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A year ago, the world fell apart and the tears in our daily lives ripped open-wide. This rendered us vulnerable and exposed, Lady Liberty the classic damsel in distress, and America seeking urgently for a knight in shining armor. The concept of the hero is enduring; it spans across time, cultures, and age. Just as the archetypal characters in comic books, our modern-day heroes exhibit characteristics such as bravery, courage, moral integrity, selflessness, and determination—with no cape or alter ego required. 

In turbulent times, we naturally turn to our civic and religious leaders to save us, yet often recoil at their mortal/moral shortcomings. However, heroes live among us battling pervasive foes of paramount strength; they grapple for guidance to vanquish the evil of illness, addiction, and poverty every day. They are ordinary people who often don’t realize the magnitude of their impact. How can we recognize and cultivate the hero within ourselves for ourselves and each other?

 

Culturally, we tend to gravitate toward images and notions that reflect our ideology and self-image. This is a primary factor for the boom in influencer marketing, which is on track to be worth up to $15 billion by 2022. Some of the biggest Instagram influencers drive substantial impacts in the marketplace by establishing credibility and “authenticity” in personal brands that resonate and reflect regular everyday consumers. 

The top influencers aim to represent you and me as they leverage their content in lifestyle, fashion, travel, and technology tips and reviews,  amounting to tens of thousands of posts, and hundreds of millions of followers. This culminates in a lot of time spent listening to personal brand messaging. Stories of the attractive, rich, and famous become our stories, and the marketplace banks this will continue to drive consumerism through the roof. Where do bravery, moral integrity, and conviction exist in this looking glass? How do these Instagram stars reflect the hero within us that we so desperately need?

 

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I often wonder if it will be these influencers that my children will strive to emulate, sloughing off such causes as equality and civil rights—move aside Susan B. Anthony and Martin Luther King Jr.—the new call to action is to purchase the latest gaming system or plumping lipstick. Certainly this is not how we see ourselves, is it?

I was so happy to celebrate Kamala Harris’ election as Vice President. Political views aside, to have a woman’s face reflected in the White House—the first in 245 years, since the inception of our country—is a powerful thing. I can recognize that a glass ceiling has shattered for our daughters and theirs to come, because they can see themselves and their potential substantially mirrored in the world around them. This gives me greater hope for our future than does the latest attention economy trend on Instagram. However, I recognize our saving grace is closer to home.

The fight against hunger and poverty is noble. Many dedicate their lives to the cause and find there is never enough to give. For generations, we have tied ourselves up in knots trying to decipher convoluted causes and solutions to poverty. A government’s path of reparations can quickly slip into socialist ideals with no clear line in the sand; for an individual, the endeavor is much too broad and the effort is futile. 

If we want to erase the ravages of poverty in our communities, we must engage in relationships with and create sustainable opportunities for self-sufficiency for those families who struggle each day to survive. In his article “The Banality of Heroism,” American psychologist Dr. Philip Zimbardo writes, “By conceiving of heroism as a universal attribute of human nature, not as a rare feature of the few “heroic elect,” heroism becomes something that seems in the range of possibilities for every person, perhaps inspiring more of us to answer that call” (2006). Communities that build and develop a network of support, are heroic. Alone, we don’t stand a chance. 

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I see a hero in the young father who faces his addiction head-on, risking his job and social standing to seek treatment to heal himself, for himself and his family. Recovery is a humble path wrought with physical and emotional challenges, and often it is the fear of backlash, judgement, and ultimate failure that keep many from attempting the journey. It takes integrity and strength to be honest with oneself, and I am reminded that there is so much to be gained when we approach our challenges with humility rather than self-righteousness.

There is a hero in the mother who, despite a devastating diagnosis, chooses to embrace every day as a gift with her young children. She rises to the challenge of cancer treatment with courage and determination for more time with her family. There is inspiration to be found in those who join the fight versus those who cower in the face of adversity. My friend’s zeal for life and infallible faith shine like a beacon, heralding hope to everyone fighting illness and disease. She is a hero in my eyes. 

This year has brought many of us to our knees. Isolated, desperate, and sick, we have forged ahead only to discover that the strength and values of humanity can only be realized in connection with one another. Well-check calls, meal trains, GoFundMe donations, servitude… we may be surprised to discover a superhero within each of us. There is no bold, chivalrous knight to slay all that threatens us; America’s salvation is in our hands.

More heroes are needed. Please visit Http://mysummitquest.org or scan the QR code below to learn more about Lelia Stina and her fight against cancer. Donations are not expected but greatly appreciated.

*The views expressed in this column are those of the writer, and do not represent the opinions of V3 Magazine

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