Today Madeline held a service about heroes we have for our own lives. We all contributed to the discussion by describing our experience with heroism. Interestingly, many of us had people who were great influences on our lives, and we describe these people our own personal heroes. An uncle who's model behavior was an inspiration to one of us. An aunt who lived through terrible hardship and tragedy, yet still kept her grace and optimism was an inspiration of another of us. A father who migrated to America as a young man was an inspiration. This young immigrant lived through the great depression, WWII and was never able return to his European homeland, yet passed on the values of hard work in the face of adversity in his new country without any support from family.
One member named her personal hero to be John Lofton, who spoke to us once at a Sunday service. John had no use of his legs, and only partial use of his arms. Yet, he earned a degree, had a job at which he excelled, and owned his own house.
Andy said he had met some genuine heroes of the battlefields of Korea when he was in the Marines. They struck him as ordinary people, and they claimed to be nothing more than that. Such is common among heroes, I think. "A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles" - Christopher Reeve, actor. By that measure, all the individuals we had been talking about were courageous but most had never been put in a position to endure battlefield obstacles.
We also discussed famous heroes and their flaws. Sports heroes, and legends of music are often looked upon as heroes, often with significant flaws. But really, they come from all walks of life. Often, someone who has the perseverance to become the best, will not have a pleasant personality. Some people who have done heroic things are people that no one particularly wants as a friend. Will Rogers noted that "being a hero is about the shortest-lived profession on earth." He had obviously met some of those heroes with personality flaws. The "Me Too" movement has shown that a lot of accomplished people have very significant flaws.
Ultimately, we have no answers. But, as Unitarian Universalists, we are encouraged to keep seeking, keep discussing, and keep growing in our understanding. We have no creed in this church, just a continuing search for meaning (see the 7 UU principles). Come join us at 11:00 on Sunday and add your voice. We like to hear new voices.