When asked who their heroes are, may people list pioneers in their career field, or religious leaders, or military figures. Others may mention celebrities or sports players or philanthropists. Me? My heroes, the people I look up to and want to be like, are all everyday people. Few might think of them as heroes (or heroines, in many cases), but to me, they are priceless.
One was my elementary school English teacher, who also lived in my neighborhood. Because of this, I got a chance to know her as a person, rather than just in her role as a teacher, and she was one of the most unique, multi-faceted, open-minded, positive, and adventurous people I ever met! She’s been gone many years now, but is still one of my favorite people!
Another is my Aunt, quite an independent gal herself! She’s a petite 5’2”, but that didn’t stop her from ruling the roost in a house full of boys! Might have something to do with being the oldest of nine children! She has never felt intimidated by anyone, nor cared what anyone thought of her. She and her husband, both in their 60’s at the time, used to take road trips on a motorcycle. She took flying lessons at 70. She’s always been a bit of a rebel, but I didn’t really realize it until long after I was grown! She turns 86 today, and is still a feisty thing!
And then there’s my Uncle, who lost his third battle with cancer last month. Always such an upbeat, playful, gentle soul, not what you’d expect from a career soldier. As much as he loved saving souls, he should have been a chaplain! He was a singer and songwriter, an artist, a devoted family man, and never met a stranger.
My dearest friend ever passed away earlier this year at 91. She lived next door to me in Italy, and spoke no English. I learned Italian so we could have those daily conversations about anything and everything without her son having to translate. She didn’t drive, so I took her grocery shopping every Thursday. She was a wonderful cook, and I ate lunch at her table nearly every day. Whenever there was a holiday or family event, we were always included. We served them their first ever Thanksgiving dinner, and years later, they were still talking about it. She was the kindest soul I’ve ever met, and the one person who thought I was wonderful for exactly who I was.
As these people I so look up to reach advanced age, and pass on, I am realizing that it’s time for me to step up. I don’t think anyone seeks to be a role model. If we’re lucky enough to figure out that we have a choice, we’re just living our lives in whatever way feels right for us. That’s what my teacher did, and my Aunt, and my Uncle, and my neighbor. They were just being themselves, living their lives, having no idea what an important example they were. But for me, it was everything, and I would be honored to carry on their legacy.