Depending on one’s perspective, heroism runs the gamut from superhuman deeds to everyday functioning. So what is it that makes a hero out of a person?
I believe that heroism is about fighting battles. Battles by my definition include, of course, wars, where visions of heroic actions are most common. But there are many other kinds of battles. Common to all, however, is the conflict between a hero and the enemy of the hero.
Enemies also come in many different forms. Cancer is an enemy. So is Parkinson’s disease, which my dad is fighting right now. Against enemies like these, one can’t pick the battlefield or choose the day to fight.
Heroic, in these cases, is how you play the hand you’ve been dealt. My dad, for example, takes each day as it comes, refuses to give up hope or stop making the effort, and keeps his sense of humor sharp. He has done this for more than 6 years now. That’s the stuff of heroism.
I see heroism in the personal choices that some people make. It’s heroic when parents buck the trend by deciding to give up some of the immediate niceties of life and invest time and presence in raising their kids. And, I believe it’s also heroic for parents to go to work because it is necessary for their family.
Every morning at work, I see colleagues who might not feel well, who maybe have personal stuff nagging at them or who are otherwise distracted. They too are heroic when they battle these feelings and try to put smiles on their faces, act kindly toward others, and do their jobs professionally.
There is heroism in our field of manufacturing. It’s been a tough business to be in for the last few years. Sometimes a hero is someone who believes he or she is right even when all conventional wisdom points another direction.
Metalworking professionals are of this ilk. For many of us it would be easier to pack it in and do something else. If we listen to the wags, ours is a dead industry. In my travels, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many interesting, smart and passionate metalworking professionals. They have pride in what they do and confidence in its importance. Our industry is important. It will survive, and, if history can be believed, it will emerge better than ever. It is heroic to persevere.
It’s a fair question to ask whether applying the title of hero to those I’ve mentioned lowers the bar for who is a hero. I don’t think so. Rather, I hope in a small way to remind us of how close we all are to real heroes every day.