Who are our heroes?
Football players? Movie stars? Singers? Musicians?
Is there something wrong with this picture?
Should we be applauding talent above selflessness and compassion? The great artists and sportspeople are amazing, but are they so much more amazing than the nurses, farmers, teachers, policemen, firefighters, soldiers?
Let me start by saying that I have nothing against the sports or the arts. Quite the contrary; I am a competitive horse rider myself, draw as a hobby, write on the sidelines and love few material things better than books, movies, and music. I too appreciate talent in all of its forms, and I know how tough the sports and arts can be. Good grief, I find it hard enough to ride in local shows and write the first drafts of novels. I have a great admiration for those who do it better.
Yet I am also a farmer and the close family of farmers and policemen. And I have Internet. I know what is being said out there.
I know that in a world where (according to the National Geographic) 850 million people go hungry, the well-fed are slamming farmers for issues as diverse as climate change, racism, and animal abuse. In a world where there are people on the streets who don’t even know where their next meal is coming from – or even if there will be a next meal – farmers are being criticised, as a whole, for using such techniques as intensive animal management and genetically modified crops… in order to produce more food. In a world where children are dying for the simple lack of food we are biting the hands that feed us.
I am not here to tell you how hard it is to be a farmer because farmers are not the only ones in the line of fire. There are thousands of hardworking people at the bottom of the social ladder who spend their lives feeding, protecting, healing, and teaching the world. Just so that some of those well-fed, safe, healthy, educated people can repay them either by slamming them or by simply not thinking about them at all. In our country, policemen are considered the scum of the earth by many. Teachers are often paid minimally and blamed for the hundreds of juvenile delinquents who actually spend more time in the custody of their parents than in school. Nurses – well, they just don’t figure much in the eyes of the majority, do they? All they do is wade through blood and disease, change sheets soiled by the excrement of helpless human beings, and every day watch people die because you cannot save them all.
Quite aside from the harsh words of activists and the media, there’s the unpleasant but valid subject of money. In our country many politicians, lawyers, and those of the corporate world make their millions while farmers struggle to keep on and policemen work for low wages or even (in the case of reservists) for free.
Maybe I’m wrong, but that does not taste like justice.
Sports and arts and politics and factories are all essential, both to our survival and to our deeper humanity. And I am certain that there are poor sportsmen and broke artists and others performing important tasks who are less than affluent (I know a few). The purpose of this post is not to point any fingers or to mke fat cats out of anyone. I also know that not all firefighters or teachers or even the occupiers of the highest earthly calling of mankind, parenthood, are wonderful people. There are corrupt policemen, bad teachers and farmers who are racist, indifferent and cruel to their animals.
But there are also undoubtedly heroes among them. People who are not perfect, but who put their lives and well-being on the line every single day, people who are the foundation and the unsung pillars upon which our society is built. Do not try to tell me that policemen are all corrupt when I know men who have almost been killed defending absolute strangers. Do not try to tell me that farmers are all cruel when I have seen people who would check on that sick cow at eight in the evening and again at midnight and again at four in the morning and work a fifteen-hour day and do it all again tomorrow. Before any activist attempts to criticise a farmer I defy them to do the things we do for our animals: washing the caked manure from the tails of scoured calves, cutting the dead and rotting fetus piece by piece out of a cow to save her life, holding the noses of the big thrashing beasts so that the reeking pus can be squeezed from an abscess. And I believe it is the same for everyone – from sportsmen to civil servants to street-sweepers. We all have struggles, and we are all judged.
I can point no fingers and offer few solutions. I am here only, firstly, to offer a different point of view, perhaps a renouncement of our judgmental ways in favour of a kinder viewpoint. The answer is not to stand up against a whole occupation; perhaps it is to stand up to those individuals who are the real culprits, and you will find them in every level of society. Perhaps it is time to unite against our struggles instead of placing blame for them.
Secondly, I offer my appreciation and my thanks to all the unsung heroes. The moms, the dads, the teachers, the nurses, the farmers, the policemen, the people who scrub toilets and cook food and do all the other things that keeps us alive and human – I salute you. Maybe it is the lack of recognition that defines true heroism.
After all, should you take a worldwide survey to find out who is considered to be the greatest hero of all time, who would it be? Niel Armstrong? Nelson Mandela? Winston Churchill? I can tell you who it would not be: the true great hero. Because the true great hero was not famous. He had no money, he won no awards, and by the standards of the world he went nowhere in life. He was a homeless man who walked amongst the scum of society – the sick, lame, blind, homeless begars reeking of disease and despair and hunger – a man who did nothing more spectacular (in earthly eyes) than feed and heal and protect and teach people. And for his pains, he was not applauded; he was killed.
But there is more to the story of Jesus Christ than that. The world may not have recognised His love and His selfless service; the world did not even realise that through His sacrifice it was saved. Amongst humans today Jesus is often belittled as no more than a man or a myth. But God saw Him. God saw everything He did. And though He had no reward on earth, Jesus was made the King of the entire creation.
God knows what you all do. He sees what the world does not. And the great heroes, who serve Him and their fellow man unsung, will receive a reward far greater than fame and riches.
For now, you do what you do selflessly and without thanks. And that is what makes you pretty darn special.