Heroes are the men and women we read about in stories. They don’t walk among us. At least it feels that way.
They most often come to mind in fictional forms, like Katniss Everdeen and Indiana Jones. And any real-life heroes we think of are usually people like St. John Paul II or Blessed Mother Theresa. The things that make these people heroes can seem pretty out of reach. Even for real-life heroes, their qualities and life stories almost always seem fictional.
But the truth is, we’re all called to greatness — the same greatness of heroes and saints. And the reality is the virtues and attributes of a hero are never fictional. Anyone who tells you differently is a liar.
Here’s an example. About eight years ago, Tom, a great friend and mentor, died. While on the farm one day, his son, Joseph, was playing nearby when Tom looked up and couldn’t see him. He ran over to the sewage hole and found Joseph there, deep inside.
Tom yelled to a nearby worker to call 911 and immediately dove into the sewage to save Joseph’s life. He saved his son, but he gave his life in the depths of that miserable sewage.
Tom was a hero.
A friend called to tell me the sad news of Tom’s death. I was obviously deeply saddened. When I finally had some time to wrap my mind around this tragedy, I kept saying to myself, “I’m not surprised.”
I’m not surprised Tom gave his life for someone else. I’m not surprised Tom loved his son until death.
I’m not surprised.
The Deciding Factor
Why wasn’t I surprised by what Tom had done?
Because Tom gave his life daily for someone else. He loved his sons to the death — daily. Giving up a career in the Navy, Tom was content to spend his life for his family and his seven sons so they might have a good father figure in their lives.
He learned how to coach soccer, attending clinics and so on — all so that he could spend time with his boys. He spent countless hours chatting with me about my future, career and vocation — as he did for many of my friends.
He was a man who prayed and wasn’t afraid to show it. He volunteered at church and in his community. Even when he was busy, he always made time.
A Proven System
Tom taught me many lessons about how to build heroic virtue, though I would have never known it. And it’s thanks to those lessons that I know becoming a hero isn’t out of reach for any of us.
Here are four habits you can apply to your life today to become a hero:
Build and solidify your relationship daily with Jesus Christ, the most heroic among us.
2. Practice saying no to yourself.
Build a habit of saying no to the things you want. This will make you the master of your own will.
3. Be present in the moment.
Become interested in the people you’re with. Don’t wish your life away.
4. Lead someone else.
As you try to grow in virtue, teach someone else those same virtues which you are building — and then show them how to teach someone else.
Tom was a hero long before he gave up his life in the sewage hole. Take a stand today and become who you are meant to be. Build these fortifications in your life.
And in being faithfully heroic in the small things, you’ll be ready to act in virtue when your big moment comes.