What does the word "hero" mean to you?
I've been pushing one definition for quite some time now:
A hero takes personal risks for the common good.
It's a classic definition, rooted in the traditions of cultures around the world. Yet we keep calling ball players and actors and musicians "heroes." Can you think of any such people who are risking anything for the common good? We've honored a few as Giraffe Heroes, not for their careers but for their actual heroism. Try our profile of defensive back Mel Blount to see what I mean.
Maybe there's a solution to the vocabulary problem in the popularity of the show, America Idol. "Idol" expresses admiration for someone's accomplishments or talents. So does "icon." (My own admiration list would start with Yo Yo Ma ~ such an excellent musician/icon/idol that in my next life, I want to come back as a cellist.)
A charming new book was published last week, Heroes for My Son. Some of the people profiled in it fit the classic definition; others are simply people of admirable achievement. They're all good people for anyone's child to learn about, but I was delighted when a listener to an All Things Considered review of the book challenged the author's use of "hero." The listener pointed out that risk and the common good were missing from many of the stories in the book. Without those factors, you may be looking at a fabulous person, but you're not looking at a hero.
Any time you want to look at the real thing, head for Giraffe. And keep reading right now.
Yours for honoring the truly heroic, Ann Medlock