The New Year’s toasts may be over, but I still have a toast or two left in me as we ring in 2016. Because I always endeavor to start the year on a positive note, I want to raise a glass to the heroes of our little old human race. To those folks who remind me of the capacity for goodness we have.
We humans love our heroes. We profile heroes regularly on the nightly news. The person who pulls a neighbor free of rising flood waters. People who travel to foreign countries to provide disaster aid. These powerful acts make us think, “would I do the same thing in that situation?”
For whatever reason, we also cast our sports stars in a hero role, although really, making a clutch goal or overtime 3-pointer isn’t quite heroism, is it? Admirable, exciting, yes, but let’s have a little perspective.
The heroes I have been thinking about lately are not those highlighted on ESPN or the nightly news. They are everyday folks who, in my own life, exhibit qualities of humanity that I find inspirational. So here’s my toast to those everyday heroes.
Here’s to anyone and everyone who has battled or is battling a terrible disease, not allowing it to break their spirit even if it breaks their bodies. Specifically, to those I know who are undergoing painful, awful medical treatments and who somehow can still put love and hopefulness out into the world. To the loved ones of those people, who provide care and support while enduring great personal sacrifice and fear, and who, if the battle is lost, must soldier on alone.
You are not alone.
Here’s to foster parents and adoptive parents and single parents and parents in general. You are heroes to your children (even the teenagers). Just getting up in the morning can be a heroic act. Setting a good example is a herculean task when you are tired or sick or had a horrible day at work. You are a hero for slapping on a smile and helping with homework and packing a nice lunch and reading a story, when all you want to do is take a big, long, nap.
Here’s to grandparents and child care givers and anyone helping anyone else with the most important job any of us has on this Earth — raising decent human beings.
Here’s to the student who is working so hard to make good grades and juggle the extracurricular activities your parents make you do and navigate weird social pressures and body issues and still emerge as a polite, productive citizen. We are all cheering for you!
Here’s to the public school teachers who are underpaid and overworked and deal with ungrateful parents, troubled children, endless bureaucracy and yet still manage to get everyone to learn something.
Here’s to all public servants, the oft-maligned “government workers” who are the economic engine of this lovely town I call home, who are subject to invasive public disclosure requests, mistrust and misunderstanding, but who show up to work each day to keep us healthy, fix our problems and protect those things we hold dear.
Here’s to the elected officials who, whatever you might think of their politics, or whatever you might assume about government, put in countless hours to try and listen to the vastly differing and often combative opinions of their constituents, navigate tricky, convoluted legislative waters and spend time away from loved ones, all to try and improve life for those they represent.
Here’s to anyone who puts their passion and energy into projects that don’t pay them or don’t pay them enough, for causes rarely brought to public light, but that move the ball forward for humanity.
Here’s to any oppressed individual or group who fights against their oppression with civility and peaceful protest, even in the face of violence and hate.
Here’s anyone who puts his or her life on the line as part of a job.
Finally, here’s to my children, who are growing into awesome people, despite my frequent missteps as a parent. And to my husband, who fixes things, is a much better parent, who loves me unconditionally, and who makes me feel as if I can do anything.
One of my favorite quotes is often attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, “Do one thing every day that scares you.”
Heroes do this. We all do this. We can all be heroes, and I hope we all are, in our own everyday ways, this year. Cheers!
Jennifer Davis is an environmental planner and writer. She served as a member of The Olympian’s 2015 Board of Contributors, and this is the final column from the 2015 board. Davis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.