When I was very young, my brother and I used to clamor for our dad to take us to this long grassy strip beside the railway tracks in Smithers so “we” could run. What we actually wanted was for him to run, while we chased after him. We were awed by his speed and would exhaust ourselves trying and trying and trying to keep up. We thought he was literally the fastest man on earth, and told him so. He would laugh and laugh . . . and then, sort of embarrassed like, add, “I’m really, really not—and please don’t tell anybody that I am.”
His disclaimer only made us all the more convinced that he was the fastest, that he was just being modest or kind of like Clark Kent, trying to keep his super powers under wraps. And he was our hero in other, bigger, ways too.
This hero worship and pure rose-colored love applied to my mom as well. In addition to being the best cook in the known universe, she could sew anything, patch up the most gruesome injuries without a blink, and fix any toy. Plus, she was a math and science genius!
As I got older my dad’s super hero qualities—and those of my mother’s—diminished. (In fact, for a good chunk of time, they completely lost all ability to do anything remotely right or to know anything. After a few years, miraculously, they got at least some of their admirable qualities, skills and know-how back. Phew.)
But it didn’t matter that I no longer blindly worshipped them, that I realized they didn’t actually have invisible wings or magic capes, that they were, in fact, the same as me, just people trying to muddy through life the best they could. The lesson—that you can and should have people you admire, that you look to as examples of how to live and be—was set.
While I don’t think we should idolize anyone to the point that if they fall off their pedestal it completely shatters our vision of ourselves, our hope for our lives, or our world view, I do believe, regardless of our age, it’s nice—and incredibly beneficial—to have heroes.
Identifying people who are doing what we want to do, living how we desire to live, or who embody morals, character, and personality traits that we would like to have, then watching them and practicing their methods and approaches, is a great way to learn how to maneuver life yourself. Sometimes, or regarding some specific things, those people might be family members, but other times, we may need to focus beyond our immediate roots.
Over the years, I’ve looked to a myriad of people for guidance, affirmation and inspiration—as a mother, a homemaker, a writer, in my career, but also just as a traveller on the road of life. It can be a treacherous, terrifying road with bad slippery spots and tough terrain at times. Looking for clues on how to manage and thrive from those with more experience just makes good sense.
We should all seek heroes—unique to our personal bents and aspirations, hopes and dreams. And we should never worry about whether anyone else is similarly inspired by our notion of what makes someone “heroic.” It’s a uniquely personal thing. And should our heroes need to change their outfit, fly with another cape or be supplanted or joined by someone else because we’ve grown all we can under their influence—well, we should feel no guilt in looking to someone new. Heroes understand.
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“Have Heroes” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, June 2016 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.” It’s part of a theme I’m exploring this year–“Things I want my children (and future grandchildren) to know.” Any you’ve missed can be found here: