Hero. A word kicked around far more in the past 10 years than I have heard in my entire life. Are there more heroes? Do we hear more about them because of the much-despised 24-hour news cycle? Or have we just stretched the definition of the word?
I don’t have a dictionary handy or I’d be forced to write those hacky, cringe-worthy words “Webster’s dictionary defines…” but it’s safe to say the most recent definition is something along the lines of a person who does something that another person admires. That’s dumb, I know. Really, I think the people who go around calling other people “hero” are really trying to draw attention to themselves. “If I say that my 7-year-old son is my hero, I’ll look cool and get laid!” says a fictional single dad as he sets up his online dating profile. Oh yeah? How is a little boy your hero? Did he drag you from a burning vehicle with no regard for his personal safety? No. I think he just puts up with your crap and no longer pees the bed. Hero? OK, but it’s only downhill from here on out for the little guy.
If we’re spreading this word around, how about applying it to getting up in the morning when you’re tired, or depressed, sick or feeling too anxious to breathe or leaving your house when you feel ugly and fat and old, with nothing to offer the world but a sour expression and empty hands. Is it heroic to walk through downtown before sunrise, navigating the gauntlet of sleeping bodies, speeding taxis and sewer steam only to sit in the same position hour and after hour at a task that seems meaningless yet somehow hysterically urgent? It could be. You do it with no regard for your personal safety – the safety of your sanity and wrist tendons. But to whom are you a hero? The doorman, the barista, the guy playing bucket bongos?
Call me crotchety, but heroes don’t need to be named. We all know who they are, and they don’t want to be called one. Have you ever noticed that? The reporter makes the suggestion and the hero refuses, “I was just doing my job.”
I seem to have meandered away from my thesis, unless I can change it from “Hero: A Word that is Overused” to “Here’s Everything I’ve Ever Thought About Heroes in a Point-of-View Shifting Essay.”
Thanks for reading.