I don’t have a lot of heroes. Not really. I do use the term loosely at times – thanking a sales clerk who digs and digs in the stockroom and finds me the perfect shoes in my size, saying “You’re my hero!” Just an expression, not a reality.
My grandpa was my hero. He taught me about unconditional love, protected me, and gave me the gift of baseball. We spoke the same language, my grandpa and I. Love and sports. Laughter and light. When I am in a bad place, I envision us together at Shea Stadium, on a perfect, blue-skied day, watching Tom Seaver pitch his way into the record books. I can hear the crowd roaring, I can smell the beer and hot dogs, and I go to a place of joy and safety. My grandpa was my hero.
Joan Baez is a hero of mine. Her music, her voice, her belief in doing good, followed by doing well, awes me. Did I mention her voice? Oh my God – her voice. It fills my heart and enters my soul. When I listen to Joan Baez, I feel her power, and it makes me notice my own, just a bit. I am inspired to take action to make the world a better place. Joan Baez is a hero of mine.
These days, I have a new hero. A young woman, whose name I shall not use here, because I will not “out” her as an incest survivor. I too am a survivor; we have talked a fair amount about our experiences. This young woman – whom I count as a friend – has had a hard life. She told her mom and dad about the abuse a few years ago. They each leapt into action, supporting her and getting her the help she needs. This young woman will be going to college next year, and I know she will make a difference in the world.
A couple of weeks ago, we were at a gathering of women from our temple, trading stories about our parents’ hands. I talked about having my father’s hands. How for years, I couldn’t look at my hands – couldn’t accept that my father and I had any commonalities. Now, I told the group, I look at my hands and see the best of my father. I am able to put aside the worst – not forgive it, just put it aside – and celebrate the best parts of him that are also the best of me. After I finished, my young friend shared some of her story. She talked about her stepfather, and told us that while she didn’t share physical traits with him, she had a scar on her hand from when he was teaching her to ride a bike, and she fell. She touches those scars and remembers the good. She knows the bad. She holds both in her capable, scarred hands. I am – we all were – awed by this young woman. These days, I have a new hero.
Who is your hero? Why?