"You are a hero!" Miss Nesselrode said positively.
Papa smiled at her. "It is an empty word out here, ma'am. It is a word for writers and sitters by the fire. Out here a man does what the situation demands. Out on the frontier we do not have heroes, only people doing what is necessary at the time."
Quote from: The Lonesome Gods by Louis L'Amour
As I thought about this quote a couple of things came to mind. I know a lot of folks in the military, law enforcement, EMS, and fire fighting community have this same sentiment. To be called a hero for just doing your job or looking out for your buddy is kind of a strange concept. I didn't know how to react when I came home from Afghanistan and that word was slung around me. I did nothing heroic. I certainly didn't feel heroic. I just did my job. And I rather enjoyed my job in the Army. I didn't enjoy being in Afghanistan, but putting up with an environment you don't particularly care for while doing something you love is not what I call being a hero. So what is the definition of a hero?
Had I written this post yesterday, I would have said that Louis L'Amour's definition was a good one, namely, "doing what is necessary at the time." I would have added, "in spite of fear or danger." But this morning something happened that made me rethink that definition. I was shaving and a wasp came out of nowhere and swooped around me, probably attracted to the sound of my electric razor. So I calmly left the bathroom, shut the door, and finished my shave in the kids' bathroom. Then I went downstairs, fetched the flyswatter, and returned to the bathroom. The wasp was in a tricky spot to get at so I made a clumsy attempt to hit it which only confused it and made it reposition. The atmosphere was tense and things were a bit dodgy at times, but when it finally landed again, it was in an excellent spot. SMACK! went the flyswatter on the unfortunate creature. Then I unceremoniously flushed its remains down the toilet. "Why tell this story?" you might ask. Because it made me think back on the definition of a hero I had previously held. Here I was just doing what needed to be done to protect my wife when she was to next use the bathroom. There was a danger of getting stung and I was slightly afraid it might happen but I went in anyway. Am I a hero for killing the wasp? Of course not. The idea is laughable. So I have come to a different conclusion about the word "hero" and its meaning. My new definition is one that I think everyone can agree on. Heroism is like beauty. It's only in the eye of the beholder. One person may not consider themselves a hero, but if someone else sees them as one, then they are a hero, at least to that somebody. So, even though Zachery Verne in the quote above may not have thought himself a hero, to Miss Nesselrode he was. Therefore her declaration was correct after all.