Meet The Kids: Oddball, endearing and quirky answers to life’s questions
Ever thought about what “hero” really means?
The word, according to The Epic Hero by Gregory Nagy, comes from the ancient Greeks. For them, a hero was a mortal who had done something so far beyond the normal scope of human experience that he left an immortal memory behind when he died, and thus was worshiped like the gods.
Does that definition hold true for today’s world?
A group of four third-graders from Westerly Creek Elementary comes up with a much simpler definition—“anyone who does something to help another person.”
By that definition, heroism doesn’t have to be a lofty act, explaining the slew of search results after typing “hero in the news” and pressing “enter.” A 9-year-old in Missouri hands his teacher her inhaler when she has an asthma attack and is named a hero. A 14-year-old in Florida collects 100,000 books to recycle and is called a hero. In fact, many newspapers have a “heroism” section, featuring heroic acts of residents.
Heroes, according to the third-graders, are everyday people. Anyone can be a hero, they say. Unlike the ancient Greeks’ definition, today most acts of bravery can be declared heroic.
“A hero is someone you look up to and helps you,” 8-year-old Grace Montgomery says. For the third-graders, “hero” has many more contexts than the ancient Greek definition and might be exchangeable with “role model” or “idol.” The group attributes many traits to heroes—caring, loveable, compassionate, inspiring and nice.
For most of the group, a parent or sibling is his or her hero. Montgomery’s parents are heroes because “they balance having three children and work and are always kind.” Nine-year-old Carter Smith says, “My bigger brother is my hero because he solves fights.” He says heroes are always doing the right thing.
Sometimes, the group says, just being nice and doing good can make someone a hero.
Opening the door for someone or taking care of a friend who feels sick are a few examples they list. Eight-year-old Lane Rieck says her sister is a hero because “when we split things in half and it’s uneven, she takes the smaller half.”
The group even cites unexpected qualities for heroes. A hero can be small or weak and can make mistakes, according to Rieck. “Even though my parents are separated they are still my heroes.
“Everybody makes mistakes. Heroes aren’t perfect. The Hulk got angry and punched a building—he didn’t mean to do that. He has anger issues. Really, I feel bad for him because every time he gets angry he has to buy a new shirt.”
Clearly, heroes are no longer godly creatures with great noble qualities. The closest might be a superhero, which 9-year-old Jabari Ngola-Baines says he first thinks of when he hears “hero,” bringing visions of capes and superhuman strength. But, those aren’t real heroes, he says.
For some, athletes or celebrities may come to mind as heroes, but the third-graders say fame and wealth aren’t necessary to be a hero. “It’s really wrong to think all celebrities are heroes because people who are really famous, maybe some are heroes, but not all,” Ngola-Baines says. “You’re just admiring them because they’re rich.” Yet, online chat forums are overrun with posts worshipping celebrities as heroes.
What is considered a hero has certainly changed since its ancient beginnings—is that good or bad? How do you define a hero? Share your thoughts.