Modeling Ordinary Heroism

Last week we just finished the summer intensive session of our online course, Teaching for a Positive Future. Twenty-six wonderful traditional and non-traditional educators gathered together to learn, share, connect, and dive deeply into issues of education and helping nurture changemakers and solutionaries.

One of the exercises we do centers on heroes, and how we can cultivate ordinary heroism in ourselves and those around us. We wanted to share one particularly lovely response, from Valerie G., who is an engineer and vegan advocate. This was Valerie's response:

"I remember shortly after Mother Teresa (who was extraordinary) passed away, her memoirs/journals revealed that she had had days that her faith was rocked by the horrible life circumstances she witnessed, and that she felt isolated at times in her work. All I kept thinking was – how remarkable was this woman to wake up every day and work tirelessly, even when she was taken to the depths of suffering and felt alone. Her heroism took commitment, sacrifice, and an iron will. 

The isolation of doing something that goes against the mainstream can knock us off our game. People want to fit in, etc. Modeling heroism in today’s world takes commitment and a strong will to make a difference. It takes the courage to stand alone in your beliefs. It also takes the strength to get back out there day after day to fight the fight, bring awareness to a cause, save a life, teach children who are struggling just to survive their lives outside of school, protect people, protect animals, protect the environment.

While I don’t work with children, I do have a niece and nephew. While they were young (and admittedly today even though they are now in their early 20’s), I would keep myself “plugged” into the things kids their ages were doing, watching, and listening to. It put us on common ground. It allowed me to identify with what was important to them, understand some of the challenges they might be faced with, and allowed us to talk about a lot of things. We had many afternoons on my mother’s swing outside singing songs together. My favorite was listening to them sing Aretha Franklin’s “Respect.”

Modeling ordinary heroism in my day to day life means finding common ground with people and understanding what is important to them and being able to identify with them. It means being who I am, speaking up, and not bending to pressure to disregard my principles to fit in. It means lifting people up for what they've accomplished and encouraging them to continue on.

Modeling an ordinary hero is summed up for me in the quote below by Marvin J. Ashton:

“Be the one who nurtures and builds. Be the one who has an understanding and a forgiving heart - one who looks for the best in people. Leave people better than you found them.”

I have to ask myself: Are there any 'ordinary' heroes? My answer is: I don’t think so. Even ordinary acts of heroism are extraordinary."

Our next session of Teaching for a Positive Future starts October 8. Find out more & register.

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