Even as I write this, I am sitting on an airplane. Sometimes the urge to write overwhelms me, and I just cant resist. So here I am, blogging away on an airplane when I should be resting. (I’ll date this entry by whenever I post it, which might be a few days out as I’m unsure about my internet connection for the next few days.)
Anyway, let me get to the point. I just finished the movie “Invictus,” starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon, directed by Clint Eastwood. Now, as far as I’m concerned, you would REALLY have to screw up a movie for it to not be worth watching with those two cast in the leading roles. True to form, I was awed. Bedazzled. Amazed. (wait, are those synonyms?) The story is about how newly elected president, Nelson Mandela, united with the captain of the South African rugby team to use rugby to unify the country (and win the rugby World Cup). The movie was fantastic. You learn about Mandela and his philosophy, you learn about what South Africa was like when he became president, and you watch how rugby brought them together. Of course, that was by no means the end of the struggle, but tell me you didn’t tear up a little as you watched some Afrikaaner police officers go from suspiciously eying a skinny black boy to watching them hug the kid and cheer, and I’ll strongly suspect that you’re lying. If you haven’t seen the movie, definitely get on it immediately. WAIT – I meant AFTER you finish reading this post, goodness!
I am generally a fan of the heart-warming, sports underdogs beat the odds type of movie. I’m especially fond of the ones that talk about underlying social issues like “Glory Road” did. Still, heart-warming is supposed to be theoretical, but I find that there are certain books and movies that actually manage to warm my heart. I’m sitting here feeling like my soul is glowing or something. Now, HIV debacle aside (the redemption for which I believe he has worked hard to achieve), Nelson Mandela is very, very high on my list of heroes. I had the honor of hearing him speak a couple months ago. Believe me, he has every bit of the presence you think he will. So that is probably part of why I’m feeling so inspired right now, but it isn’t the only reason.
As I watched the movie, I started thinking about heroes. It’s such a common question that we ask. Even little kids have a hero, be it superman, their mothers/fathers or a favorite sport celebrity. Still, I think we often forget that heroes don’t have to be famous. Don’t get me wrong Mandela is definitely one of my heroes, but I think we meet a lot of heroes in our every day lives that generally go unacknowledged. The parent that devotes her time to coaching her kid’s baseball team… The man who gives up his holidays to celebrate with people who don’t have families at the homeless shelters and soup kitchens… The people who devote their lives to the betterment of others – in hospitals, in schools, in neighborhoods… They are all heroes, and so is every person fighting a chronic illness. They are inspirations to everyone else fighting similar battles every day. This is hardly a new sentiment. In fact, I think if you watch the Twitter updates of the chronic disease community, you will see at least one post stating the same thing every few hours or so at the very least.
Now, dear readers, I’m sure you are very anxious for me to wrap up this post so I can free you to search for this movie. So let me get to my point. It’s a pretty interesting circle if you think about it. You tell persons A, B, and C that they are heroes because they find the strength to fight these illnesses. Meanwhile, persons A, B, and C turn around and tell you the same thing, but you don’t really believe them. So why can’t we acknowledge that we are heroes too? Why must hero-worship always be an outward love? You are your own temple, right? Ok, so maybe the problem is that it sounds a little self-centered. How can I sit around thinking about what a big hero I am? After all, if a kid answered “Who’s your hero?” with “I am!” they would probably be subject to a lesson on what a hero is followed by a reiteration of the question until they reported a more “appropriate” answer. But I think it’s a truth worth acknowledging. It’s not enough to help other people get through their days by reminding them how amazing they are. We must also help ourselves by acknowledging that if they are heroes for what they go through then logic dictates that we are heroes too. Everyone is interconnected, one can’t rise up without the other. In order to help me fight my battle, you must be strong enough to fight yours first. (I’m reminded of the airline safety videos: Please put on your own mask before assisting others!) So the next time you are raising someone’s self esteem with compliments like these, take a moment to remind yourself: you are a hero too.