What’s in a hero?

I am in my final year of high school. Biology 30 is a prerequisite.

I have a problem. I do not, cannot cut up dead frogs.

I approach the teacher and explain my dilemma. Having had me in his Biology 20 class, he commiserates with me. I think he’s kind of hopeful we can find a work around so he doesn’t have to put up with my comments and squeamishness. In those days I was a vegetarian. He also didn’t want to listen to my diatribes about how ‘wrong’ it was to use animals in this way.

Personally, I wouldn’t have wanted me in his class either. But I need this course for University so I’ve got to get creative.

I devise a work around. It’s a self-directed project on Vicarious Learning in elementary school children which will require my writing a final report detailing my observations and findings.

He’s fascinated and once I explain my thought process and ideas, enthusiastic. He gives me the go-ahead.

His name was Mr. Hazlett. He was one of my heros.

Not because he let me get out of cutting up dead frogs, for which I am eternally grateful. No, what made him a hero to me is that he A) too the time to listen to my fears and concerns and didn’t laugh me out of his office. B) He encouraged me to get creative and C) once I provided him my very creative solution, he took me seriously and let me learn through my own vicarious learning process.

And that’s what makes someone a hero.

It’s not because they have all the answers. They seldom do. But rather, because they trust themselves to know what’s true for them, and trust others to find their own answers. Rather than believing they ‘make it happen’, heroes see themselves as conduits to each of us becoming our own hero.  They’re activators.

Real heroes shine, a little, or sometimes big, lights and in their illumination, let us find our own way, safe in the knowledge they’ll be there to support us if we need them.

But they never do it for you. Heroes believe in you and through their actions, ignite our own courage to do better, create better, be better reflections of ourselves, in every situation.

Like Mr. Hazlett. Sure, he could have forced me to take the course work (and many probably think he should have) but in his willingness to allow me to carve my own path, he taught me more than cutting up dead frogs ever could have.

He taught me how to apply my creative thinking in innovative ways. The self-study course I developed put me in grade 2 classrooms for the entire semester working with the kids on ‘self-awareness’ learning through play.

He taught me the value of independent thinking. My self-study course was outside the box of normal coursework — it worked for me, and Mr. Hazlett.

He also taught me the value of taking the longview. My self-study course meant I had to map out my program for the entire year! I also had to prepare monthly reports and defend it in front of a panel of teachers when I defended my final report — I had to plan all that out at the beginning of the year and then, stay the course. Great lessons in accountability and commitment too.

Looking back on that encounter, and other hero encounters in my life, each one taught me that it’s not showing you the easy path that makes someone a hero, it’s how they light up your world so you can find your own hero within.

Because that’s what heroes do.

They do the hard things, and in their actions, teach us how to stand up, fight for what we believe is right, and be our own hero in all kinds of weather.


Today is the second annual Circles of Hope sponsored by Inn from the Cold, the family emergency shelter and housing organization I work for.  I am excited to spend the day immersed in conversations about heroes.  How we are all heroes in someone’s life. How we can be a hero in a child’s life. How heroes are vital to creating better in our world.

Who are you when you’re sharing your hero self?

Who are some of your heroes?


4 thoughts on “What’s in a hero?

  1. Your Mr. Hazlett sounds like a true teacher. As you say he could have chosen the easy way out and just forced you to (which I guess wouldn’t have worked anyhow, so maybe he was just wise enough to spare himself the trouble…). I also had a teacher who helped me become my own hero in a sense. She did it by believing in me in a period of my life when I went through some tough family challenges and might, under other circumstances, have given up on my dreams. Her support was priceless. I would even go as far as to say that my life would have gone quite differently without her. I owe her a lot.


Real conversations begin with your comments. Please share your thoughts.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.