It has honestly been a tough week to write. A few days ago a very close friend’s Dad was hospitalized due to kidney failure. According to the check-up, only 7% of his kidneys are currently functioning.
In Islamic faith, it’s a beautiful part of our belief that a simple prayer really goes a long way, not only for the person we’re praying for, but for ourselves as well. It’s said that when we pray for others, the angels pray the same for us too (Hadith narrated by Muslim). So I hope you could pray all you can for him and his family, so that everything will be okay. May your own life be just as blessed.
“There goes my hero, he’s ordinary.”
The very word “hero” could be traced back to its root word, “hērōs” in ancient Greek, that meant “defender” or “protector”. As with in ancient Greek literature, their epic tales of legendary heroes such as Hercules, Achilles and Odysseus are endowed with the idea that heroes are the descendants of gods, and that they possess certain skills or knowledge that make them superior above all other human beings.
In our modern world, we tend to exalt certain figures in nearly the same way. That just happens when we admire certain people so much, that we project our fantasies onto them. It’s easy to forget that while they might have more talent, money, or recognition that we do, it certainly doesn’t mean that their life is much easier, or any different than ours.
And as the saying goes, “Never meet your heroes,” as they would likely disappoint you in one way or another.
Recently, many fans were utterly devastated when The Ellen DeGeneres Show scandal came to light. In just a few short weeks, the show’s reputation collapsed after its former employees blew the whistle on Ellen’s passive-aggressive persona, revealing that her “be kind” theme was just a carefully-staged gimmick. Many of those who loved the show before could never see it the same way again.
Everyone has their dark sides. We all have our weaknesses. And none of us, including our heroes, are exempt from that fact.
For many Americans, Abraham Lincoln has been the epitome of a great leader — A man of supreme patience, empathy, and resilience. But it was only fairly recently when people actually learned that Lincoln struggled with depression for nearly his whole life.
Lyndon Johnson might have been revered for enacting the Civil Rights Act. But while he truly cared for his people, behind his ascent to power there was a gamut of manipulation, bribery, and other acts of ruthlessness.
That’s one of the reasons why Islam discourages its people from erecting statues. Because in our admiration of our heroes, we might easily forget that they’re ultimately human beings — Even though they might have done a lot for the times they lived in, none of us deserve to be placed on a pedestal and exalted above others.
So what’s a better way to admire such figures?
For one thing, it might be more sensible to revere them not as people per se, but particularly for their accomplishments. Rather than falling into hero-worship and treating them as infallible or of a higher value than ourselves, think more about the great changes that they’ve brought to the world. What we’d feel then, isn’t senseless infatuation, but gratitude in a way, in which we can aspire to do the same things as they have done, or improve on their weaknesses.
That being said, a person doesn’t have to be a celebrity or a public figure for us to look up to as a hero. All around us, there are especially people who do the kinds of work that we likely wouldn’t do ourselves. There are janitors who tidy up the campus in the early mornings to make sure that you could study comfortably. There are mailmen who deliver your letters and the things you bought online. And of course, there are medical front-liners taking care of people who are down with COVID-19.
About five years ago, a senior in high school gave me a piece of advice that I’ll never forget. He told me that whenever he felt overwhelmed or depressed, he would take a walk and try to do any small act of kindness. Oftentimes he’d drop by a store, and buy a cold bottle of water for people who are working under the hot sun. “I tell you, when you see the smile on their faces, it’s the best thing ever,” he said.
And man, was he right. Until now, it’s still something that I try to get myself to do. Because suddenly my world wouldn’t seem so small anymore, or whatever I’m worried about wouldn’t seem like the end of the world. Every time, I’d realize that there’s a whole lot to be grateful for, especially in the things that we often overlook. They’re things that are normally done by our unsung, ordinary heroes.
So remember that a hero doesn’t need a fancy title, because really, the truest heroes are often people you could find closest to you.
It’s kind of like that Foo Fighters song, isn’t it? “There goes my hero, he’s ordinary.”