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True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost. –Arthur Ashe
Much of the dialogue about the coronavirus has focused on the first responders, our health care professionals, who repeatedly have risked their lives to take care of those who face this potentially dangerous virus. I have heard some grumbling, questioning whether those who step up to serve are really heroes at all. After all, they signed up to help care for the sick; medicine is their chosen path, so why should they get the extra accolades?
In the past I have been one of the first people to challenge the overuse of the word “hero.” People who tackle adversities that appear in their lives are not heroes; they are showing resilience in dealing with difficulties that we all face at one time or another. People who overcome alcoholism or drug abuse are not heroes; they are individuals who chose a poor direction to pursue in their lives, but gave up their self-destructive paths and made a commitment to stay sober. Those decisions take courage, but they are not heroic. To choose to conquer our limitations, digressions and negative paths is commendable. But the choices are not heroic.
I believe heroism means going beyond the ordinary demands of life and exceeding them. It means not giving in to self-indulgent motivations, but to pursue paths with others in mind. And it means taking those paths in order to serve others, possibly at the risk to their own well-being, even their lives, without weighing the consequences. They act, not to be noticed or praised, but to put themselves on the line because they are called to do so.
That is honorable. Those actions are true heroism.