Last night I felt privileged to watch the taping from the CNN 2009 Heroes show. It was inspiring and moving and a vivid reminder of what one person can do when the desire to do good overcomes the fear of doing it. Nominations for over 9000 heroes had been submitted to the show’s “judges” to help them determine the top ten winners. Each one had a heart wrenching story to tell, having overcome incredible obstacles to do their work, or selflessly seeing a need and deciding to do something about it. From a bus driver who feeds hundreds of hungry people on the streets in New York, to a young man who lost his own feet in a boating accident and now helps children who can’t afford prosthetics to walk again or play again, to the woman creating safe places for young girls in Zimbabwe, the list goes on. Everyday heroes, doing extraordinary things. People restoring faith in the goodness of humanity.
Efren Peñaflorida, who started a “pushcart classroom” in the Philippines to bring education to poor children as an alternative to gang membership, was this year’s recipient of $100,000 award to keep his work going. In his remarks to the audience upon receiving the award he said, “Our planet is filled with heroes, young and old, rich and poor, man, woman of different colors, shapes and sizes. We are one great tapestry. Each person has a hidden hero within, you just have to look inside you and search it in your heart, and be the hero to the next one in need.
So to each and every person inside this theater and for those who are watching at home, the hero in you is waiting to be unleashed. Serve, serve well, serve others above yourself and be happy to serve. As I always tell to my co-volunteers … you are the change that you dream, as I am the change that I dream, and collectively we are the change that this world needs to be.”
We are the change that this world needs to be more of what we know it can be, more of what God intended it to be. We were each given a heart for a reason. It is from the heart that dreams spring forth, that opportunities arise. The heart doesn’t always wait for the right timing, or the right amount of money, or the practical applications. In the spirit of “What would Jesus do” these heroes stopped talking, stopped sympathizing and stepped out, stepped up, and made something happen. They are real examples of faith at work. They didn’t wait for permission to act, to win the lottery so they could help, they just help. They reach out, with the help of friends and family, with a passion to do something that will make a difference. They become the voice of people who cannot speak for themselves, the hands for people who can no longer lift their arms, and the way for people who would literally have no life if they had not come along.
We are “one great tapestry.” We are interconnected, interwoven, so that broken fibers on one side effect the beauty of all that could be on another. What will we do with that tapestry? Hang it over the fireplace and think to ourselves how much better it might be if only someone would do something. Will we wrap ourselves inside it like a blanket hoping to protect ourselves from knowing the truth of what exists, hoping then we won’t be called to fix it? Will we find new threads to weave into it, offering the tools that make it possible for others to weave their hearts into ours?
Heroes are not the ones who never fail in the effort, or fall down in the attempt. They are the ones who never give up, who make humanity a mission, and life a canvas of opportunity, waiting to be painted with the designs of hope and goodness. Who inspires you? Who is your hero? May we each look within ourselves, and ask more questions about how our gifts and talents might inspire others. How can we leave the world a better place than we found it? Those are the questions of heroes.