Thursday, July 16, 2009

Heroes: becoming inspiring individuals

In my last post I speak about the true heroes, those unsung heroes that help an old lady cross the street, pick up that bit of garbage and light a candle in someone's darkness. Today's blog is an attempt to empower people to go out and be a hero.

In response to my last post my girlfriend told me she's been a hero today. Across the street from her there's a supermarket that always has a lot of empty beercans lying around. Some presumably homeless people hang out there and leave their can's lying around. Today she walked past it as she always does on the way to doing the groceries, and instead of just passing them by, she went and picked them up and put them in the garbage bin. I'm proud to have inspired such an act of heroism.

Calling it heroism may seem overdone, but I believe it is the right and proper term. It takes courage and determination to change your own behavior. It means you have to change your own perception, refuse to think of problems as unsolveable and to be committed to making a difference in the world. Calling it heroism may however makes the task at hand seem difficult. As if you have to do something really special and unique to be a hero.

A hero, in my definition is someone who doesn't let an opportunity to make a difference go unnoticed. They pay attention to what is going on around them and help whenever they can. My girlfriend in the above example has probably walked past those cans a dozen times at least, perhaps even hundreds of times. However, today she saw them in a different light and made a choice to do something about it.

This kind of behavior is different and gets noticed, and when it does it's contagious. I remember one night at Carnaval, walking from the trainstation to my girlfriends home. In the south of our country Carnaval is celebrated with as much joy and noise as it is in Rio, and my girlfriend lives in the south. It was quite a new experience for me, all these people all dressed up, walking from bar to bar, singing and having a good time. I noticed however that some vandal had pushed a number of bicycles over, so that they lay in the road. The inebriated crowd was walking by them, but I could see that it was only a matter of time before they'd be falling over them or maybe treading on them, either breaking their necks or breaking the bicycles.

So my girlfriend and I picked up the first bike we saw and leaned it against the buildings on the side. There were at least 7 bikes that were similarly thrown about and it looked like a daunting task when a man in a pigsuit cheered at us. He told us: "I saw you put that bike upright! Good going ladies, that's what the world needs, people who care". He helped us lean the rest of the bikes against buildings and lampposts and told us about Carnaval in years gone by when of course "everything was better and people really cared". We made his night and he made ours.

That's the random acts of kindness that I believe are truely heroic. And aside from making a difference they also make you feel good about yourself! It's fun to look at the world and look for small ways in which you can improve it, right here and right now. So I propose we start a movement: the RAK-movement. RAK meaning: Random Acts of Kindness. It's easy and anyone can do it. But just to get you started and to inspire others: let's keep a tRAK-record. Let me know what RAK you did today!

If you like this post, you may also enjoy:
On being human: The case for mediocrity

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