One of my guilty pleasures is watching 80s videos on MTV Classic. This week I caught one of my favorite songs. It’s Bonnie Tyler’s former hit “Holding Out For a Hero,” which was featured in the movie “Footloose.”
The song got me thinking about heroes. In a broad sense, heroes and heroines are people we admire or even strive to emulate because of their qualities, abilities, or accomplishments. Some articles I’ve read say heroes are important because they give us hope and inspire us to improve ourselves to become more like them.
There are people I admire and therefore can be considered my heroes. Some are right here in Shakopee. Some are people I looked up to as a kid. Others are people I’ve never met, but like what I’ve seen and read about them. I admire these people for different reasons.
None of them have done anything traditionally heroic, like rescued someone from a burning building or invented a life-changing device. But they have done something that impresses or encourages me. Sometimes it’s the way they handle adversity. Other times it’s their unflinching integrity. Or their commitment to achieving their goals despite the odds being stacked against them. There’s something heroic about people who live a principled life without compromising their ideals.
I’ve seen polls of the most admired living people. The men and women at the top of the lists are predominantly politicians, media personalities, or celebrities. They’re certainly not the people who would make my list, but if they have a meaningful influence on others, that’s a good thing.
Some articles say that heroic actions produce an emotion called elevation. The word derives from the phrase “moral elevation,” which Thomas Jefferson used to describe the feeling a person gets when witnessing something morally beautiful that puts a lump in your throat or causes your eyes to get teary. Elevation can be caused by a range of activities, such as seeing someone behave morally toward others, hearing a story about someone committing a heroic act, or reading an inspiring book.
A psychologist and professor of ethical leadership at New York University applied the term elevation to an emotion similar to awe or admiration that’s caused by unexpected acts of goodness. The professor hypothesizes that seeing heroic deeds makes the rest of us want to also do better, which is an instance of when imitating others can lead to a positive change. In other words, being a hero can be contagious.
Over the last year, I’ve seen a lot of social media posts and articles calling people in professions like nursing and truck driving heroes for the way they responded to the pandemic. They provided care, helped to keep us fed, and provided other needed services. This highlights the fact that during times of hardship and disruption in our lives, there are people who step up and do good.
While these are not the type of people who make the news or become household names, they are the people who help make our lives and communities better. To me, that’s heroic in every sense of the word.