Monday, December 22, 2008

What makes a hero?

Is a hero the dude in green tights and a black cape who summons super human abilities and conquers evil villains? Is a hero the 15 million dollar outfielder who single-handedly brought a World Championship to your home team with one mighty swing of a bat? I'm sure there are people in sports who inspire people to excel or to be passionate about something, or who represent an entire nation, city or demographic...but it seems that the shine of the word "hero" has been dulled by us not really pointing to the normal everyday people who do heroic things or who make heroic choices and sacrifices for a greater good or over their own well being.

We hear daily how the service men and women returning home from our most recent war receive "a hero's welcome" as they walk through the airport. Are they "all" heroes for being sent to war? Do we give the blanket designation of "heroes"? We often do, and for many of them, it is more than well deserved. Did they voluntarily join the service so they could eventually be hailed as heroes? No, their reasons for enlisting certainly vary, from those who see evil in the world and want to be a part of stomping it out, those who see steady employment and income and increasingly those who see free college four years down the road. Many who have been there know that our military is a bunch of guys and gals doing:
  1. their job (for 100% of our military). After all their service isn't voluntary and free of charge, it is a job, a form of employment and for many a career path with adventure and personal development attached.

  2. what they feel is the right thing to do (for much less than 100% of our military members), meaning they do not only rush off to distant places and put lives on the line just because the big boss so ordered, but also because they believe in the underlying reasons for such military action. Again, this is usually a chunk of our forces that is significantly less than 100%, bringing us back to point #1, they are just doing their job.

Are doctors heroes? Are they heroes because they perform a 13 hour emergency surgery that saves someone's life? Many would say heck yes. Playing devil's advocate I would submit that there are many who are just doing their job.

The other side of the coin would be the defense attorney, you know, the one who defends the likes of O.J. or more recently, Casey Anthony. You absolutely know that THEY know the truth, for argument's sake, that O.J. did it...but it is their job, and they actually take a professional oath, to do their job in the best interest of their client, blah blah blah...We often paint these defense attorneys, especially in high-profile cases, as evil money hungry, attention and fame-hungered jerks who should burn in hell for defending someone who is so obviously guilty and non repentant. Are they monsters for trying to exploit the law and loopholes and technicalities to get their clients off or to get their punishment lessened? Again I guess it would depend on intent...you know, if there is some kid who got free grants for law school after agreeing to become a public defender in the inner city and then this kid gets all of the super bad-doers, and is tasked daily, for years, with defending the scum of the city, is he different than an established attorney who cherry picks cases that would earn the most money or get the most attention? You decide.

This entry turned into something totally different than I intended, forgive me please. The intent was to share with you a person in my life who I consider a hero. He is Pae's big brother, P'Neung. He is the oldest child (hence his name translating to the number "1") and as I found the first year I was here, very protective of his family, especially his baby sister!

Pae's mom, some 10 or so years back, had failure of both of her kidneys and P'Neung, I say heroically, gave one of his healthy kidney's to his mom, not knowing if her body would accept the foreign tissue or not. Now, I'm know that there's a moment when people are confronted with a difficult choice that there is some amount of weighing options and determining the WIIFM. I'm sure that P'Neung's decision to give his kidney to his mom was one of the easiest he has ever made. To have a 50 centimeter incision made in your side/back to have a body part removed and sewn into someone else, because you love them and because you care for their well being just as much or more than you care for your own, I submit to you, is certainly a heroic act.

Pae's mom just spent a couple weeks in the hospital as her kidney stopped working again. She is home now and her condition has improved and her kidney is able to function on its own without the aid of a dialysis machine (didn't have to go that far) and constant monitoring by health care people. Pae just got back to Bangkok from helping take care of her mom with the rest of the family. It's great to have Pae back and equally as awesome that mom has gotten better and is no longer eating bland hospital food! This is a picture of Pae, her mom and P'Neung.


1 comment:

Manda said...

That is an interesting take on what makes one great. I agree that there is a difference between doing your job to the best of your ability and even going beyond that and actually being a hero. Well put, and I think that the discussion could be taken much further. I'm glad that your Pae's mother is alright. There is no event that shakes you more than when you are forced to recognize your parents mortality. I hope she maintains her health for a long, long time!

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