We can’t all be heroes
We’re drawn to stories, and we’re drawn to heroes. Every compelling book or movie that has a hero follows a similar pattern. The tale often begins with the would-be hero living his life in relative complacency when an event shatters the calm. There’s often an existential threat, and there’s almost always an internal struggle. There’s a guide, and there’s the force of evil that threatens to consume.
Think of Moses, living his life in the palace of Pharoah when he’s confronted by a scene that shakes him to the core. Think of Jonah who doesn’t want to take on G-d’s mission, or of Queen Esther, who is forced into the position of her nation’s saviour. The existential threat is real, but so too is the internal one. Will she be successful, is she worthy, and what will her future look like?
Heroes are seldom ready for their mission, which is what makes them so endearing. Volodymyr Zelenskyy is someone who donned the cape. From unremarkable approval ratings of less than 40% for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic to more than 91% for his role in the fight against Russia, he has become the darling of the free world. He leads his people by standing amongst them. He talks to them and not at them like the Russian propaganda machine, and as a consequence, has established a very high credibility factor.
Around the world, everyone adores him. And acknowledge it or not, everyone has a bit of a crush on him. Women want to marry him, and men want to be him. He has made being short sexy and being Jewish cool. He understands the value of the soundbite, is quick with the costume changes, and although many of his photo opportunities are staged for impact, he understands not to overplay his hand. He comes across as real, authentic, and relatable. So much so that if my wife told me he was at us for dinner just before COVID-19 began, I wouldn’t argue.
I might even remember the night if I tried hard enough. It really was a lovely evening.
Heroes don’t just fight wars and save nations. What defines them isn’t the magnitude of their actions but that they stand up when the need arises. It was during the pandemic that we witnessed another breed of hero. Our own community revealed many a hero, from organisations to first responders, to professors, specialists, general practitioners, physios, psychologists, nurses, teachers, parents, and cemetery workers. Ordinary people who did extraordinary things. Because they could. Some gestures were grand. Others weren’t. But all were heroic.
It’s not possible for us all to be Zelenskyy. Most of us are thankfully not asked to face an oncoming Russian army. Most of us won’t be asked to face a pandemic on the front lines and deal with all that follows. But each day, in a small, perhaps quiet way, we’re given the opportunity to be a hero. We might never be as Jewish or as short as Zelenskyy, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make a difference.