Friday, February 16, 2007

We Need a Hero

Heroes are ordinary people who do extraordinary things. The hero's journey is a common theme in literature and film making. A seemingly ordinary, oftentimes less than ordinary, person feels like they don't quite belong. They leave home to find out where they really belong and on the way, through many trials and tribulations, discover that they are indeed special. But that "specialness" is not something to hoard. It is something to give away and used in the service of others. Heroes are unselfish individuals who usually sacrifice themselves for the sake of others. In the words of Spock, "the good of the many outweighs the good of the one."

More recently, NBC's new hit show Heroes, explores these themes in detail. One character in particular, Hiro, spouts the hero's code in every episode. The SciFi Channel's reality show, Who Wants to Be a Superhero?, capitalizes on the innermost dreams of many "ordinary" people who want desperately to matter to society in a real way. They want to be a heroes.

There are heroes all around us, and most of them are like Superman - they wear the street clothes of the everyday worker and hide their secret identities until just the right time. A real superhero never reveals his or her secret identity. A real hero doesn't tout his abilities.

Teachers are heroes. For some children, they are the only heroes in their lives. Rescuing is part of the job of a hero and for some teachers, that's something they do every day. Admittedly, sometimes they rush in and rescue without considering the consequences of their actions. They see a child in trouble and they get tunnel vision. Nothing else really matters. If you saw the movie, The Incredibles, it's very similar. Those superheroes were sued and eventually had to go into hiding for doing what they did best - come to the rescue.

No teacher is perfect. In fact, they're flawed human beings like everyone else. It's interesting to note that we become unmasked if our students see us at the mall - so most teachers avoid malls on Friday or Saturday nights (middle school students hang out there on Fridays, high schoolers on Saturdays). It's just that as a society we spend so much time pointing out their imperfections that we devalue the good that they do.

We all need a hero in our lives. My hero is my God, but for many people they may be stuck with me as their hero - a flawed human being. Maybe, just maybe, their encounter with me will point them to the Greatest Hero of all.