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Be Your Own Hero

Have you ever noticed that just when you think everything is going your way, it's not. It’s like you are all tuned up to belt out Rosie’s theme from the musical Gypsy, and suddenly, nothing is coming up roses for you or for me. In fact, everything smells more like the fertilizer on the roses to make them come up. So, how is it that as soon as you feel you have the world on a string, something cuts the string? It’s like fate wants to give a reality check. And when that happens, we learn to be a little more humble and a little more wise. These challenges in our life are the breaks, bumps, and bruises that build us into the person we are today. We are all survivors of one tragedy or another, or multiple tragedies. Yet, we persevere, because what else would we do? Left foot, right foot, sunrise, sunset. Pick it up and carry it, because that is what we know to do.

But, what does it take to be a hero? The answer is surprisingly simple to explain, but fairly difficult to execute. To explain heroism, I like to teach my 8th graders the Hero’s Journey every year. The Hero’s Journey is a story-telling technique researched and developed way back in 1949 by a man named Joseph Campbell in a book call The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Basically, Campbell outlined the journey heroes take through all mythology, through all cultures. All heroes follow a similar path. Usually the hero begins in an ordinary world appearing much like the average Joe or Jane. That is important because the audience needs to relate to our soon-to-be hero. Then someone or something warns our apprentice that his or her life is going to change. For example, Luke Skywalker finds the drone R2D2 with the hologram of Princess Laya. Luke’s life is never the same again. Next, our hero goes on a series of challenges to learn the skills needed for the final battle. Along the way the transitioning hero picks up mentors and helpers, like Dorothy’s Scarecrow, Tinman, and Lion. With the skills in place and the entourage complete, it is time for our hero to prove himself and grasp the ultimate boon and defeat the bad guy. As you should recall, Luke turns off his computer and brings down the DeathStar with a shot aimed by the FORCE. But, that is not the end of the story. Now, the hero must return back to his own world to share his gift, or lesson, with the world. Dorothy returns to Kansas and claims with conviction “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t go looking any further than my own backyard, because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it.” The lesson is internalized by the hero and shared with the community to strengthen the lesson.

Real life heroes are also wonderful examples. I recently taught “I Am Malala” to my 8th graders. She describes an incident, as a young child, when she was reprimanded by her father. He sat her down and told her stories of prophets and mistakes they made when they were children. Everyone has the capacity to grow and learn, even prophets. So, if prophets can have those times in their life when things aren’t all rainbows and skittles, then it only seems right that the rest of us go through our bad days, too.

I’m not saying suck it up and take it, however. I’m not trying to sound crase about struggles. On the contrary, what I am saying is that there is a lot of heroism in all of us. So, when those times happen in our life, when everything goes from sunshine and happiness, to dark clouds and dreainess, remember there is a hero inside of you waiting to come out. Thomas Carlyle, the noted writer, essayist, and historian, said “The block of granite that was an obstacle in the pathway of the weak became a stepping stone in the pathway of the strong.” I don’t know if I’m a hero because I figured out ways around that block of granite or not, but I do know that I will always be a better person when I come out through the other end of my trials and journeys. And so will you. And, if you need help, that is just fine. Simply reach out to a scarecrow or a beeping drone to give you a hand and


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