When we think of heroes, we tend to think of comic book style heroes, such as Superman or Wonder Woman. But a true life hero doesn't have superpowers. A true, real-life hero, is a regular person who, by example, makes you re-evaluate your own life, through their own actions and attitudes.
A couple of weeks ago, I caught ABC's coverage of the death of Randy Pausch, the Carnegie Mellon Professor whose speech "Achieving Your Childhood Dreams" became a YouTube phenomenon. As I watched, I was deeply touched by his giving spirit, optimism and faith in the face of his terminal illness.
In a situation like his, you have a choice. Do you give in to despair? Do you become selfish, and focus only on your needs? It would be understandable if you did. Or do you use your remaining time on earth for something useful? Do you use your own pain to enrich the lives of others? Do you transcend your situation?
This is the choice that Randy Pausch made. Watching his unquenchable spirit, his focus not on himself but on his legacy to his children, and his students, I found myself facing the tough question...would I have done this in similar circumstances?
I can't say as I really like the answer that I came up with. Like many, I'm not so sure I would have held myself to as high a standard as Professor Pausch, which troubles me. But, this, I believe, is part of the value that he brought to all of us.
True heroes hold a mirror up to us to see the best of human nature. It is then up to us to determine what to do about what we see...for better or for worse. Heroes like Pausch challenge us all to come up a little higher...and aspire a little bit more.
Who are your heroes? What do they teach you? How do they challenge your perception of yourself and the world? And if you were in their shoes, what would you do?