Who's Your hero?
My recent trip to the cinema to see The Hobbit left me pondering the issue of heroes. Despite my best efforts, I failed to connect with Bilbo Baggins – that reluctant hero who I am sure will save the day by the end of the third movie. I felt nothing for him. While I didn't want to see him harmed, I also didn't find him at all heroic.
My thoughts on heroes were triggered again while reading the social media fallout of Oprah’s interview with cyclist Lance Armstrong. So many people expressed despair at the fall of their childhood hero.
Some wrote they were experiencing a void now that he'd plummeted off his pedestal. Again, I couldn't connect. To me, Lance Armstrong was paid to ride fast. As a professional athlete, he probably wasn't out there riding to inspire young minds, but to win races for himself.
It’s not that I don't have heroes. I do. They just don't win Olympic medals, grace the pages of glossy magazines or go on huge quests to slay warlords and wizards My heroes are quiet, compassionate and courageous achievers who have changed the world through their commitment to justice, peace and the small things people need.
The qualities of my heroes were defined when I first heard about Mother Theresa. I was just a child who didn't know what the words ‘disadvantage’ and ‘developing world’ meant. But I knew that I admired this woman who dedicated her life to helping others.
As a teenager, a British woman who grew tired of seeing television footage of the cold and hungry children living through the horrors of the war in Bosnia spoke at my school. There was no fanfare the day she bought her first truck, loaded it with food and clothing, and drove it into the war zone. I don't even remember her name. All I remember of her is that she looked like an ordinary woman, one who decided that the only way to create the world you want is to do something about it.
At the top of my list of heroes are Krissy Johnston and Gina Mathers of ATSAQ [Australian Transgender Support Association of Queensland]. These incredible women have worked tirelessly for over 20 years to ensure the transgender community has access to equal opportunities in employment, health care and justice. They have the compassion to listen when people need to talk, the knowledge to guide us to access services, the humility to ask for help when someone has skills they need and the endurance to keep going when their backs are against the wall.
As we are learning from Armstrong's fall, heroes bear great responsibility to behave with integrity, dignity and respect. Without living these qualities, their poor choices will have far-reaching effects. But who can tell a hero what to do? How can we protect against fallen heroes?
We are all heroes to someone in our lives, particularly to younger members of the GLBT community. Let's embrace this role by living heroically. For only then can we protect against becoming fallen heroes ourselves.