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How To Be A Hero - 12/22/2011

Throughout my childhood, I dreamed of becoming a hero. There were countless numbers of fantasy figures that served as role models: Superman, Batman, The Phantom, Flash Gordon and Spiderman, etc..  I’m not sure how many there were for women, but I do recall Wonder Woman and Sheena - Queen of the Jungle. There were also role models that emanated from athletics, politics and science: Babe Ruth, Franklin Roosevelt and Louie Pasteur. They were the heroes I yearned to be: a special person who was recognized for his exceptional talents and achievements.

But it didn’t end there.  Another example I will always remember was that of a young man who just happened to be walking down the street and saw a home on fire. He raced to the door, alerted the occupants and saved their lives.  As a result, a photo of him appeared on the cover of the newspaper with the caption, "Hero for a day". For months, I lamented the fact that I never arrived on the scene of a catastrophe early enough to have that opportunity.  Nevertheless, that hope persisted.  I wanted to fight in a war, survive an earthquake, or be part of a group in a lifeboat after our ship sank who emerged as that courageous individual everyone said saved their lives.  I’ve now reached an age where, although the thought is still there, my sound reasoning says that I might well wind up as scared to death as my companions.

Fortunately, I’ve found another alternative, a way that every one of us can become heroes, without achieving worldwide acclaim or becoming a movie star.  It was carved on the tomb of an Anglican bishop in Westminster Abbey:

“When I was young and free, my imagination had no limits.  I dreamed of changing the world.  As I grew older and wiser, I discovered the world would not change.  So I shortened my sights and decided to change only my country.  But it, too, seemed immovable.  As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt. I settled for changing only my family, those closest to me.  But, alas, they would have none of it.  Now I realize I only needed to change myself  then, by example, I might have changed my family.  From their inspiration and encouragement, I would then have been able to better my country.  And who knows?  I may have even changed the world.”

There you have it.  All You need do is accept you with your warts and insufficiencies.  Then share you with those closest to you. Let them see that, despite your shortcomings, you are a person of worth, who sees them as someone you value and love. It’s the most heartfelt gift you can give to anyone.  Will it make you a hero?  Absolutely.  How do I know?  Because of this email I recently received.

“Hi Dr. Reitman:

I was your patient from 1998-2000. I doubt you’ll recall me, but I am reaching out to thank you.  I came to you carrying years of heartache and emotional baggage and your insight was invaluable and life changing to me, although not at that time. I don't think that I was ready to hear and accept the messages you were asking me to uncover and embrace. Years later, when I was ready, it all became crystal clear. I just wanted to reach out to you to thank you, after all these years, and to let you know that you made a meaningful difference in this person's life. I am extraordinarily grateful.

Thank you for what you do.”

Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to receive numerous letters of a similar nature. They all lifted me up and caused me to feel that what I do makes difference.  Each of the individuals writing them was a hero to me. They made my day and brightened my life. They gained insight into self, realized they were persons of worth and made me feel like a hero.  

Every one of you has the same capacity to be someone’s hero.  Just take the time and effort to validate a person in your life.  Next time you try to “encourage” your child to get out of bed and go to school, add the statement, “Sometimes I gripe about having to be your alarm clock, but please know that, when you’re grown and gone, I’m going to miss being with you, trying to get you out of bed and feeling love for someone as cute, wonderful and special as you are to me.”  Or, one morning before you jump out of bed, say to your spouse, “I realize I sometimes gritch about you, but I want you to know I’m glad you’re in my life.  I love waking up beside you. It reminds me I’m not alone and that there’s someone I can turn to and lean on when the chips are down.  I love you.”  Or, when you walk into your office, stop at your secretary’s desk and say, “Most of the time I come in, rush into my office and get to work without sharing the fact that it’s comforting to see you sitting here and on the days I walk in and I get the call that you’re going to be late, or you can’t come in because you’re sick, I have another feeling. ‘How am I going to get through today?’  You’re my right hand person and the fact that I can do all the things I do is because you’re out here doing all these other things to support me.”  

I doubt that the lengthiest of these statements would take more than thirty seconds to repeat.  But I’m sure that after saying it, your child, spouse, partner or secretary will feel a foot taller, emotionally brighter, and a sense of floating on air.  So, this holiday season, please set aside thirty seconds to positively affect everyone you value, by giving them a piece of your heart.  It’s a priceless gift that will make you their hero.

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