Each of us can name at least one person we consider to be a hero. Even if we cannot name a specific person, we can think of a group of people we admire for their achievements, sacrifices, or for the qualities they possess. Our heroes represent our values and ideals and serve as a role model. They possess a determination, talent or courage that leave us awestruck. They are our inspiration.
And just as heroes play an important role in our lives, they also perform a significant function in a child's development. All children need heroes and to grow on. Good heroes uplift the spirit; the more inspiring the hero, the more inspired the child.
With all that has transpired since Sept. 11th, children need heroes now more than ever. Pulitzer Prize writer Ellen Goodman asked psychologists what stories they would choose to tell and retell children about the events of that day. "Without a second thought, David Walsh, (founder of the National Institute on Media and the Family), chose the firefighters. Tell children, he said, about ''people who had a choice, who harnessed their own horses of fear to go into that inferno to help people," wrote Goodman in her Sept. 18th column in The Cincinnati Post.
"James Garbarino of Cornell University, who has worked with children in war zones around the world, said ''choose stories of caring-in-action.'' A rescued rescue worker whose first questions were about others. A man who carried a woman on crutches down dozens of floors."
Sadly, up until now, children have had few instances of real-life heroes. Celebrities and movie superheroes served as a source of empty inspiration. But these idols do little to teach children of the sacrifices and hard work that go into making a true hero. They lack a vision and the courage of conviction to see that vision through, no matter the personal cost.
"A hero does something worth talking about, but a hero goes beyond mere fame or celebrity. The hero lives a life worthy of imitation. If they serve only their own fame, they may be celebrities but not heroes. Heroes are catalysts for change. They create new possibilities. They have a vision, and the skill and charm to implement their vision," says author Adam Starchild, in Helping Your Children Choose Their Heroes Through Reading.
If the incident of Sept. 11th has given us anything positive, it has bestowed upon us a proliferation of heart-wrenching stories of one heroic act after another. It has given all of us new heroes to look up to and admire.
Give Children Something To Aspire To
As Betty DeRamus of The Detroit News said in her article Not all the heroes in our lives get the recognition they so deserve, most heroes are ordinary people who's faces will never show up on Wheaties boxes. Everyday heroes "save lives, soothe spirits and heal hearts."
In fact, many of these great people are actually children. You only have to look to Web sites such as MyHero.com and abcchildrenfirst.com, to see that children themselves are making the world a better place for all of us.
And you'd be surprised to learn just who ranks above the likes of Britney Spears, Madona or Robin Williams when it comes to being a hero. 38% of 6,000 British youths who participated in a marketing report conducted by BMRB International, picked their own parents as the persons they admired most out of a list of 34 heroes. Across the seven to ten age span parents were consistently in first place.
If our children look to us as the person they admire most, then we have to take up the challenge and BE A HERO. We have to:
* Search out and show our children heroes without number
* Read to our children about individuals who overcame difficult obstacles to reach their goals and contribute to the common good
* Show our children the good in the world
* Let our children know they have the ability to make a difference, no matter how small that difference may seem
* Give our children dozens of real heroes so they can distinguish between heroes and celebrities-and know which ones to emulate
* Guide our children into leading meaningful lives
* Foster their eagerness to learn
* Demonstrate the value of school in accomplishing the goals they want to achieve
* Set up a way for our older children to mentor younger students, and the list goes on.