Recently, Glenn Beck has been lamenting an experience he had with his son, Raphe, who, I gather, is around five years old. He had been discussing “heroes,” and referring to regular men. Raphe looked at him and said, “They’re not heroes, daddy. They don’t fly or wear capes!”
This statement really bothered Glenn. He worried aloud that we don’t have heroes anymore, except for the ones on the Silver Screen. That when we find heroes, we strip them down, we do our level best to destroy them. We have to teach our children about heroes, he said. We have to teach them that heroes don’t fly, they don’t wear capes or have supernatural powers. Heroes are regular people. He is saddened that his little boy doesn’t understand that.
But I submit that it’s ok that Raphe doesn’t understand that yet. He understands the concept of a hero. He understands that a hero is a guy that stands up when everyone else has fallen. He is the wall in the face of the storm. He is the rock that all others cling to. But little kids don’t get that.
Consider these pictures:
Through the eyes of a child, which ones are the heroes? Superman, of course. And UnderDog, and Wonder Woman. Because they’re flashy, they can fly and do cool things. They have capes! But as that child grows, he will understand that those things are trappings. That what makes a hero lies behind the eyes, and in the heart…
Marcus Luttrell, Navy SEAL: Team 10, the “Lone Survivor” of Operation Redwing. Sent to find one of Osama Bin Laden’s henchmen, the team found themselves betrayed by three Afghanis. Luttrell and his partners fought the waves of Taliban fighters that assaulted them, eliminating around 100 of them, but during the fight, a Chinook helicopter and her 16 crew, sent to rescue the Team, were shot down and killed, and the rest of Luttrell’s team was killed. Luttrell, alone, survived to tell the story.
Todd Beamer organized the passengers of United Flight 93, fighting the terrorists that hijacked the plane, ultimately causing the plane to crash in a field in rural Pennsylvania, rather than into the buildings for which it was intended. There is no counting the number of lives that Mr. Beamer and his fellow passengers may have saved. Todd’s last known words were, “Let’s Roll.”
Capt. “Sully” Sullenberger safely landed his Airbus A320 aircraft in the Hudson River when the engines blew out after hitting a flock of birds. There were no fatalities and only minor injuries.
Honey, a five-month old English Cocker Spaniel puppy who was in an SUV with her owner when the vehicle went off the road and tumbled into a ravine, landing upside down. The driver of the vehicle told the pup to go for help, and she did, running to a house approximately ½ mile away, and attracting the attention of the owner, who followed Honey to the scene of the wrecked vehicle. Honey saved her owner’s life that day.
Kankuntu is a mutt who thinks he’s a lion. On a boat ride with his owners, their 41-foot yacht was being hijacked by pirates when Kankuntu attacked the invaders. Despite being shot and stabbed by the attackers, he fended them off… and then made a full recovery.
Junior, a 14-month old Shih Tzu, who smelled smoke in the middle of the night and barked until her family and their six guests were roused from sleep and safely outside the burning house.
Sgt. Kimberly Munley, the officer who arrived on the scene at the recent Ft. Hood shooting. She moved quickly into the scene and engaged the shooter, firing four shots and bringing him down, but not without suffering gunshots, herself.
Hermine Santroucschitz (also known as Miep Gies) hid the Frank family, as well as other individuals and families, for two years while the Germans occupied Holland during WWII. In addition to keeping their secrets, she was charged with finding food for the families in a world where food was a dwindling resource.
Rosa Parks, on December 1, 1955, gave a face to the struggle for Civil Rights by simply staying seated on a bus when a white man approached her and requested her seat. Her quiet protest earned her the title, “mother of the Civil Rights Movement.”
None of those people… or dogs… set out to be a hero. With the exception of Marcus Luttrell and Kimberly Munley, none had been specifically trained for the position they were in, none ever expected to be where they were, doing what they were doing. But all stood, in the face of fear and uncertainty. Facing possible punishment or even death, and bore the responsibility gracefully. That is what makes a hero.
And as Raphe, and all of our children grow, they will learn that the cape is there, you just can’t see it. It’s part of the Hero Thing… going incognito.