What Does It Mean to Be a Hero?

Being a hero does not mean you can bench 500 lbs.

“For a true hero is not measured by the size of his strength, but by the strength of his heart.” 

This November I flew to California to attend the Marine Corps Ball as my friend’s date. He showed me around Camp Pendleton and introduced me to many other great Marines, one of whom inspired this story. My friend, this other Marine, and I went shopping to target one evening and they had made a stop at the Starbucks before we left. When the barista asked for my friend’s name, he said Batman. He copied my thing, where I would use a superhero name instead of my own; anytime a barista asked for my name I would say Wonder Woman. When I did, it wasn’t to be a smart aleck, but because 1. No one ever spells my real name right, and 2. I am Wonder Woman. His friend insisted on paying and barged in and said to the barista, “No! Put Wonder Woman.” My friend looked at her sheepishly then tilted his head toward me saying, “Actually she’s Wonder Woman.” The Marine smiled and looked at me then said, “Well, I’m a Marine, so I think I outrank you for the title of Wonder Woman.”

I couldn’t really respond anything to that. She had been trained hand-to-hand combat and, by the look of her broad shoulders, she could probably bench my friend and me easily. My inner petty ten-year old was throwing a tantrum insisting I was Wonder Woman. I just smiled, and gave an annoyed chuckle.

The next morning was the day of the ball. I took one look in the mirror, saw a bird’s nest on my head, and acne spread across my cheeks. I thought to myself, "I have a lot of work to do..." I returned to bed to chill out a little before I did some serious grooming. I was sitting in bed, just zoning out on my phone, when suddenly a thud came from the room next door. Yelling and screaming followed after the thud, and my fear began settling in. I had already called the motel manager the night before to see what was the trouble. I gave him another call that morning, but the crashing and screaming continued with no sound of the manager. The scream of a woman said, “You’re hurting me!” and I froze in my bed. I proceeded to press my ear against the wall and heard a man’s voice elevating with each passing moment and a woman crying. The man’s voice was so loud I could not even make out what he was saying.

Do I call 911? Do I just keep waiting for the manager? It was only my second day at the motel and this had been going on since I got there. The last time I had called 911 it wasn’t a good experience and the petty fear of, “What if I call and the people next door deny anything was happening? Will the police question me? Will I get taken to jail instead, and miss the ball?” prevented me from calling.

I could not stand by; that’s not who I am. I was never that person that stayed quiet, so why was I choosing to stay quiet out of petty fear? My heart knocked on my ribcage. I grabbed my phone on my nightstand and tapped 9-1-1. I waited by my door, opening it just little to peek for the police officers. About 8 minutes after I made the call, they came to the room that I had told the operator. They pounded the door, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM. The moment the door opened I heard the woman say with a feeble voice, “Please help me.

Out came a little old lady. She was no more than five feet tall, hunched over with a pink knitted sweater. What the hell just happened? I thought. I had presumed it was a young couple next door, and it was an abusive relationship. I never knew older people to be in abusive relationships. I continued to listen into the conversation of the police officers and the woman. It had been her and her son that had been living in this motel, and such close living caused “fights” to break out. She had bruises on her wrists but when the police asked her who did this to her, she said she couldn’t remember. The last thing I was able to catch from the conversation was the police telling the woman to get her things and that they were going to look for nursing home for her; what happened to either of them after that, I have no idea.

I did not bust in the room myself and point a bow and arrow to the man’s head. Then again, after what I heard from the older woman, I don’t really know if that man was the problem. All I know is, I made a call that made a difference.

Calling the police didn’t require me to hold a rifle or run into a burning building, but it required selflessness and abandonment of petty fear. My roommate had been in the motel longer than me, and she never pursued to call. People next door to the woman and her son didn’t call either… I had to be the one that did something. I don’t mean that to paint myself as this awesome, great person, but had I not called, what would have happened? It just strikes me how oblivious people can be… and this is why I write this to anyone reading.

To be a hero does not mean you can bench 500 lbs, you can fly, breathe underwater, etc… Being a hero means putting others before you. Petty fears give us excuses to not do the right thing, but we are far more capable to do good when we don’t listen to those fears that linger in our minds. Being a hero looks different for everyone, but the results of their work are always the same. Saving a life may look like warning someone even though you know they won’t listen, or telling a teacher you saw someone getting harassed knowing there are numerous ways how that could negatively come back to you. The point is, you may face unfair consequences, but you know in your heart what is right; be selfless.

I may not be a Marine, have a lasso of truth, great physique, or a flying invisible jet, but I am Wonder Woman. In the Disney movie, Hercules, Zeus said, “For a true hero is not measured by the size of his strength, but by the strength of his heart.”

I am capable of being a hero, and so are you. 

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What Does It Mean to Be a Hero?