I remember my childhood dreams of becoming an NFL football star, saving someone's life as a Boy Scout, exploring the seas as a famous aquanaut. Time and reality whittled those heroic daydreams down to prosaic size.
It seems fate and character choose only a few larger than life heroes. They're found on the battlefields, disaster zones, city buses, and in classrooms throughout world. They inform and inspire us by their acts of courageous selflessness. As mere mortal men, we may have missed the boat to become historical figures. But there are endless opportunities to serve as everyday heroes.
Everyday heroes exhaustedly crawl out of bed to earn a living for their families. They leave their TV ballgame or nap or work to answer the requests of their children to play or look at a butterfly or wipe a behind or pour milk. Everyday heroes extract slivers from feet, hold their feverish and coughing offspring all night long, take time to answer endless questions about how this works or how that's made. They put aside adult things to embrace childish things. Everyday heroes hold the line, their anger, the stinking diaper bag, and an enormously warm place in their kids' hearts.
Sure, everyday heroes know their acts of giving, teaching, caring, husbandry, and self-sacrifice are standard parental procedures performed since cave dwelling days. But everyday heroes aren't looking for medals or acclaim. They nod and smile encouragingly to other everyday hero parents, helping them keep the balance. They toil in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles because of the all-encompassing, elemental love unveiled through parenthood, and for that occasional, sincere look of total admiration from the toddler whose favorite toy has been magically fixed by the everyday hero's changing of the batteries.
It's invariably the simple things that make heroes of parents. My daughter has always loved watching Cake Boss, the television show about Carlo's Bakery that creates artistic cakes for various celebrations. Every time we watched the show together, she determinedly said, "I want to go that bakery." Since we live in California and the bakery is in New Jersey, I never paid much attention to her dream trip.
However, last summer we vacationed in New York City, and in honor of our daughter, we decided to make one of our day outings a trip to Hoboken to see Carlo's Bakery. Yes, we waited in line considerably longer than a New York minute, but our daughter was thrilled with the subway and train rides, the bakery's delicious lobster tails, and the fact that this adventure was customized to fulfill her dream. She treasures the t-shirt.
When my son was in first or second grade, he presented me with a large handmade card featuring a colorful portrait of a smiling man with short, thinning hair, obviously yours truly. It's still up on the wall in my office. The card reads: "My hero is my dad. He taught me a magic trick. He gets in very good shape. He is a great dad."