I think many people as they are children, as they grow up, pretending at heroes, or reading about heroes in comics decides they want to BE a hero. I think of the story of one woman who had heard so much about Abraham Lincoln and admired him that when she was finally shown him close up pass by the woman said, “Well, he’s not much to look at is he?”
There are different types of heroes. Yes, there are those who train to go into burning buildings, who we call upon in times of need, who are there for our medical and other emergencies. That is one type of hero. I have to admit I was attracted to the Welsh police for if not for the stupid hats the women are required to wear.
Then there are the types of heroes that change lives in quiet ways, those like David of the Japan Cat Project, like Tammy with her Cat Refuge and Shelter; like the teachers, parents, the pastors, the people who by day to day work make this world a better place. Those who change lives by reaching out, by noticing the quiet child or the acting out child and work to help them instead of label them a problem. These are heroes and a lot of us have memories of a teacher who made a difference, emotional, intellectual, the gift they gave change from person to person but those people are heroes too.
Someone today said that often people choose the easy answer over the complex one. That’s how we like our heroes, to be Supermen, or people with extraordinary ability. People tend not to think about what someone like Stephen Hawking had to overcome to educate and revolutionize the way we understand our universe.
In the film To Kill a Mocking Bird there is a scene after Atticus has fought hard, fought clearly in a trial against a black man sexually touching a white woman. The courtroom is empty except for the gallery where his two children young female Scout and her older brother Jem are with the black community. “Get up,” one man tells Scout, and she looks at him in puzzlement, and he just says, “Your father is coming.” And as Atticus walked out of the courtroom, empty but for the gallery where every person rose to stand as Atticus passed by. He was a man who spoke for those who were denied a voice; a person who would not relent or compromise himself to public opinion, a person who gave it all, even when the outcome was predetermined from the onset. He was a hero. A rare and special type of hero, and for once, while still living, he was recognized as such. He, for a time, wore the cloak of greatness.
I knew when I read that book and saw that film, what kind of hero I wanted to be. The hard kind. Don’t mistake me, the people who do all those things, day after day for 10 years and change the world, they are heroes, unacknowledged heroes. But to act, because you know it is right. Not because you believe it is right, but because you KNOW it is right, and everyone else knows it too, but no one else will act, and you do. That is hard. That is greatness.
I know the feeling because there is total terror inside. Because you have no idea what will happen next, and that is terrifying. And yet you still have to act. Perhaps, probably there will be violence against you, perhaps, probably you will be hated, spurned, rejected.
When I was a child and I was being hit, and cut, and tortured and raped, I waited, I BELIEVED that someone would come. That a hero would come and I would be saved. No one came. I have ached looking out over the city to be the person to break down the door and save the girl or boy who is lying there thinking the same thing. They have been told they will be protected, or that God is watching over them, or if there is trouble the police will come and yet no one comes.When I started to talk about my sexual abuse experiences, I talked to my therapist/counselor about talking about it, and I was warned, told that I could be physically attacked. I was told that it is not uncommon for mothers to try to shut up the voice that is saying what they don’t want to hear so badly that they try to strangle the person. That the family would rather believe the person crazy than it is the truth. That idea is EASY, the truth is complex and difficult. But for every man or woman who writes, or speaks, or publishes about this; 5, 10, 100, 1,000 – I don’t know how many children won’t have to lie there begging inside for a hero to come. That’s because one already stood up; they took the abuse for talking about it and the anger from the family and society about this taboo subject so that the world would change. They speak for themselves but also for those who have no voice. They speak to give fear and pause to those who would sexually exploit or rape, that what they do in darkness will be examined in the light.
Talking or writing about it gives you panic attacks; it makes you feel like vomiting as you do it (at least it does me). And when you realize that the people you are talking about would rather kill you than hear you it is terrifying. But it isn’t really for them. And yes, the parents, the protectors often would rather hurt you, any way they can, from abandonment, to gossip, to verbal and physical attacks in order to just SHUT YOU UP. There is ALWAYS a reason for ‘not now’ or to not talk about it. What reason is there for the children who lie tonight praying for a hero? What is so important, what reputation, or unpleasant, or social taboo subject is so important that a person really has a valid reason if 100 of them live without that hell, if 50 could, if 10 could, if 5 could, if just one life could be changed?But to speak, to write, to change the world, until there are no children or others to need to wait for a hero to come and save them from that particularly hell, that makes these people are heroes. They save lives. Yet no one will say, “Stand up, SHE/HE is passing.” But heroes all the same.
I have only wanted to live and die in service. To die knowing that the other person was safe. I learned late that simply living the truth, and refusing to give in to demands to shut up about it (whatever ‘it’ happens to be this time) or pretend otherwise can produce the most extreme reactions. Day upon day and month upon month of vicious attacks simply because you are still alive. I am finding that when my care agency threatens to remove all care because I call the police on a worker, that maybe there is another group which has no voice. That people seem to think ‘keeping my job’ is more important than ‘doing my job’ and when not doing the job causes potential injury or suffering to people, a person who speaks about that is hated by all those ‘keeping their job’. A person, like me, who opens up investigations by the government branch against their own care manager DOES feels a bit sick in the stomach. Particularly when the care manager tries four times in one meeting earlier this week to get me put into care; a care center where I would be younger by 50 years than others and bound to my bed and finally UNDER CONTROL. I mean, under care.
I realize that I am not exactly going to be killed leading the charge of the resistance, or saving a drowning child. That is not my fate. That for me now, staying breathing is often the battle. That degenerate diseases and disabilities have their own battles which are unseen, unimagined. Yet, oddly it is here, that I can honestly say I have met heroes. People who, in pain, affected by disease and impairment, go on, regardless and bring purpose and joy to others. It does not diminish the pain, the fatigue, the progression of the symptoms, the medical debt, the thousand little things that drain away energy. No, but they continue on, doing their jobs, or waiting lying in beds, building, planning for the days they emerge again, because they have a heroes spirit. Just because they are trampled, they are crushed under the weight of social alienation and medical conditions beyond bearing, not for months but for YEARS, for DECADES and yet they go on. Sometimes just surviving the day is going on, sometimes preparing just ONE MEAL for another is going on, sometimes they take care of others if only just for a day. Or for some days they have a job, they share part of themselves. They resist the call to give up. I find myself in a company of heroes, in wheelchairs, in braces, in scooters, in beds, in hands covered with bits of superglue.
No, you will not be recognized for your actions. Nor your resistance, your going on. Instead you will pitied, or looked down upon. But I can see who you are. And while you will not likely receive it elsewhere in your life; know this, that inside I am standing because I recognize that a touch of greatness is passing by.
4 hours ago