Everyday Heroism

Saturday night is movie night at our house. My wife manages our Netflix subscription; so I’m never too sure what DVD is coming next, but she usually gets it right. Last Saturday’s showing was The Monuments Men featuring George Clooney, Matt Damon and Cate Blanchett among other famous names. It’s the story of U.S. soldiers tasked with rescuing artistic treasures from the Nazis as Europe is liberated during the final years of World War II. It’s not the greatest movie, but I found it interesting and enjoyable.

Although movies are made mostly for entertainment value, they always leave me thinking about the characters. Why did this person act in a certain way? Why didn’t he or she do this or that instead? How would I act in similar circumstances? Typically I’m pondering questions like these for hours, or even a day or two, after we’ve seen a film. Sometimes I have trouble sleeping on Saturday nights for thinking like this. [I know that sounds a little crazy.] Eventually I have to remind myself that it’s fictional, the characters and the story aren’t real.

Fictional stories aside, portrayals of struggle are often a good reflection of reality in movies. Typically the film heroes struggle against adversity to achieve their goals. Drama requires struggle. Obstacles must be overcome. Conflicts must be won. And the biggest, oldest conflict of all – that of good versus evil – is often at the heart of a great movie. The Monuments Men is no different in that regard. The soldiers do “win” in the end, and the Nazi’s really were practically the embodiment evil.

After this particular film, I was left thinking about heroism. What makes a hero? Why do we admire them so? Would I make the cut to be a hero if I had the chance? How about you? Does a person have to be in a war to be a hero? Can someone be a hero in everyday life? After all life is hard. I struggle. You struggle. Can we be heroes too?

Looking up “hero” in the dictionary, I find that that a hero is a person “of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.” We all know what a brave deed is, but what is a noble quality? Back to the dictionary, which suggests “qualities of high moral character, such as courage, generosity, or honor.” Presumably these were attributes of kings, queens and other nobles. (No doubt it depends which particular king we’re talking about.)

Many people show such noble qualities in their everyday life. Examples that come to mind are workers donating to the homeless and downtrodden through the United Way and other charities, individuals refusing promotions to prioritize their family life, husbands remaining faithful to their wives, couples taking in children whose own parents aren’t able to care for them, spouses sticking with each other in sickness and adversity. I’m sure you can think of many others large and small. This is heroism, “everyday heroism.” It’s hard to act justly, sacrifice your self-interest, and to do the right thing even when no one is looking. But people are doing it.

The film had me thinking about this “everydayness” quality to heroism too. Setting aside the evils of Nazism, one of the most memorable scenes in the movie for me was when Lt. James Granger (Matt Damon’s character) has the opportunity to sleep with Claire Simone (Cate Blanchett’s character). I won’t give you all of the details, but it’s been established that Lt. Granger is a “good husband” and father, but, you know, “it is Paris,” and a war is going on, and Claire is willing. Yet, he doesn’t avail himself of the opportunity. That’s heroism to me.

As I’ve been thinking about this topic, I am more and more encouraged, because I see so many everyday heroes among us. Some are Christian and some are not, but, as a Christian, I see Jesus, the one true king, as the ultimate hero. Following Jesus is a heroic journey, and true disciples will gradually acquire the noble habits and character of Jesus through the work of the Holy Spirit. Naturally there will be adversity, obstacles to overcome, and conflicts to win, but if God is for us who can be against us. I’m looking to be a hero. How about you?


  1. you are a hero to me!!!