Call me crazy, but when I was a kid, I aspired to greatness. Visions of literary superheroes danced in my head as I hung from the monkey bars, planning out the precise way that I would be the next J.K. Rowling, become the discoverer of a cure for diseases or whatever the most exciting “hero” was that week. The thing about greatness is that its’ definition, as I have learned over the years, is vague. Heroes (especially in literature) aren’t limited to being Superman, because I think being a hero is more complex than that. Simply put, heroism no longer fits into the binary out of which it was born.
Monday evening found me camped out in front of my computer screen, scanning the news after getting a call that the Boston Marathon had been bombed. My father in law was running the race and nobody had heard from him. After calling the Canadian Consulate and hearing no news, frantically calling everyone who might have heard from him all there was left to do was wait. That tension, heavy and thick like the air has left the room is the worst feeling; it’s the mixture of uncertainty and possibility that makes waiting for news painfully hard. But it was while I was waiting that I had a realization of sorts. It was while I was skimming the headlines that I started to see a pattern; amidst the chaos were a series of small acts of kindness.
In horrific events like these there are those stories that trickle down the lines of communication. Stories about the runners who lost their legs when they ran to help a mother and sister who had been injured, the people who ran towards the explosion to help out and the Boston residents that signed up on Google Docs to open up their homes to survivors are a reminder of the small moments of heroism. On CBS news, they identified a “man in a red T-shirt and baseball hat, leaning over a visibly injured woman” as well as the countless fire fighters and EMTs who showed up to help. The voices on twitter and Mashable were raving about The Man with Orange Juice, who offered his bathroom and some orange juice that he had or “the woman who opened her doors.” Among the wreckage of this horrific event are a myriad of heroic acts.
We tell these stories for a reason; we tell these stories because they are the true stories of heroes. Everyone has the potential to be great not because they were born with great talent or goodness, but that there is the possibility to act in a heroic way when the opportunity arises. Greatness does not mean grand gestures. Sometimes, greatness means small acts of kindness.