Editorial: Doesn't heroism come down to common decency?

There are some who argue that a hero is someone extraordinary, someone who puts his or her life at great risk for a greater good.

While someone who meets that standard certainly is a hero, we'd expand the definition.

We're more inclined to favor the definition suggested by 20th century poet May Sarton, who said, "One must think like a hero to behave like a merely decent human being."

After all, aren't parents, who make sacrifices so that their children have better lives, heroes?

Aren't any of us who take the time to offer a kind word or comfort to someone suffering heroes?

Aren't those who do the right thing even when it runs against their personal interest or gain heroes?

There are some who argue that this type of broad definition diminishes what it means to be a hero; that if all of us can be heroes, it makes heroism a commonplace thing, no big deal.

We contend that, quite the contrary, the fact that all of us can be heroes makes it an inspiring thing!

Consider this stirring definition from the great Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gassett: "The hero is always becoming himself."

There are some who argue that the cause of our lifetimes is to learn to escape the control of our egos, to grow toward love and selflessness. Quite a heroic way to view your life's journey, no matter what your religion might be.

Elsewhere in today's paper, senior staff writer Marie Wilson profiles Jason Duffy, a Naperville police officer who has revived overdosing opioid users several times.

Duffy did not put his life on the line to do that, but how could he not be a hero in the eyes of those opioid users and their families?

He's the latest person we've recognized in our new Suburban Heroes column.

Since we launched the column, it's also given us the chance to recognize, among others: two Aurora residents who pulled a Warrenville man to safety after a fiery car crash; a ComEd crew that rescued two people out of the water after a snowmobile accident in Lake County; and a group that saved a man who'd gone into cardiac arrest at the Buehler YMCA in Palatine.

None of these efforts involved great risk. But none were done for self-interest or recognition.

All of them, you could say, involved merely behaving like a "decent human being."

And all of them were heroic.

Each of us has the capacity to be a hero. It really just amounts to caring for other people.

Suburban Heroes: Off-duty Elgin firefighter saves a life during hockey game

Woman rescues driver who crashed outside her office

Suburban Heroes: ComEd crew helps save two from drowning

Group effort saves man's life at Buehler YMCA in Palatine

Watch: Good Samaritans pull man out of burning car, save his life

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.