, too. A great post!

Maryann Miller said...

Really enjoyed the post. So glad that you pointed out that there are heroes large and small all around us.

One that immediately comes to mind for me is the owner of the company that my great-nephew works for. My nephew has a rare form of cancer that is untreatable. Recently, his boss paid for him and his mother to take a trip and gave him some spending money. Ever since my sister told me about this, I have been thinking what a wonderful thing that was for the company to do. How many of us have bosses who would do such a thing?

Rahma Krambo said...

This same question often crosses my mind.

In the not too distant past, I think there was more support and admiration for people of good character. Now, because of easy access to media, the cult of personality reigns supreme. Whoever is the most outrageous gets not only attention, but 'followers'.

I do believe there are many quiet heroes like young Travis however. It's often the quiet ones, isn't it? Thank you for telling his story.

Marian Allen said...

Wonderful! Thank you for sharing Travis' story. It's great to know there are young people like him out there, growing up to (I hope) lead the country.

Marian Allen
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Betsy Ashton said...

Thanks for telling me about your great-nephew and his wonderful boss. Yes, we have heroes all around us. Sometimes they just check on neighbors who may be old or ill. Sometimes they do great, huge things. They are all truly heroes in my eyes.

Morgan Mandel said...

Sounds like Travis is starting out in the right direction!

Morgan Mandel