Each of us has those defining moments that we never forget; never ever, the moments when someone came through for us when we really needed someone to. My dad’s old friend, whom they used to heard cattle with during those boyhood ages (the colonial era) recently told me of a day when my father wrote a recommendation letter for him when he was applying for his first job at the American Embassy. By the fact that he, my dad, was working for the government (post colonial), he got the job. I was humbled that he remembered. I was more astounded that many years-over 40 years- later he still cherishes those moments. My father is 72 years now…
The online dictionary defines a hero as a man or woman of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his/her brave deeds and noble qualities, or a person who in the opinion of others has performed a heroic act and is regarded as a model. One thinker, whose name I did not manage to get once said that at the point of our death, we all become heroes. The people who speak at our grave sites all say beautiful things about the people we were, whether right or wrong, exaggerated or otherwise. We all have heard eulogies of many, both great and small, From Wamalwa Kijana, to Wangari Maathai, from Nelson Mandela to Ronald Reagan… The list is endless. I always wonder the essence of that. Does it mean anything to say all those things when we are gone, then when the following day comes we are gone and forgotten? Sometimes I even think I will write a will that at my funeral there be no speeches. It is my belief that it makes better sense for me to know I made a difference in your life when I am alive than when I am gone, unless we are trying to inspire a great multitude of people. Otherwise it makes no sense to me. Anyhow that is besides the point of this article.
What really inspires the great eulogies, especially those whom we have called heroes? And what makes us always remember those we choose to remember and forget others like a passing cloud on a rainy season? Brodi Ashton Everneath says that “Heroes are made by the paths they choose, not the powers they are graced with.” Blessed Mother Theresa also once said that it is not about doing extra ordinary things. It is doing ordinary things with extraordinary love. I believe that what makes us heroes is having a passion for something beyond who we are; having a passion for something that will outlive us. That will be sung in the lips of those left behind, not so that we can be praised but so that we can inspire others to become something beyond them. The late Wangari Maathai for instance had a great passion for the environment and her main activity was planting trees. She would plant seedlings so that they could be planted somewhere else. She formed the green belt movement which propagated this activity and encouraged other women groups to participate in panting tree seedlings. She also opposed any activities that would cause damage to the environment For instance, In October 1989, Maathai learned of a plan to construct the 60-story Kenya Times Media Trust Complex in Uhuru Park. Maathai fought this vehemently and after a 4 year fight, the tower never saw the light of day. The Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, M.C., on the other hand, commonly known as Mother Teresa (26 August 1910 – 5 September 1997), a Roman Catholic Religious Sister of Albanian origin who lived most of her life in India of which, since 1948, she was a citizen. The main drive of the missionary she founded was to give “wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor”. She derived joy in interacting with those who were alienated for instance those suffering from leprosy. She loved without limits, she did her work without thinking of the consequences these interactions would have on her. These are just 2 examples. There are many more.
Most of us naturally wish that at one moment in time, we will be remembered for in the least one extra ordinary deed that we did in our lifetime. But does it have to be extra ordinary? Like a candle has a definite time in which it can illuminate a room, we too are not perpetual. Our life shall definitely come to an end. But while our candle lit, did we illuminate the world enough for people to remember that candle that shone the path of their lives when there was darkness and no hope of light, or did we light the path during the day when no one noticed, or did we light it and hide it under the table? It doesn’t matter what will be said at our grave sites. What matters is the lives we will have touched and changed while we lived. Isaiah, advices: “Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed; your vindication shall go before you, and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech; if you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” We can take this word literally and feed the hungry and clothe the naked and be there for one another like Mother Theresa. Or we can interpret them in our own way. We can choose t be heroes in our families by being the best parents, brothers, sisters, daughters, sons, cousins, relatives we can ever be. We can choose to be the bestest friend regardless of the experiences in those friendships. We can choose to have a passion for something and fight for it to our grave. It may be as small as bringing a smile on a teary face, or restoring a broken soul, being there for a sick friend, doing our work passionately, or giving hope to a hopeless person. It can be inspired by St. Francis of Asisi’s prayer of being an instrument of peace,
“…Nieneze mapendo wanapochukiana,
Nlete msamaha wanapkoseana,
Niwashe taa panapoenea giza
Nilete furaha panapokaa huzuni,
Nitumainishe wanapokata moyo,…”
However, what I have learnt is that for it to last, or to count, it must in its own small ways show that we care and it must be in accordance to moral laws. Heroism thus suggests that whatever we do should be right, it should perfect nature and in the least it should perfect who we are. So whatever acts of heroism we chose today, may we do them with extraordinary touch of who we are, what we believe in, what is right and makes us whole, but more so, may those who’s our acts touch remember us beyond our lifetimes. May we remember that it is not about the dictionary meaning, but the meaning we will attach to the acts we perform. The motive should never be selfish; otherwise the whole act of heroism becomes a sham. Let us make that choice, to be heroes, choose to be extraordinary in the ordinary, even if only for one day, one act, one person, and one moment in time…