The dictionary defines “hero” as “any person, especially a man, admired for courage, nobility, or exploits, especially in war.”
Society, however, struggles to agree on what exactly constitutes a hero.
Are soldiers heroes? Only those who see combat? Only those who perform extraordinary feats in combat?
We have a presidential candidate who believes a man who survived years of torture in an enemy prison camp and refused a chance to go home before his fellow prisoners does not qualify as a hero.
That’s a pretty high bar. We only wish we could have another opportunity to vote for this hero!
Many believe anyone who wears, or has worn, the uniform of the U.S. military is a hero. We count ourselves in this camp. To become a soldier – to place oneself in harm’s way to defend one’s homeland and its principles – is itself an act of selfless courage.
Maine First Lady and Lincoln County homeowner Ann LePage – whose public advocacy focuses on veterans – often talks about how people use the word “hero” frivolously and apply it to undeserving people or groups, like athletes.
We think athletes can be heroes in the context of their game, when they overcome injuries or odds or reach beyond the established bounds of athletic performance to bring themselves or their team to victory.
Curt Schilling was a hero in the famous “bloody sock” game, when he pitched the Red Sox to victory in game 6 of the 2004 American League Championship Series despite a nasty ankle injury.
More recently – and though athletic trainers and nervous parents point to it as an example of the sport’s dangers – Julian Edelman was a hero when he appeared to sustain a concussion in the 2015 Super Bowl, yet returned to catch the game-winning touchdown.
Of course, these acts of heroism should be viewed within the proper context: whether baseball or football, it’s a game.
As Mother’s Day approaches, we think another group deserves canonization as heroes – mothers.
Mothers go through physical torture in the form of childbirth, and psychological torture in the form of sleep deprivation and various other pains and indignities.
People often joke that if men had to give birth, the species would go extinct. We’re not so sure it’s a joke.
Mothers are perhaps the most selfless heroes of all, as even in the era of professional mothers and power brokers like Hillary Clinton and Carly Fiorina, many mothers still place their careers on hold to care for young children, and subjugate their personal goals and desires to the needs and wishes of their offspring.
Unlike in sports, mothers perform all these acts of heroism within the context of literal life and death. Mothers give life and sustain life.
Moms are heroes. Whether you buy flowers, make breakfast, take Mom out to lunch, or just give her a call this Mother’s Day, thank her for her courage, nobility, and exploits on the battlefield of motherhood.
Happy Mother’s Day.