We turn on the news and hear about the guy who jumped onto the train tracks to save someone. Or we see the image of a firefighter carrying a baby from a burning building. My own father, a longshoreman on the busy piers of New York City in the 1950’s, got a medal from his shipping company for jumping into the murky waters of the Hudson River to save a co-worker who fell off the dock with his forklift. These are heroic acts that deserve recognition and gratitude.
But we don’t hear about the grandmother who tries to keep her daughter’s kids off drug-infested streets. Or the husband who cares for his wife who has Alzheimer’s. Or the sister who takes in a mentally challenged sibling when their parents die. And these people are just as heroic. They might even be more heroic because their courage is not an act of impulse or the nature of a job. It is a life choice to do what they feel is right for the ones they love.
These people are everywhere. They are in our neighborhoods and in our workplace. They are next to us on the bus and in the pews of our churches, synagogues, mosques and temples. They don’t need power, fame or even better than average intelligence to do what they do. They don’t get media coverage. Sometimes they don’t even get a pat on the back. The news outlets and cultural trends can keep harping on the same story and glorifying the same celluloid characters, but the everyday heroes are busy enough in their own corner of the world. Whether anyone is conscious of it or not, they offer themselves up daily for someone they love.
I met a woman at my recent book signing who has progressive multiple sclerosis. She wanted to come out and meet me, even though she could barely walk or talk. Her husband, who obviously loves her very much, suffers from bipolar disorder. I was so honored to meet them, because together they personified the human spirit. They held each other up. Do you know someone like this? Here’s your chance to give them a small tribute.