Editor’s note: Several Delta High School students in teacher Marc Dowd’s class participated in The New York Times 5th Annual Student Editorial Contest earlier this spring. Here is one of the submissions.
“A hero can be anyone, even a man doing something as simple and reassuring as putting a coat on a young boy’s shoulder to let him know that the world hadn’t ended” — The Dark Knight Rises.
A hero can be defined as a person who’s admired for his or her achievements or characteristics, and the above quote from The Dark Knight Rises highlights the importance of heroism — how it can come from anything and anyone. Everyone probably has dreamed of being a hero, but it’s crucial to understand the word’s true meaning.
Common heroes are veterans. Their courage and will to fight and sacrifice everything for their country has people continuously coming up to them and saying: “Thank you for your service.” However, to be so bold, not everyone who puts on the uniform is a hero, and not every veteran is deployed. In America, only about one percent of the population is directly involved in wars.
Professor Helen Cowie, a specialist in “bystander apathy,” claims we need to comprehend social dynamics to understand why some people hesitate to help. There is an instinct present within ourselves — this will of survival, similar to a flight or fight response — where you would either risk your life for a stranger, or extinguish the possibility of elimination because of self-preservation. Therefore, the balance between self-preservation and self-sacrifice is vital for understanding the qualities that make up a hero.
Moreover, there would usually have to be a substantial phenomenon occurring to entitle someone a hero. These phenomenons, purposeful or not, can entitle anyone a hero based off witness’ perspectives. In return, the true meaning of hero withers away, and diminishes to over-utilization. Certainly, heroes can be ordinary people doing everyday things, free of the burden of expectations from people who want someone to perform actions they feel are beyond their own capabilities. Heroes can be people who put smiles on faces, provide a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear, or merely just being there for them.
There shouldn’t be an obligation of fame and glory, nor an objective accomplished based off selfish needs. But there should be one thing: the knowing of one’s limits. Taking a risk with the thought of famed heroism in mind is dangerous, and taking a risk without understanding the situation is dangerous as well. After viewing this paper, my definition of a hero is somebody who makes you happy. If there was any chance, express your gratitude by saying two simple words that mean the world to most: thank you.