Tag Archives: hero

We Can All Be Heroes Today

When senseless tragedy hits I have to find a way to cope. My own experience with this can be calculated by the before & after 9/11 timeline.

Before 9/11, I would cry, devour the news, curse the terrorists, curse God, cry some more and then, eventually, slowly, move forward.

After 9/11, I cry, scan the news, pity the terrorists, cry a little more and then relish in all of the Good Samaritan stories that begin to trickle through.

After reading a handful or more of these stories, I can move forward with gusto.

In my lifetime, I’ve noticed that with every tragedy caused by a handful of idiots, hundreds upon thousands of good, kind, compassionate, caring, amazing heroes emerge. It is a wonderful, beautiful, mathematical probability that can only be explained by love.

Man is inherently good. Evil, while it tends to grab the spotlight with a better stronghold, is rare. When faced with adversity, we DO rise to the occasion. We help. We care. We reach out.

And the amazing and far more beautiful part of the equation? Even if we are not directly hit by the tragedy, even if we live thousands of miles away and have no direct ties to the event, we empathize. We put ourselves in another’s shoes and we say to ourselves, what can I do to help? How can I make this better?

If it’s sending blankets or food. Or going to the blood bank. Or pulling out our checkbook. Or holding our children a little tighter. Or saying, “I love you” to those we care about a little more often. It all makes a difference. It all makes our world a better place.

1 idiot: thousands of Good Samaritans.

I’ll take those odds any day of the week.

everyday

Thank you, all you heroes out there. Those who were on the scene. Those arriving to the scene. And those of us, miles away, who are living today more mindfully, kindly and lovingly.

We can all be heroes today. Every day.

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Filed under Deep Thoughts, In the News, Observations

Surviving Divorce Is Not Courage. Saving Lives While Risking Your Own IS.

“I can’t believe how brave you are!” was my mother’s backhanded compliment. At least, I think it was a compliment. She couldn’t believe I had it in me.

She was never very encouraging about any of my dreams. When I wanted to be a teacher she told me to marry well because I was never going to make any money teaching (that last word said heavy with disappointment and disdain.)

So, a few months after my divorce was final she tells me the move was “brave.”

Not a word I would have chosen.

At the time I was feeling shaken, crazy, empty. I felt like the biggest loser on the planet. My husband, All-American athlete, bright and amazing math teacher, Coach of the Year numerous times – didn’t want me anymore.

Just before we separated he asked, “Are you still planning on moving out? ‘Cause I brought you home more boxes.”

Gee. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

So, no. I didn’t feel brave. I felt rejected and stupid.

My mother’s comment certainly speaks of her generation. Divorce was not common among her circles. And certainly not with children. She painted me to be this courageous woman, raising a child on my own.

But leaving a highly dysfunctional marriage isn’t courageous. That’s survival.

Courage is Chesley Sullenberger. He bravely landed a plane in the Hudson River, saving all the people on board, making sure everyone, passengers and crew, were safe before being the last to leave the aircraft.

Courage is my brother-in-law and everyone else who serves in the military. They bravely fight for a greater cause, helping less fortunate countries become safe and self-sufficient.

Courage lies with the people of Haiti and Greenland. Losing their homes, their lifestyles, their lives to natural disaster. Bravely rebuilding. Reaching out to others in their time of need.

Courage is the woman who leaves an abusive relationship, protecting herself and her children. She bravely leaves with no prospect of a job or a way to provide shelter for her children. All she knows is that she must leave and take her chances for the safety of her children. That’s courage.

Courage is the doctor who gives up his practice for a year to work with Doctors Without Borders or any other humanitarian aid organization. Working in countries ravaged by war, disaster and disease. Many times risking their lives to save the lives of others.

Courage is working in the inner city schools, walking through metal detectors every day, receiving threats from former students now involved in gangs, lying on the floor for four hours with your 35 students during riots in L.A. all because “they need me.” That, my friends, is my sister and so many others out there. Not me, taking the cushy private prep-school job.

Courage is exploring uncharted territory, discovering new lands and all the science and great discovery it gains. Astronauts, scientists, medical researchers handling deadly diseases, great explorers. They live courage.

Surviving divorce is just that, survival. And if surviving is courage, then we are all courageous. But my bravery is not to be recognized or commended.

Chesley Sullenberger. Douglas MacArthur. Missy Elliot. Dr. Leo Ho. Jaime Escalante. Christa McAuliffe. Buzz Aldrin. Dr. Eliabeth Blackburn. Col. (Dr.) James Swaby. Ferdinand Magellan.

Just a few of the many courageous people out there.

Truly courageous people.

(This post is part of the Five For Ten project at Momalon. Please visit their site for more wonderful posts on Courage. Or click the button below to find out how YOU can participate!)

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Filed under How We Roll

Jaime Escalante – Passionate. Brilliant. Hero.

A few weeks ago, a hero died.

Jaime Escalante.

Jaime Escalante - December 31, 1930 - March 30, 2010

He was my hero. I first learned about him in college. I was finishing up my teaching degree and I had an amazing math professor. Her teaching style was energetic, positive and fun. She taught us about Jaime Escalante and the work he was doing at Garfield High School in California. When the movie about his work with students in L.A. “Stand and Deliver” was released, a bunch of us went to see it.

I was mesmerized.  His energy. His stamina. His drive. His passion.

He was an amazing teacher. He was the teacher I wanted to be.

I was never a strong math student. I struggled to understand and keep up. But in high school, with an amazing Algebra I teacher, something clicked. I was catching on. It wasn’t as hard as I’d thought. But I was a girl. And girls don’t do math. And boys don’t like smart girls. So I played dumb. I fostered the belief in myself that I still wasn’t very good with numbers. My path was English, not math.

During my senior year of high school, I had already received early acceptance to a major university. So, like any other senior in the same position, I slacked off. I coasted. I even dropped out of Trig because, hey – I was going to teach English. Who needs higher math?

When I took my university placement exams I had tested out of freshman mathematics. I shook my head in disbelief and asked them to check again, because I wasn’t very good at math. My advisor assured me that the scores were correct. Had I considered a career in mathematics?

I laughed. Of course not. But unable to stay away, I took a few math courses. And a few more. Pretty soon I was able to have a double major in both math and English. Might come in handy someday, I thought.

I always felt I was a better Math Teacher than English Teacher. English came too easily for me. How in the world do you teach someone how to write? How to analyze? How to interpret?

But with numbers? Easy. Step by step. There was a pattern to discover. A direct path leading to the correct answer.

And, I used to be a struggling math student. I knew, first hand, what it was like to sit in a classroom with numbers whizzing by and you have no idea how everyone else seems to know the answer. I knew how to struggle with a calculus problem that took pages to complete and three tries to get the right answer while your study partner got it right the first time and in 10 less steps.

Math didn’t come easily to me but boy, was it fun! Every day a new puzzle. A new riddle to solve.

Jaime Escalante showed a bunch of kids, a random sampling of American high school students, that they were capable of being great math students. Each year that he taught AP Calculus at Garfield High, more and more students were inspired and passed the exam.

Each and every year.

They weren’t geniuses. It wasn’t luck. It was all because of a man with tenacity, knowledge and a pure love of teaching and his students. The students were inspired by his energy and drive. They were pumped up by his confidence in their abilities. They began to believe in themselves. And then they just went out and did it!

In the years that followed Jaime Escalante’s departure from the Garfield High math program, passing AP Calculus scores plummeted by 80 percent. There was no longer a champion for the students, encouraging a love for math. Garfield High School students were again, just like any other math student across the country. Struggling to see the wonder in numbers. Becoming bored with applications that they’ll “never use.”

An amazing teacher died last month.

A passionate advocate. A brilliant role model.

A hero.

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Filed under People, Teaching