What is bravery? As a firefighter, we understand that our first act of bravery is accepting the authority and responsibility of the badge, and everything after that is just part of the job. We serve as role models to our community because our watchwords are “integrity”, “honor”, and “selflessness”. In these times where self-centeredness seems to be a requisite attitude, we are supposed to reject that position and challenge our fears, not because of any other reason than it is expected of us.
There are heroes we celebrate daily among us, yet they do not get the front page of the newspaper or the viral post on social media. My 12-year-old daughter whispered to herself as she was being prepped for surgery lately, “Just be brave.” My sister cared for her terminally ill husband for over a year until he lost his fight with cancer. My stepmother cares for my father through the ups and downs of his condition, even though sometimes his frustration with the situation comes through and challenges her patience (and ours too). They didn’t ask for these situations, they were thrust upon them, and fortunately they bear them with grace and dignity, but they too are human and they too deserve “hero status”.
My personal motto is “compassion through action”. I sometimes get sucked into problems because I choose to help rather than walk away, which is more often than not, the easy way out. I don’t consider myself any braver than my brother and sister firefighters, law enforcement officers, and medical professionals. I guess one of the observations I have made about heroism and bravery is that it requires sacrifice. It is the sacrifice of self-comfort and the sacrifice of personal resources, and can be a very lonely, tiresome, uphill battle. But it most certainly requires a decision to take action, or to endure trial, and the ability to do so with stoicism, or at least, resolve.
As the designated “heroes”, I think it is important for us to point out the real heroes, the people who do exhibit these tendencies, and to thank them daily, and to show them our love, and to build them up because honestly, they need that kind of support. They are human and frail sometimes, and the battles they face are often long and may not seem to have a positive outcome. If we want people to be heroes, what better people to recognize them and buoy their spirits than people who know what real heroism looks like.
Here’s my personal shout-out to those of you who face challenges every day and find your way to move forward and motivate yourself and others. We hope you feel our love and appreciation, although it may not seem like there’s a lot of that at times. If we have faith and we understand that we are all connected in a deeper place than just here on this mortal coil, we must know that there are more than just earthly rewards attached to goodness. Call it karma, call it dedication, love, whatever. Know you are the real heroes. “Just be brave.”