Since heroism depends on perspective, how is society able to determine what makes a hero, a hero? All heroes, whether it be Superman or a neighborhood firefighter, possess numerous noble qualities that make them heroes idolized by society. A hero may be described as not only generous and courageous, but also as one who perseveres through the trials and judgment of the world in order to fight for what they believe in. Selflessness is a fundamental feature of heroes and may possibly be considered the most important. To be selfless means to devote one’s time and abilities to the betterment of others rather than focusing on one’s self. Mother Teresa was an extraordinary woman who embodied the true meaning of a selfless hero. Born as Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, she recognized that her calling in life was to help the poor She pursued this calling and became a Roman Catholic nun who lived a life of charitable devotion and was eventually referred to as “Mother Teresa.” She founded the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic organization that treats and takes care of those who are poor, ill, or homeless. The Missionaries of Charity also founded schools, soup kitchens, counseling programs, and orphanages. Another person who exemplifies the true meaning of what it means to be a selfless hero is National Football League player, J.J. Watt. While many recognize that name as the defensive end for the Texans football team, Watt became a hero in 2018 when Hurricane Harvey struck his hometown of Houston, Texas. The hurricane caused widespread devastating damage and to assist, Watt started a fundraiser to raise money for the victims of Harvey with a goal amount of $200,000. He then used his large social media following to promote his fundraiser and ended up raising and distributing $41.6 million. Because of his generosity, he funded the cleanup and repair of over 600 homes, the rebuilding of 420 childcare centers, the distribution of 26,000,000 meals, and the dispensation of medicine to 10,000 patients. Mother Teresa and J.J. Watt used their wide platforms not for their own personal gain, but for the benefit of all; a truly selfless and heroic act.
Courageous individuals are those who are not afraid to bring about the unimaginable. Mahatma Gandhi and Beowulf are two courageous and dauntless people who, for the benefit of others, risked their lives. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, known to his followers as Mahatma Gandhi, was a nationalist leader in India who rallied for India’s independence. On March 10, 1922, he was sentenced to six years of jail time for his involvement in protesting the British colonial government in India. He exhibited true grit and bravery when he went to jail because of his pursuit for non-violence. India gained independence from Britain in 1947, with a large part credible to Gandhi’s peaceful civil disobedience campaign. The character Beowulf, from the epic poem, Beowulf, is another example of someone who demonstrates the utmost courage and utter fearlessness. Beowulf, the protagonist, is displayed as a hero through several instances with external conflict, but he is deemed a courageous hero because of his noble intentions to risk his life fighting for the safety of the Danes. Beowulf leaves his homeland and comes to the land of the Danish people to restore the honor that the demon Grendel, took away from King Hrothgar. Beowulf explained to King Hrothgar, his purpose was to win the goodwill of the Danes or to die trying to defeat Grendel. With no way to know if he would live, Beowulf risked his life as he went into battle against the undefeated monster to protect the lives of others. Through his greathearted fighting for others over himself, desirable qualities of bravery and courage, Beowulf proves himself to be a man of great honor and dignity. Beowulf and Gandhi’s struggles for the greater-good epitomize the meaning of a selfless hero.
The ability to persevere through adversity and struggle separates heroes from normal people. Perseverance is an attribute of all heroes, as it is impossible to conquer the hardships thrown at them without extreme perseverance. As exhibited in the novel, The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, perseverance through trials, even those of great length, ends in reward. Robinson Crusoe spent twenty-eight years on an island isolated from civilization. He was deserted in a foreign place with no clothes, no food, and no one to help him. Survival was the only thing on his mind. At the end of the novel, Crusoe encountered ruthless cannibals but not even they could stop the sheer determination of him. On December 19th, 1686, Crusoe’s relentless perseverance paid off and he left the island he had been trapped on for twenty eight years, two months, and nineteen days. Had it not been for his will to live, determination, and endurance, he would not have survived and escaped the island. Another person who best illustrates the meaning of perseverance is Helen Keller. She is a widely-known blind, deaf, and mute, whose perseverance paved the way for many other visually and vocally impaired people. After losing all sight and hearing at nineteen months old due to scarlet fever, she pushed through the limitations of her disabilities. She became an acclaimed author and noted speaker, and in 1915 she founded Helen Keller International, which contributed immensely to research in vision and health. She also became the co-founder of the American Civil Liberties Union in 1920, whose mission is to defend the individual rights granted to everyone in the Constitution. Robinson Crusoe and Helen Keller both exhibit the unmistakable trait of heroic perseverance.
The impact these heroes have made will forever be timeless, and their contributions to society are valued beyond measure, teaching mankind lessons in selflessness, courage, and perseverance. Although some heroes may wear capes, it is clear the impact ordinary people can make is just as significant, if not more. Use the stories of heroes of the past as motivation and inspiration for greatness.
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