Ordinary Heroes

Daniel as Batman - watercolor - Fr. TomMy family and I went to another city this past weekend to attend a wedding and on the way, in the middle of a busy highway, our van broke down.  Now, when you are dealing with eight kids, a tired husband, and luggage on the side of the road with cars and trucks whizzing by, one can get a little frustrated.  But trouble happens and the best way to deal with it is with a strong sense of “It could be worse.” Once everyone was out of the van and safe, and after we called the necessary fit-it people, we realized that though it would take extra time to get to our destination and we had to alter our original plans, it was hardly the end of the world. In fact, this was an opportunity to be grateful that things had worked out as well as they had and to choose peace of mind as an act of will.  Some of the kids read their books while others walked up and down the grassy embankment.  I stood by watching the cars speeding by, hoping that no one would smack into the back of the van. Now that would have really tested my peace of mind.  I tried hard not to look like, “that poor mother with a bunch of kids stuck on the side of the road”.  I even tried to get up a game where we counted the cars that passed but that didn’t last too long…..(247…248…8249…what number were we on?)

When the “wrecker-guy” arrived, he was a very kind gentleman who would not leave us until he knew we were safe.  He told me about the kinds of accidents (I was trying very hard not to imagine) that can happen to people stuck on the side of the road.  He insisted that he stay and keep his truck lights flashing so that no one would ram into the back of our van (Helpful descriptions forthcoming – Thanks, my imagination wasn’t vivid enough.) and he waited until we were safe on our way before he would take the van to the shop.

Now in this day and age when our kids encounter all sorts of super-hero images from movies, I am afraid that sometimes they think that a person has to do some pretty incredible tricks (And I do mean pretty incredible!) in order to be considered noble or heroic. Honestly, I appreciate ordinary heroes like the fix-it guy who did his job so well, the service person who uses respectful language, anyone who goes the extra mile unselfishly.  It is helpful to remind our kids (and myself) that the heroes in real life are the ones that matter – the family members who drive miles out of their way to get you when your car breaks down, the friends who watch over things at home while you are away and have a pot of chicken soup waiting when you get back, the wrecker guy who won’t leave until he is sure everyone is safe.

We live in a world with all sorts of people but the ordinary-heroes are usually eclipsed by the fantasy-heroes of television and movies.  Art should imitate life but it is not so good when life tries to imitate art.  Kids need to know the difference.  Frankly – if the wrecker guy had picked up the van, shook it out and reassembled it correctly in zip-speed, I wouldn’t have been happy, I would have been on-the-ground-unconscious.  I like ordinary heroes, for then there is just a chance, I might be able to follow their example.

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