Heroes

For reasons I can’t explain, I thought it would be a good idea to watch all the Star Wars movies in succession and then go to see the new one when it came out in December of 2017.  It seems easy enough, doesn’t it?  Except that there is some controversy regarding the order in which to view the movies. 

After reading various opinions online, I went with the recommendation of my cousins and watched Star Wars IV A New Hope, followed by The Empire Strikes Back, Return Of The Jedi, The Phantom Menace, Attack Of The Clones, Revenge Of The Sith, The Force Awakens, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

You might think that all of this was just to be able to go to the Clinton Theater to watch The Last Jedi and snack on the delicious organic popcorn with real butter.  And of course, you’d be right. But that’s not the point I want to make today. 

Even though I saw the first three Star Wars movies back in the day when I was but a youth and I’ve seen bits and pieces of the following three, I couldn’t help but feel really disappointed in the heroes of the first six movies.  My crush on Luke Skywalker didn’t stand the passage of time and I found him to be a whiny baby who felt he was getting the shaft.  There’s nothing wrong with having ambition and a desire to see the world outside of your hometown but make a plan and do it. And Anakin Skywalker? It seemed like he was crying every five minutes, at least when he wasn’t breaking the Jedi rules and doing the wrong thing.  It’s not wrong for a man to cry, but sometimes you’ve got to suck it up and do the right thing, even though there will be pain and life might not turn out the way you’d like it to.

It’s not just Star Wars, though. It seems that some of today’s ‘heroes,’ both on screen and off just aren’t.  Once I made that statement, I felt it was pretty presumptuous of me unless I could actually define what it means to be a hero.  According to the dictionary, it’s a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements or noble qualities.  Hmm, not that helpful.  What achievements are outstanding, what is courage, and who determines what qualities are noble? 

Instead of drilling down further on definitions, I decided to take an informal poll of people of varying ages, sexes, and backgrounds.  The youngest kids – threes and fours named a Superhero, which didn’t surprise me.  That’s their experience – heroes are Captain American, Wonder Woman, Batman.  The kids that were a little older had a slightly broader definition – someone who defeats the bad guys using their strength or super power. 

Among the adults (with a couple of exceptions – like the smart alecks that said a sandwich), the answers were surprisingly similar.  A hero is someone who is self-sacrificing, willing to give up whatever they have – even their life – for someone else or for the greater good.  It didn’t matter if the someone else was a stranger or a loved one.  The other thing that came up over and over was that a hero wouldn’t expect any recognition, publicity, fame, or even a pat on the back – the hero would do the right thing because it is the right thing without expecting anything in return.  A couple of people also mentioned that that a hero stands up for something when no one else does, something they feel is wrong or right but that no one else is doing anything about so they decide to be the one that does something.

Most touching was the response of a woman who felt that anyone could be a hero – and in her life, it was her two grandmothers – one who was a widow that raised three children and the other who married, ran a farm and household, and raised six children having only one arm.

Here’s the best thing I learned about heros from these wise people. Any of us can be a hero.  There are many things that are terribly wrong in the world right now and there are millions of people that need rescuing – not necessarily from the clutches of an evil villain, but from the struggling and suffering in their day to day.  You and I – and even better – you and I together, can make a difference and be the hero in someone else’s life.  Not for the fame, not for the glory, but just because it’s the right thing to do.  We don’t need a movie to show us a hero, we just need to be one.

If you’re feeling like you don’t have what it takes, here’s a song by Matthew West that I think will help to put things into perspective. 

What’s stopping you from being a hero today?

Life Before and After

Maybe you’ve been living an ordinary life.  Maybe it wasn’t everything you dreamed or wished for, but it’s okay, a good life.  For some people life is divided into two distinct halves, before it happened and after.  “It” could be an accident, a stroke, a suicide, a diagnosis, a sudden and unexpected death.  Regardless of the cause of this devastating change in life, the good life that seemed rather dull or lacking before is now extraordinary, something to which you want desperately to return.  Life after the event is hard, harder than you ever dreamed it could be, each day a new set of obstacles to overcome, hard questions to answer, a myriad of unpleasant tasks to do, suffering to endure, a stark and vivid contrast to what things were like just a short time ago. 

What can be done to overcome this trial?  What are the five easy steps to reduce and yes, please, remove this devastation?  To give a pat answer or a cheery platitude would be insulting and insensitive to those who are standing in the center of the wreckage.  The well meaning people who do this enrage and alienate, much like the friends of Job who gave their opinions on the reasons for his loss and suffering. Frankly, there is no quick and easy solution, no magic cure to make it all better, no time machine to take you back to the day before it happened.

Time, however, makes the wound less prominent, though the scar remains indefinitely. One day you awaken and ‘it’ is not the first thing you think about, it’s the second or maybe the third and you realize that one day at a time you’ve started living a new normal, one you wouldn’t have chosen, but the one you’ve been given.  No, it’s not the good and ordinary life you had before, the one you now perhaps realize you didn’t appreciate as much as you should have, but you’ve somehow figured out a way to navigate through it.

My nearly three year old granddaughter had spent considerable time creating a Duplo® creation.  While she was walking across the family room to put it on a shelf and out of the reach of her younger sister, she stumbled and it fell and broke in several pieces.  Her frustration and sadness poured out in tears and screaming.  Her Dad sat down next to her and put the blocks back into place and let her know he was fixing it, but her cries didn’t subside.  Her Mom, Dad, me, and her siblings tried to offer encouragement, but her anger and anguish could not be comforted. 

Before the fall

After a few moments, she got up off the floor and ran into the waiting arms of her Mom and she asked her to play one of her favorite songs on her phone.  Tears streamed down my face as I listened because I realized that in the midst of broken things and insurmountable grief it’s possible to find comfort in the arms of those who love us and listen to songs that ease the pain, if only temporarily.

If you are in this hard place right now, I pray that you will lament all that you’ve lost, that you will vent your rage and cry out and grieve.  It may seem like you’re all alone, but I encourage you to reach out to others who have a similar story.  There are a multitude of resources available online and locally.  A few links are listed below, but a quick Internet search for your ‘it’ will point you in the right direction. Lastly, here’s a link to the song that brought comfort to my granddaughter.  May it bring hope and peace to you as well.

Suicide

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

Stroke

Cancer

Heart Attack

The Important Things

It seems that I say this a lot, but it’s been a busy week.  There’s a low level anxiety that seems to manifest just below the surface – how will I ever get everything done?  It’s not that I am not trying, I am, I am doing everything, every little thing, yet so much escapes me at the end of each day. 

While I was doing dishes tonight, I was listening to The Minimalists’ podcast on Mental Clutter and I had an epiphany.  Though I am getting things done, am I doing the important things, the things that matter?  Sure, the bed is made, pajamas are hung neatly in the closet til bedtime, I went to my day job, played with the dog, cooked some dinner, did the dishes, checked four dozen or so emails, texted with some people, maybe wrote a blog post or some emails, tended to my finances, maybe watched a little TV, checked Facebook and Pinterest (just for a minute, of course), flossed and brushed, did some reading, and collapsed onto my pillow the minute the light went out. 

Some of those things are important but some of them aren’t.  And I’m seeing that there’s a lack of simplicity that makes some of these things take longer than they need to.  Though I’ve drastically cut back on the time I spend on social media, it’s still something I make time for every day. 

Two things need to happen, first, I need to decide what the important things are.  You might think that’s an easy thing to determine, but it really isn’t. There are certain things everyone needs to do on a fairly regular basis, sleeping, eating, personal hygiene, shopping, interacting with friends and family. There’s my day job that takes almost half of every weekday if I include the time it takes to commute. This is important because I do need to earn a living. There are the not so glamorous tasks like cleaning and laundry and filing, all necessary tasks that need to be done with some regularity. Laundry becomes really important when there’s not one clean pair of underwear in my drawer. There are also things that I want to do daily, like read my Bible, read books, do something creative, cooking or knitting or writing, walk, and play with the dog. You can see where all these things take on various degrees of importance depending on the circumstances.

Knowing that time is finite, I need to determine where I spend the minutes and hours I have available, identify where I lose track of time, figure out what I need to change, what in my life needs to be simplified, and create a plan to make it happen.  The truth is that it’s simply not possible to do everything, to do it well, and still do what’s necessary to maintain my physical and mental health.  For a long time I believed that I could multitask and do it all, only to find out that I’d bought into a lie, because our brains weren’t created to do several things at once.

What do these changes look like?  Do I just cook a couple of different meals a week and eat the same thing for lunch and dinner until it’s gone?  Do I hire someone to clean so I don’t have to?  Do I fast from social media?  Unsubscribe from some of my favorite daily emails?  Use a shopping or delivery service so I don’t have to fight the crowds, roam the aisles, and pick stuff up?  Figure out a ‘uniform’ to wear to work so I don’t have to decide what to wear?

The weekend is just getting started so I’ve got some time to figure all this out.  It’s a quiet weekend without much on the agenda so hopefully I can spend some time thinking and planning.  In the meantime, I’ll leave you with Breathe by Jonny Diaz.  If you see yourself in the verses of this song, join me in “laying down what’s good and finding what’s best.”

Just Breathe