Not The Hero Type
This summer at the beach, I was standing at the water’s edge as a women was making her way in through the foaming waves breaking at the shore. I watched her struggle to get past the undertow. She lost her footing, regained it, only to lose it again, falling forward. She struggled to right herself just as another wave hit, pushing her backwards this time. She finally managed to plant her feet, and she saw me watching her, and she laughed.
“Please don’t make me have to save you,” I said.
I admire heroes. It must be wonderful to be in the exact right place to make a difference in an emergency – to change someone’s life – maybe save someone’s life.
I can respond adequately in a pressure situation. And I think I would do the right thing if confronted with a true crisis.
But the truth is, I really would rather not.
I’m not the hero type.
It must be a glorious feeling, but if possible, I will pass on the following experiences:
- Donating an organ. If I could help another person get healthy without losing any of my body parts, I think that would be better.
- Shaving my head in support of a friend with cancer. I have a friend who went through chemotherapy. One night over dinner, I confessed that I was shallow enough to think that losing my hair is as terrifying as cancer itself. And my friend agreed. She called it the final insult to her sick body.
- Testifying at a trial. I once sat on a malpractice jury. I hated making a decision that was bound to hurt one person or the other. I saw the “losing” party in the parking lot after the trial. I wanted to give him all the money in my wallet.
- Picking up relatives at the airport in a snowstorm. This is no biggie, right? But please – if the weather is horrible, just stay at the airport hotel until it clears up, okay?
- Taking in strangers after a natural disaster. Hurricanes and tornadoes and blizzards can destroy someone’s home. The people who are lucky enough to be spared should share their homes with the tragically unlucky. And I have shared mine – with my mother.
- Saying a few words at a funeral. I care. I hurt. Most times though, I can’t share it. I could probably write a wonderful eulogy. Maybe someone else could deliver it.
- Retrieving a severed finger and packing it in ice to take to the hospital. We have a friend whose eleven-year-old daughter had to do that when her Dad cut off his thumb with his jigsaw. I can picture my husband cutting off his thumb. I can’t picture myself picking it up.
- Passing messages to political prisoners. I’ve marched against two wars. But that was as a part of a large group. I don’t believe I can be brave alone. I would drop the message in front of a guard with a gun. For sure.
- Delivering a baby… I don’t even like the responsibility of doing someones’ taxes. I can’t even express how much I don’t want the responsibility for a human being coming out of you.
- Talking someone off a ledge. Muhammad Ali did that in 1981. Wow. Can you imagine? How do you know what to say? I could get it all wrong and the person could think “Now I REALLY don’t want to live.” That suicidal person may have had the worst possible life. I do not wish to be the final straw.