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Avril Brown Presents:

“The world still needs heroes, kid.”

A cheesy line uttered by a ruggedly handsome actor from a now-defunct television show, and yet despite its delivery in a fictional world this statement remains undeniably true in the real one. Our world has always been fraught with danger, whether it be from Mother Nature herself or from unspeakable horrors which mankind was able to conjure up. When the crisis of the day has passed (or, thanks to modern technology, in the midst of the catastrophe), people love to tell the tale of adventure, tragedy, and the incredible individuals who made a difference. We humans can never resist a good dramatic story, especially one with heroic people who saved the day.

Comic book and fiction lovers of all sorts are lucky; we are never far from a good heart-clenching, soul-soaring story highlighting the brave feats and storms weathered by unflinching champions. Superhero books flood the shelves of comic shops, offering readers a variety of defenders in nearly every imaginative situation under the sun, and beyond it. If you like ‘em young with a magic trick or two up their sleeves, the ‘Harry Potter’ books deliver a teenage hero locked in an epic battle with the ultimate evil…when he is not attending class, that is. Or if you prefer the top-tier intellectual type, Sherlock Holmes is the arrogant and brainy detective who always solves the case and gets his man.

The list of fantasy figureheads goes on and on, for the world has an insatiable thirst for inspirational stories and triumphing over impossible odds. Real life has its heroes as well, names and deeds which are forever burned upon our collective conscious. Nearly every person on the planet knows who Mahatma Ghandi and Mother Teresea are and what they have done in the name of peace and brotherhood. I doubt you will find many Americans today who are unfamiliar with the story of Captain Chelsey Sullenberger and his fancy flying which saved every life on US Airways Flight 1549, or Jews who don’t know the name Oskar Schindler whose greedy heart was tempered by the evil of the Nazi war machine, leading him to save thousands of lives.

There are countless other heroes, however, whose actions are worthy of worldly praise but whose names are often lost in the overwhelming tide of media sensationalism. Though I have addressed the issue of unsung, everyday heroes in a previous column, the time has come to once again take pause and give thanks to those who will never know mass notoriety, but who will forever remain unforgettable in the minds of those lives they have touched.

The world was yet again humbled and horrified at the destructive power of our planet Earth when disaster struck Haiti only three weeks ago. Thousands of lives were lost as a massive quake rocked the small, struggling nation, and the world has been dealing with the fallout ever since. With a disaster this large the sheer number of unnamed heroes is staggering, for every person on every rescue team, medical crew and contributing company are champions in their own right. Every man who shifted rubble and liberated trapped survivors, every woman armed with an IV bag and an oxygen mask for those still breathing, and every canine that sniffed out said survivors in the first place are heroes one and all, if only to the person they helped to live another day.

By day I work at the oldest and largest open-admission animal shelter in Chicago, which means at any given time we have at least forty to fifty dogs and sixty to seventy cats available for adoption (and that is not counting the animals who are not yet ready to be adopted). If you are an animal lover working at an animal shelter, especially one in a large city rife with the obscene practice of dog fighting, simply showing up at work can wear on the soul. What keeps us going despite daily evidence of human cruelty is daily evidence of human compassion. For every person who gives up an animal because they do not want to invest the time or money in caring for him or her, there is a person who comes to our shelter looking for a creature to spend their time and money on. For every person who discards an animal like a used towel, there is a person donating a new or used towel so an animal can have a soft bed to sleep on. Every person who takes an animal into their life and home is a hero to their new furry friend, and to every human at the shelter who spent time with that particular creature.

For those who need a fix when it comes to regaling tales of heroism and adventure, there will always be plenty of fanciful folktales describing good triumphing over evil, accounts of ordinary people ascending to greatness, and poignant parables of last minute rescues and happy endings. Yet when it comes to living in the Real World, we do not have to permanently bury our heads in the proverbial sand of super-powered heroes, for in actuality we are surrounded by heroes. All we have to do is open our eyes and soak up the sights.

The world will always need heroes, and people ranging from the nameless to the notorious, will continue to answer the call.

Avril Brown 

Visit CWR at Unsungheroes!


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