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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Everyday Heroes

A lot of people are called heroes. Some -- soldiers who risk their own lives to save their fellow soldiers in combat, for example -- truly are heroes. The same can be said for police officers, fire fighters and other first responders who place the safety of others above their own. 

Sports figures and entertainers are NOT heroes in my book. They make a lot of money, sure, but they are far from being heroes. They don't save lives, they don't cure diseases, and they don't risk life and limb to save others.

Today I want to focus on the unsung, everyday heroes among us. Remember the Biblical story of the widow's mite? The story says that a poor widow, despite having nothing, donated two small coins (mites) to the temple in Jerusalem, while some wealthy men gave much more. The lesson is that the sacrifices of the poor, while small, mean more to God than do the greater, but relatively lesser, donations of the rich. The widow gave from the heart, while the wealthy men gave from their abundance. I would call this ancient widow an everyday hero.

I recently heard a modern-day tale of a woman who to me is an everyday hero. She donated $2.50 to a local non-profit animal rescue organization because she wanted to help. This woman has no income, yet she still wanted to do something to help. I was very touched by this woman's generosity, not because of the amount she gave, but because her donation obviously represented both a sacrifice and a gift from the heart. 

Similarly, when my daughter was too young to have a paying job, she donated $5 from her allowance to support my fund raising for a walk against breast cancer. I was extremely touched by her willingness to give despite her small amount of money. This small donation was a sacrifice for her, and it had immeasurable value to me. It was a gift from the heart.

Everyday heroes are those who willingly serve as foster homes for animals in need of a safe place to stay while they get a bit older, recover from illness or injury, or wait for their forever home. Many foster parents pay for food and medical care from their own meager resources. They provide love and help their temporary charges work on any problems or behavioral issues they have. Other everyday heroes serve as foster parents to children unable to live with their parents, providing love, guidance and a stable environment.

A woman in New Mexico, despite being unemployed, helps feed the hungry on the streets of Albuquerque. She buys some of the ingredients, friends buy others, and a group of people gets together to make burritos. Last time she and her friends handed out 117 homemade burritos. They also handed out bottled water. This month, they hope to make 200 burritos, dozens of peanut butter and jam sandwiches, and hand out cases of bottled water. I have volunteered to donate three jars of crunchy peanut butter and 10 dozen eggs. That's the least I can do to support this everyday hero.

The local newspaper recently carried a story about a woman who saw two homeless men eating food they had found in a Dumpster. When other people laughed at them, she decided to get involved and do something. So she now purchases, prepares and distributes food to those living on the streets of Albuquerque. She is an everyday hero.

These people, who sacrifice from their limited resources, truly are everyday heroes. Bill Gates can write a check for $10 million, and not even notice given his immense wealth. But people who donate from their limited resources -- from their hearts -- are my heroes. They are all around us, quietly making a difference in their city or town, seeking neither publicity nor fame. Are you an everyday hero?