Most of us can read the writing on the wall; we just assume it's addressed to someone else.
-Ivern Ball, poet
Hero is a word that's over-used. Anyone who helps someone else seems to own that title these days. I disagree with such a broad use of the word. The dictionary definition of hero is, "A person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially at the risk of personal safety." I think most people would agree that those serving in the military, law enforcement or firefighters unquestionably fall into this category. The lady who tutors a kid free of charge or the teenager who baby sits for a single mom without pay are generous but not heroes.
While there are a good number of heroes out there, not all of us are called to or capable of risking life and limb to save another. What every one of us is called to and capable of doing is being a responsible citizen. These seem to be in short supply. Personal responsibility is a disappearing trait as more and more people expect their living expenses, education and health care bills to be covered by the government. Even in school, children are allowed to make extensive excuses as to their lack of assignment completions. If a crime is witnessed, people often don't want to "get involved."
Given this pervasive attitude of apathy and entitlement I was moved to write about a young man who simply acted as a good citizen. He didn't risk bodily injury or directly perform a life-saving act, so I'll not call him a hero.
He is my 24-year-old Ahwatukee Foothills neighbor, Daniel Beck. On June 5, while in Alaska, I got a phone call from him. "Is Brad (my husband) around?" he asked. I told him where we both were and he explained that he'd noticed a suspicious stranger lingering around our yard and talking on a cell phone. The man was paying close attention to my husband's truck. I confirmed that he wasn't anyone we knew and Daniel walked over to investigate, then called police, got in his car and tracked the man and his partner casing another truck in the neighborhood. Crime(s) prevented!
Later that same day Daniel, who is a radio runner for technical services at the Phoenix Fire Department, heard an Amber Alert. He began to investigate and based on a bit of deductive reasoning drove down Baseline Road where he spotted the suspected kidnapper and called police. She was soon apprehended, baby unharmed.
I still won't call him a hero. He went out of his way, inconvenienced himself and sacrificed some time but didn't risk his life. Still, most people wouldn't have gone to the trouble to do as much as he did.
Daniel is hoping to become a firefighter. Extinguishing a blaze, rescuing a victim or performing CPR are all difficult tasks, but they can be taught. Integrity, reliability and sacrifice are core values. Good citizenship, a strong sense of responsibility; these are stepping stones to "hero" ... you can't earn that title without possessing the first two along the way.
I hope fire departments are paying attention and recruit Daniel. I'm sure they can teach him every skill he needs to know. He's already got the foundation to be the kind of hero they're looking for.
Most of us could use a little polish on our efforts toward citizenship. Have you gone out of your way lately to prevent a crime, picked up an obstacle in the road or called for assistance for a stranded motorist as you passed by? Have you missed opportunities to be not (quite) a hero?