I think we can all agree that heroism is the best of human nature. Would you consider yourself a hero? I doubt many of us would. Are our heroes really only the famous sports players making touchdowns or goals for handsome fees, actors who repeat another’s written words, or the politicians we hear spewing the same rhetoric? Or are they the hard-working selfless people who may not be nationally known, but make a difference that no one else sees or, for that matter, cares about.
A hero, by one definition, is a person noted for courageous acts or nobility of character. Other definitions state that a hero is a person admired for noble qualities or one who shows great courage in the face of adversity. In researching what a hero is, the common words that consistently occur are ‘noble’ and ‘courage’. There are very few of us who think we are either noble or courageous, and definitely not worthy enough to be considered a hero.
For many, seeing another in pain and responding with indifference or hostility is beyond comprehension, but it is a fact that some people do respond that way. Apparently, empathy is not a universal response to the suffering of others. A 2009 study, “The Hero Concept: Self, Family, and Friends who are Brave, Honest, and Hopeful,” found that people who have heroic tendencies have a much higher degree of empathy.
Concern and care for others is eroding. In fact, research backs up that very notion. I, like others, see a culture that feels increasingly cruel and disconnected. Customs, routines, etc. that used to bring us into regular contact with others, have been replaced by solitary pursuits, often done online. The result is that our interactions are more sparse and more anonymous, which is a wasteland for empathy. Yet, empathy is essential to respond to the suffering of others, including animals. Human attitudes to animals are indicative of human-human empathy.
In the song “Everyday Heroes” by Aaron Lines, some of the lyrics are “Thank God for the everyday heroes, for all you’ve done and for all you do. Thank God for the everyday heroes, it’s a better world because of you.” True heroes define themselves by physically helping others, not just paying “lip service”. They help others for the common good, not the fame. Although they may not be obvious, heroes do exist. They are the everyday people who help those who cannot help themselves and are empathetic to those suffering. They make a choice to use their minds, their actions and their voice to work selflessly to build a better world. Whether you agree or not each one of us, as an individual, also has the opportunity to step up and become an everyday hero.
Have you ever wondered what it takes to help homeless, abused or neglected animals? In our small community there are many who use hard work, dedication and ideas to give those creatures a second chance. Who are they? They are the volunteers, shelter workers, animal control officers, rescue organizations, veterinarians, fosters, transporters, businesses, etc., who are regular people taking a stand to improve the lives of those who cannot stand up for themselves. They are striving to build a better world. They are, in fact, everyday heroes.
I understand that fear may be a factor in taking a stand. It can cause hesitation and reluctance to act. However, I would bet that most of these everyday heroes will tell you that they must do something, and if they do not they will not be able to face themselves in the mirror. That is the nobility of character part of being a hero. It is how you value yourself as a person and how you authenticate that value. Embracing our fears and pushing them aside to do what is right is the courage portion of being a hero. Still think you are not worthy enough to be considered a hero?
It is easy to feel that any singular effort is futile. To think that one person can do anything to change the status quo may seem absurd. It is also easy to come up with a thousand-and-one excuses why you should not get involved. While you may not be able to do everything, you can do something, and something is definitely better than nothing. Do not let fear or laziness stop you. The world needs heroes. It needs people who will be courageous and act on principle, but where to find them? The answer is closer than you think. The truth is that it can start, it must start, with you. Do not wait for circumstances to be perfect. Stop whining and waiting for someone else to handle things. Just do it yourself! Somebody is waiting for a hero. You may be the best and only opportunity they will ever have.
Want to be a hero? Consider adopting a homeless animal. If you cannot adopt, then help others in their endeavors. You can volunteer, foster, or provide transport assistance. If you cannot donate time, then just donate. Our local shelter and rescues need supplies. Finances are a daily struggle, so every penny contributed, or saved by donated supplies, helps immeasurably. And while you are at it, applaud all the unsung everyday heroes who work making a difference in the lives of animals in Tehama County.
We definitely need more Everyday Heroes. Try being one.
Ronnie Casey is President of SPOT — Stray Pets of Tehama. She can be reached at email@example.com. For more information about SPOT, please visit spottehama.com.