The Need To Rethink Our Children’s Heroes (And Our Own)

By | October 23, 2013

In the days before the Terry Fox Run the boys did with their school, our walk-from-school time was filled with questions and discussions about Fox.

How did he know he had cancer? How did he come to set on a monumental task like the one he did? How did he manage to run with all the pain and heaviness caused by the disease and medication? The topic is far from over in our house.

Terry Fox is alive in more than our hearts. He is with us many times when there are tough tasks to accomplish, or determination, as a life skill, to understand and learn.

But it goes far beyond that.

It’s about understanding the greater good and why it matters to think of more than yourself along the way.

Terry Fox touched people’s lives. He saved people. No cape, no mask or impenetrable costume; no machines and, unfortunately, no well-designed pause in the scenario at a time when his life was in danger so he could be saved in time.

But he saved people.

Many have gotten stronger in their fight against cancer because of him.

What he did was making people — like my sons and me — realize that superheroes are the most human-like creatures. Vulnerable and strong at the same time. Awe-inspiring.

He is not the only one.

A couple of weeks ago, we stood in a long lineup at TRU for a chance to see and listen to Commander Chris Hadfield.

It was spellbinding. He talked about being nine and dreaming of being an astronaut. He talked about following a dream and making it a reality.

If you have encountered many people like that as a kid, and learned from them, good for you; you are fortunate.

Not to imply for a second that dreaming as a child and accomplishing as an adult forms a beeline, punctuated solely by accomplishments and joy. There are trials, there are many failures along the way, but if the dream stands and becomes reality, chances are there were some more factors involved, such as determination and motivation.

Hadfield and Fox are two of the people who have made many of our dinners and walks alive with questions.

There are many more.

We have our own heroes and role models. We have reasons why for choosing them.

Talking about people who accomplish things we admire is something necessary. Children learn about values because we acknowledge real values and our words have weight.

Children also need to know that regular people do outstanding things.

In a world dominated by superheroes who make accomplishments look so easy and quick, children need to be reminded that achieving anything worthwhile takes time, determination and ability to give ourselves to a dream or cause. It is never an overnight thing.

In a world abounding with “awesomeness” and everything is “awesome” from shoes to movies, to just about everything that our children encounter on a daily basis, we need to redefine the word awesome for them. To rediscover it ourselves.

Awesome is, according to the dictionary, “inspiring an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration or fear; causing or inducing awe.”

If we are truly inspired, amazed, or awe-struck by what we see in remarkable people around us, in people we hear, read about or meet, we should see it as it is: awesome.

If we keep at it, there’s a chance our children will be learning the true meaning of awesome and applying it to their lives.

(Originally published as a column under the same title in the Kamloops Daily News on Saturday October 18, 2013)

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