A hero (heroine in female) (Ancient Greek: ἥρως, hḗrōs), in Greek mythology and folklore, was originally a demigod, their cult being one of the most distinctive features of ancient Greek religion.1 Later, hero (male) and heroine (female) came to refer to characters who, in the face of danger and adversity or from a position of weakness, display courage and the will for self sacrifice—that is, heroism—for some greater good, originally of martial courage or excellence but extended to more general moral excellence.
Our society honors many types of achievement and it is quite possible that the term hero is overused. I often wonder about this concept when I see the grand awards handed out for the Oscars or Emmy’s or even for athletes. It seems to me that we spend so much time gawking or honoring celebrities that we can forget the people who do so much for so many closer to home. Perhaps those people seem too much like ourselves and so cannot be elevated to the pantheon of heroes.
Last night a friend of mine died unexpectedly. To be honest, I did not know him well at all. We are both members of a soccer league that is run by volunteers. I have a very small role in that league and I always marvel at the energy and commitment of the people who make the league (and others like it) run. Our league provides recreational soccer to almost 1,000 kids every fall and about half that many in the spring. My friend was one of the leaders of the league. One of the people who spends countless hours year round to make sure that the league continues to thrive. The only payback is the feeling of helping the community and seeing the kids. Often parents will thank you for your efforts. Less often someone will treat you less respectfully for not meeting their demands or expectations.
We honor those people who make the “big” differences in the world and yet the world wouldn’t work without the countless regular people who make a small effort every day to make their community a better place.
In many ways the word hero is overused but today I can’t think of a better word. My friend was a hero and our community is a better place for him having been there.