My son Ari came home yesterday in quite a state. “We saw something scary at school today. I can’t even talk about it. Josh, you tell her,” he said to his brother.
Josh launched into a story about how Terry Fox had one leg and the movie they saw at a school assembly that afternoon was scary.
“Terry Fox was a hero,” I explained. Clearly, they had received an unintended message from the video.
“But he couldn’t even run good,” Josh said. He showed me how Terry Fox ran with a limp.
I was horrified. “He had one leg,” I told them. “He had cancer. Most people with two legs can’t do what he did.”
“Baseball players are heroes,” Josh insisted. “If Terry Fox played baseball he would have gotten out all the time. He would have been so slow.”
This whole incident was troubling on so many levels.
What are my kids learning from society about what it means to be a hero? What have my kids learned from me? Is a hero someone with big muscles and a cape? Is it someone in a baseball uniform who hits home runs? Someone in a business suit who owns a yacht and five sports cars? I’d like them to know that heroes come in all shapes and sizes and have different abilities and disabilities.
Maybe a hero is even a woman. Someone who does their laundry, being careful to remove all their food stains and grass stains. Maybe a hero is someone who wakes up with them at night, cleans up their vomit when they are sick and changes their sheets in the middle of the night when they have an accident. Someone who packs them healthy lunches, organizes play dates and carpools them to swimming and skating and karate so that they can grow up with every advantage and be heroes to their own kids?
I’d like to think that they have good role models all around them. I’d like to hope that as they grow up, they will learn to respect and admire regular everyday heroes in addition to ones like Jose Bautista.
There’s me, for one. And Terry Fox, for another.
When they participate in the Terry Fox Run at school, when they donate money to the cause, I hope they will see that they are heroes, too. They will learn perseverance. They will learn not to give up. They will learn to be generous. They will learn that they are so much more capable than they realized. And I hope that in the meantime, they learn to keep certain opinions to themselves.