More than a sandwich

(“Must a hero do something ‘heroic?’”)

The other night a local newspaper reporter phoned me. He was planning a story on my late wife and was looking for insights into her character and what drove her passion for environmental concerns. One question he posed was “Who were her heroes?”
That one stopped me. It was a bit socking that I could have known someone for 46 years and lived with her for much of that time without having a good answer.

The best I could come up with on short notice was Carl Hiaasen, the crusading Miami Herald columnist and author of a long string of delightfully warped novels with an underlying serious message. Susan had corresponded with him intermittently over the years, and they shared the same fire.

The exchange left me contemplating exactly what a hero is. Clearly it must be in the eye of the beholder, and the same answer is not required of each person you ask. Must a hero do something “heroic?” Or is being a significant role model and a positive influence on one’s life be enough to qualify? Is it necessary to perform a conscious, premeditated act to qualify as a hero? Is it a different kind of hero if whatever you do in that signal moment you do by reflex? May a hero be flawed in other aspects of his or her life and yet still qualify in that most important one? Must you have some personal interaction with your hero? Can your hero be some celebrity like the kind that high school yearbooks always used to be dedicated to—Jonas Salk, Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, JFK? Or is it too easy to pick universally acknowledged front runners( Like beauty pageant contestants all wanting world peace)?

By now are you thinking home you might choose? I’m trying to answer that question for myself.