These Are the Times of the Everyday Hero

by Susan Pogorzelski on August 27, 2009 · 9 comments

These are the times of the everyday hero
This is the battlefield of the modern world
There’s a spirit inside that keeps us alive…
Living day to day,
there’s no easy way in this everyday life.

Dolly Parton, “Everyday Hero”

herobybingolittleflickr

When I was somewhere around eight years old, my family took a vacation down to Tennessee. It was one of my favorite trips, though the memory has somewhat faded with time. I remember being afraid of driving through the Smokey Mountains, but amazed at the height when we paused at a scenic stop; I remember the excitement and entertainment, the colors and chaos of the Dixie Stampede; I remember choosing outfits with my mom as I dressed up for an old-time photograph with my brothers in Dollywood — a photograph that has since faded, like the memory.

I remember, perhaps most of all, our trip back home.

I was tucked in the middle seat with books and toys surrounding me like usual as a blur of green passed the windows. The car was quiet as we immersed ourselves in whatever book or comic we were reading, listening to whatever we had in our walkmans at the time. It was raining out. I remember that the sky was dark and gloomy and gray.

Which is why I was surprised when my dad slowed and pulled over to the side of the road.

I think I was too young to understand what exactly had happened, and the memory has somewhat faded with time, like that photograph, with snippets here and there coming into focus. I remember my brothers and I turned around, leaning on the back of the seats, to watch as he approached a truck way off in the grass that we hadn’t even noticed, the woman slumped against the steering wheel, unconscious.

I remember more cars stopping by to help. I remember my mom telling us to stay where we were in that tone of voice where we knew better than to argue as she grabbed my dad’s green raincoat — I remember that raincoat — and an umbrella and stepped out into the rain herself. I remember someone else directing traffic until the ambulance came.

I remember thinking my dad was a hero.

The other night, I watched as he sat at the kitchen table after the dinner dishes had been cleared, a glass of wine next to him, bills spread out before him. I thought of everything he does, everything he’s been dealing with lately, everything he cares for. I thought how hard it must be to take care of your own mother, your family, your job, your house. I remembered that image of my dad standing in that old green slicker in the rain and how here he was, nearly twenty years later…

And I thought: my dad is still a hero.

There are ordinary people who do extraordinary things and there are extraordinary people who do ordinary things.

Maybe, then, there are both.

Would you choose? Could you choose? Or would you happy with a life led as either?

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristina August 27, 2009

Wow, Susan! An amazing post. Thank you for sharing this memory with us. It is true that there are people who go about their lives and every once in awhile do extraordinary things. Such as that pilot who landed his plan on the Hudson and everyone go out alive. We have no idea that abilities inside us as we go about our ordinary lives. Those people deserve praise every day!

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Ryan August 27, 2009

Thanks for sharing such a great memory Susan!

Personally, I love the ‘extraordinary people who do ordinary things’.

My father was one of those people. He didn’t cure a disease, or solve world hunger, or anything that would be considered ‘extraordinary’ but he did raise me the best that he could before he passed when I was 14 yrs old. He was honest, blunt, and a straight shooter. He was loved by everyone that knew him, and that for me is better than any sort of extraordinary accomplishment he could have achieved.

We all can’t be the next biggest thing, but if we are compassionate and give back in our every day lives, we can live ordinary lives extraordinarily.

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Susan Pogorzelski - admin August 28, 2009

Kris: I think you’re absolutely right — there are people everywhere who are doing extraordinary things, maybe not even realizing what they were capable of, the pilot you mention being a prime example. Goes to show that even those who are “ordinary” aren’t so ordinary — even those who never have a chance to show the world that they’re extraordinary. Thanks for your thoughts!

Ryan: I’m so sorry for that loss; your dad sounds like he was a great man. I, too, love the extraordinary people who just live their lives. There’s an admirable grace in that, a strength that I think is often overlooked. I love how you say “if we are compassionate and give back in our every day lives, we can live ordinary lives extraordinarily.” As I said above to Kris, they may never get the chance to show the world that they are extraordinary, but the people who love them? They know. They, like your dad, like my own dad, are the everyday heroes…Maybe not to the world, but to someone.

Great comment, Ryan! Thanks for your thoughts!

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Grace Boyle August 28, 2009

Ah, the everyday hero. They mean so much. The ones who aren’t in the limelight, the ones who infuse strength and heroic qualities quietly, everyday of their life. To me, this is real power. There are fantastic heroes, lets take Martin Luther King, Jr. or Gandhi definitely both prolific heroes for their time and cause but their power also came from the life force behind them and being in the public eye.

I’ve talked about humility and how attractive I think it is in a person. Someone who is humble, respectful, knows their strength but doesn’t flaunt it. This is a beautiful thought, Susan. I’m happy you wrote about it!

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Sam August 28, 2009

This is beautiful, and a wonderful tribute to your dad. I hope you show him this post, I’m sure he would be really touched. Personally, I believe that the acts of selfless, ordinary heroes are the most heroic. The concept of an ordinary hero kind of ties into the whole appreciation thing I’ve got going. If we all took a step back every once and a while, really looked at the people around us and saw how hard they worked, and the things they’d been through and overcome, I wonder how much our world would change. Great post!

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Susan Pogorzelski - admin August 30, 2009

Grace and Sam — both of your comments are beautiful and I so appreciate your thoughts.

Grace: I love how you say MLK Jr and Gandhi’s “power also came from the life force behind them” — even were it not for being in the spotlight, they had that strength and goodness that makes them heroes; perhaps the spotlight just accentuates that. Then there are those who have that same inner strength and goodness who live their everyday lives, unaware of the profound affect they have on people, on the world. This is the hero of whom I’m most in awe; humility may make them that much more special — agree 100% that these qualities are ones to be admired. I love your thoughts, Grace; this is a beautiful comment. And, PS, thanks for the link love! :)

Sam: I love your thoughts in this comment and wonder along with you how much the world would change if we took a moment to recognize the strength and good of the everyday person. I think that’s what I love so much about your Appreciation Revolution (plugging the link because it’s really that incredible and important). It not only shows you what it means to be grateful, and it not only brings about positivity, but it makes you realize how much you owe to these people, who every day do acts of good without a second thought. I love your thoughts, Sam, thanks for sharing them and helping us remember what we should appreciate.

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