In Search of Modern-Day Heroes

One of the biggest questions on planet Earth that humans have twisted, toiled and contemplated is, “What is the meaning of life?” I was so excited when I got close to the answer after running across a Dalai Lama quote that I even blogged about it.

The second biggest question (at least for me and for many folks who follow my blogs and videos about everyday heroes) is:

“What does it mean to be a hero today?”

Toan spoke earlier this year at the Community Heroes club at Sun Valley School in San Rafael, Calif.

I don’t think many people ask this question enough in this day and age where we are inundated with junk TV, an unhealthy obsession with celebrities and Hollywood’s depiction of comic action heroes. It’s important to contemplate because we DO need heroes to look up to, attempt to emulate and get excited about. According to research from Santa Clara University:

“We need heroes first and foremost because our heroes help define the limits of our aspirations. We largely define our ideals by the heroes we choose, and our ideals — things like courage, honor, and justice — largely define us. Our heroes are symbols for us of all the qualities we would like to possess and all the ambitions we would like to satisfy. A person who chooses Martin Luther King or Susan B. Anthony as a hero is going to have a very different sense of what human excellence involves than someone who chooses, say, Paris Hilton, or the rapper 50 Cent. And because the ideals to which we aspire do so much to determine the ways in which we behave, we all have a vested interest in each person having heroes, and in the choice of heroes each of us makes.”

My curiosity to explore the essence of what makes a hero ultimately led me to quit what I thought was my dream job as a TV reporter and start my voyage to discover everyday heroes so others — you — can find the hero within you. Perhaps the best answer came from a friend on Facebook:

“Heroes are popularly depicted as the comic action brave-heart who saves the day. The real version of a modern-day hero is the nice guy/woman who stands up for what they believe in for the sake of the greater good. An act of goodness beyond themselves, and against any odds. Contrary to popular and cynical belief, good guys don’t have to finish last. Within every good guy/woman is a hero waiting to be to unleashed.” –Meno Crompton

After meeting hundreds of heroes, some of whom can be celebrated via our Go Inspire Go YouTube channel, I realized that everybody can be a hero in their own way. They don’t have to accomplish huge feats like Phoebe Russell, a 5-year-old San Franciscan who wanted to feed hungry homeless people. Or Matthew Kaplan, a teenager from Arizona who, in standing up for his brother who was being cyberbullied, educated and inspired compassion among thousands of bullied youth around the country. And Tony Tolbert, who at age 52, moved back in with his mom and gave up his home in Los Angeles to a homeless woman and her children.

To get a kid’s perspective, super mom Kala Shah, co-creator of Go Inspire Go’s Community Heroes program, asked them, “What does being a hero mean?”

Sun Valley School students explain what a hero is.
Sun Valley School students share who their real-life heroes are.

They answered, “Fearless, helpful, giving, persistent, passionate and courageous….”

Their real-life heroes include, “My great aunt for taking care of people in a dangerous part of the world,” “Malala because she helps people and risked her life to stand up for her beliefs,” and “My uncle because he’s a policeman and helps the community.”

These elementary school students appear to be on the right track in identifying admirable heroes and their lofty answers underline the importance in starting these conversations early to help direct young minds towards worthy pursuits.

The truth is each and every one of us has a superhero power within us. It’s our duty to find it while on this planet and use it to the fullest capacity. That’s the meaning of life. That’s the answer to what our purpose is. That’s what ultimately leads us to joy. So we’d love to know, what do you think it means to be a hero today? What’s your superhero power? How will you use it? Inquiring heroes want to know. Share in the comment section below! Pow!

Onward and upward,

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