Look for the heroes

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“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of overcoming it.”  – Helen Keller

 The word ‘hero” has lost its merit in recent years.

These days, celebrities and athletes are falsely portrayed as the heroes of our society. The criteria required to reach hero status has been reduced to nothing more than a facade.

Very few in the limelight have shoulders broad enough to carry the weight of a true hero.

The real heroes are all around us, hidden in plain sight, evading notoriety. True heroes are rarely given the appropriate recognition, but their altruism molds us into better people and changes society for the better. Real heroes have a resonating effect on generations yet to come.

For me, my hero was my grandfather.

He was an old-time freewill Baptist preacher, the last of a dying breed. He was the patriarch of my family, and an unshakable pillar of support. We could go to him for anything. 

In times of uncertainty and distress, he was a voice of reason. His voice could calm any raging storm that popped up in my life or the lives of my family members. 

“Pap”, as he was known to us, only had a 5th grade education, but he was the wisest and most knowledgeable man I’ve ever known.

He knew the Bible from cover to cover, and could offer a verse for any situation. He taught me to have faith and trust in God.

Pap touched a different realm when he prayed, a dimension where mere mortals aren’t allowed. The presence would be so thick in the air that it felt as if reality could be pulled away like a curtain to unveil heaven on the other side, real enough to turn the most stubborn atheist into a believer.  

Even when Pap didn’t have a solution for my minuscule problems, he’d bring comfort and peace until the storm passed. When our world fell apart, Pap could put it back together again.

The real heroes

On September 11th, 2001 our world was falling apart.

I was very young at the time but, like all who experienced that day, I still remember where I was and the emotions I felt as the events unfolded.

I remember feeling angry as I watched the news. My anger morphed into horror and disbelief, then to fear and uncertainty as the heaviness of the situation quickly gripped me.

As always, I went to Pap for guidance. I distinctly remember what he told me. 

He pointed out that I was focusing on the wrong thing. He went on to explain that I needed to take my focus off of the terrible actions and the murderous cowards who performed the horrendous acts.

Pap told me to look for the heroes.

He said heroes were all around us. He said there was hope all around us. Pap said to focus on the good, because there was far more good than evil in our world.

As always, Pap was right.

In the days and weeks that followed 9/11, we witnessed a divided nation come together unified as one. We saw first responders giving their lives for people whom they had never met. We saw medical personnel spring into action in a moment’s notice. We witnessed hundreds of volunteers sifting through seemingly infinite piles of rubble for weeks looking for survivors. We saw our service men and women fearlessly fight for the freedoms we take for granted.

These are the true heroes.

Not the athletes, actors, or celebrities, who boarded themselves up in their mansions when things got real. The heroes are those people who ran toward the death and destruction instead of away from it. The “regular” people who risked their lives, and gave their lives, to save others.

When I focused on the heroes, my fear quickly turned to pride, and I realized there was hope. I realized we would recover and be even stronger than we were before.

A nation of heroes

Unfortunately, Pap passed away five years ago. Not a day that goes by that I don’t think about him.

I’d give anything to hear his voice in this troubling time. 

Now that I’m a father, I try to be an unmovable rock of courage for my son. But, truth be told, I’m scared.

As a husband and father, my main purpose is to protect my family, but how can I protect them from a silent, invisible enemy? People are losing jobs left and right, am I next? How can I provide for my family without an income? Without health insurance?

For the first few days of this pandemic, I focused on these fears. I focused on the 24/7 cycle of news. I focused on the pessimism and negativity constantly smacking me in the face every time I picked up my phone or turned on my television.

Fear and impending doom consumed me. Then I remembered what Pap told me.

Look for the heroes.

So I did. And I became hopeful. 

I looked around and saw the most skilled and intelligent medical professionals in the world doing what they were born to do. Saving lives, and risking their lives for others. I saw essential workers everywhere form a rigid backbone allowing our nation to stand tall and persevere.

Just like 9/11, I saw a country full of heroes and over-comers. This isn’t the first time we’ve faced adversity, and it won’t be the last.

Americans always respond. Our nation was built by grit and determination. America was built by heroes.

Without question, our world has changed. But, if history is any indicator, we will emerge from this experience stronger and better than ever before.

What you see is what you get

Here’s the thing: you’re going to see what you focus on. The world is a desolate place if that’s what you focus on.

If you focus on the bad, you will find it. You’ll see it everywhere, and you’ll be consumed by it.

However, if you choose to see the good, the beauty, the potential, you’ll see it everywhere. You’ll find that you are surrounded by it.

Unfortunately, few truly understand the power of focus. You can choose what you focus on, and you can literally reshape the world in front of your eyes by doing so. Energy flows where focus goes.

Once you decide to take control of what you focus on, not only will your world change. You will change.

In these unprecedented times, are you going to give your attention to the doom and gloom all over the news and social media? Or are you going to focus on all the good that happens every single day and the opportunities that are being created by our unique situation?

Are you going to be blinded by negativity, or are you going to see the heroes?

Take Pap’s advice, look for the heroes and watch the world change.

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