It was the renowned humorist Mark Twain who said, “Everyone cannot be a hero; there has to be somebody standing on the curb to applaud when the hero’s pass by in the parade.” I am not certain that I totally agree with this great writer, thinker and humorist. My reasoning is because I have met many ordinary people in a variety of circumstances who live heroic lives. These people have lived lives of quiet heroism, having lived a life time of giving, doing, love, accomplishment, and sacrifice to make the world a better place. They do it by “doing what they do” one day, week, month, year, and decade at a time. Following, you will find the story of a few of these ordinary heroes’s who have touched me and inspired me as I have traveled around the world. These people have given me a new insight into what makes a life heroic in an ordinary fashion. Each story is different; each circumstance non-related, yet the common thread is the ordinary, day-to-day living of a life in a positive, uplifting manner, done by ordinary people. It is easy to extract a life lesson from them all.
During my radio talk show each day, my radio partner, colleague, friend, and I regularly communicated via email with a young marine in Iraq named Lance Corporal Rudolph. We checked on his progress and safety during the course of his tour of duty in some of the most dangerous territory on earth. He was in Iraq answering his country’s call of duty. Eventually, he came home and we invited him to be a guest on the radio show. He accepted and brought with him another young Marine from his unit. They both shared what it was like to be in mortal combat, their thoughts, concerns, and their perspective on the war and how they came to be thrust into the fray. Listening to these two twenty-something year old young men talk of their patriotism, love of country and of their fellow Marines was awe inspiring. They saw their duty and they did it. To me they are heroes. Ordinary young men doing extraordinary things because they felt it was their job. As the young men were leaving the studio, one of them said to me, “You don’t remember me do you?” I honestly said I did not. Then he said, “You were on my Eagle Board of Review panel when I was trying to get my Eagle Scout award about three years ago.” He continued, “You encouraged me with your words and challenged me with your questions and made me think about doing great things.” Then he said, “thank you for taking the time to be on that Eagle Board of Review panel.” It is amazing to me how doing ordinary things can touch others and affect them in a good and positive way.
On another occasion I was in California speaking to the legal department of a major oil company. The next morning I took a cab back to John Wayne Airport in Orange County and that is when I met another ordinary hero. His name was Petros, a Greek-American cab driver. It was early in the morning and Petros was very talkative on the way to the airport. He told me that he believed in hard work and saving money and not buying anything that he could not afford. He was 55 years old and he had raised five children and instilled in them a good work ethic. We talked about how some people get in debt and never get out of it. We talked about how some people like to live high on the hog and flaunt their affluence. He told me that he started out in New York and waited tables. He saved his money and then he and his wife eventually opened their own restaurant. Then they expanded and at one time ran five restaurants. He made his money and moved to California and lived in the San Juan Capistrano area. He said he drove a cab part time because he could not stand to be idle and needed to feel like he was working. Petros told me about the time he was waiting on Aristotle Onassis the Greek Billionaire. He said he gave the Billionaire great service and at the end of the meal and evening Onassis wrote him a tip check in the amount of $5000. That amount was for all the waiters who worked that evening. Petros said then Mr. Onassis said, “Would you like to flip double or nothing for the tip? If you win I’ll give you $10,000 but if you lose you’ll get nothing.” Petros told me he thought about taking the risk but finally decided that a bird in the hand was better than a lot of other birds in the bushes. He told Mr. Onassis that he would take the original offer for himself and the other hard working waiters. Mr. Onassis told him that he made the right decision and that a person should never take such a risk when the odds were just 50-50. Petros told me that it was a unique experience waiting on the billionaire and that he learned that when you work hard for something that you should not be flippant about it, but rather you should take the reward of your labor and be happy with what you have earned. He said,” We should never gamble or risk everything we have to try to get an increase from nothing and that we did not earn.” What a story. Petros the positive cabbie from San Juan Capistrano. He’s an ordinary hero who has done extraordinary things with his life and his influence among friends and family is immeasurable.
I spoke in Hermosilla, Mexico to a group of engineering students and met a couple of young men who were to me, ordinary hero’s. Their names are Jose and Victor. These young men were in college and came from very poor families. They attended my sessions and we ate together and went to other meetings together and I got to know them on a personal level. They both talked about coming to America and going to graduate school after they finished college. They had dreams of succeeding academically and financially. Though their prospects were dim at the moment and their future uncertain, they were living lives of optimism and expectation. Daily they go to classes, they do their homework, and they do their studying to pass their course work. They have no prospect of a job when they finish college in their area but they have big dreams, high hopes, and they both have a drive to succeed. They want to succeed, and to help their families and to eventually have families of their own. Seeing these young men and how hard they were working to facilitate their success was inspiring to me. They are doing what they have to do and need to do, one day at a time, one week at a time. They are ordinary hero’s who are doing what it takes to better themselves and to realize their dreams. Some how, I am confident that they will press on toward the mark and reach their goals.
I suppose that we all can’t be hero’s commanding a parade in our honor. There has to be that group standing on the curb applauding as the big hero’s pass by. However, I would submit, the real hero’s in the world are those who “are”standing on the sidewalk applauding and encouraging others. They are the ones who are carving their good deeds on the hearts of others. Without those who stand aside and in line, off the beaten path, those who are the hard workers, the appreciators, the encouragers, the optimists, the doers of good things, there would be no grease to smooth the way for those who accomplish great things. These are the ordinary hero’s. To those whom I’ve met and to those I have yet to meet, I salute YOU!