Friday, February 23, 2007

Heroes in our midst

by Sheila dela Cruz

Speech # 10
Speech to Inspire

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen!

When you think about heroes, what immediately comes to mind? The comic-book heroes we all grew up watching? You know who I’m talking about… popular fictional superheroes like Batman and Superman, or the very pretty Wonder Woman?

Or maybe Philippine heroes, like Jose Rizal, or Andres Bonifacio, who fought and died for our country?

Well, I had a different set of heroes in mind. Aside from those comic-book heroes and Philippine heroes, there are other less-known, but true-to-life heroes in our midst. You may think that heroes are few. Why? Because in this day and age it’s very rare that we hear about heroes. But I think heroes ARE everywhere! Do you agree? Good for you! You don’t?! Well, hopefully after hearing me out, you’ll agree as well.

Let me tell you why I believe heroes are everywhere.

One such hero I recently heard about is Wesley Autrey. You probably heard about him as well. Last January 2, 2007, Wesley Autrey was at the NYC subway station with his two young daughters, waiting for the train to arrive. When one of the people at the platform, a student named Cameron Hollopeter, suddenly suffered a seizure, and fell onto the tracks. Imagine this… There was an oncoming train, and Wesley, a mere mortal and not blessed with superhuman strength, jumped onto the subway tracks, threw himself over Cameron’s body in a drainage trench between the tracks, and held him down (as he was still having a seizure). Two train cars passed over them, inches from their bodies, and close enough to leave grease on Wesley’s wool cap. WOW!For his heroic act, Wesley Autrey has been hailed by the media as the "Subway Superman" and "The Hero of Harlem". And I agree! For what else can you call a person who risks his life to help a stranger?

Reading about Wesley, I was reminded of 2 Filipino youngsters, heroes in their own right, Aris Espinosa and Rona Mahilum.

Aris was a 13-year-old boy from Lanao del Norte. On January 30, 1994, a grenade on the ground was about to explode near some children. Aris quickly jumped and covered the grenade with his own body. The children were saved, thanks to the sacrifice of Aris!

In May 1996, Rona Mahilum, then only 8 years old, suffered third-degree burns when a fire broke out inside their house. Despite the pain, she rescued her five brothers and sisters, then tried to put out the fire with water from the nearby well. Amazing!

Let these people inspire us to be heroes ourselves. There’s a saying from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night – “Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”

In the case of these 3 modern-day heroes, greatness was thrust upon them. Tragedies, actually, but which they used as opportunities to do great things. One was a fire, a grenade about to explode, and an oncoming train…Not all of us, hopefully, will face the same situation. But I believe that all of us are given opportunities, although small, to do great things, and to be heroes ourselves.

It was Mother Teresa who said, “Few of us can do great things, but all of us can do small things with great love…”

In the same way, when Wesley was asked to explain his actions, he replied, “it's just being able to be here and help the next person.”To be here and help the next person… following that line of thinking, we can all be heroes. We, too, can achieve greatness. It’s so simple! In our own small way, by just being able to help another person, we too, can be heroes…

You know, one of the few parts of the nightly news that I eagerly wait for, is the “Good News”. It usually tells of ordinary employees or taxi drivers, finding wallets full of cash, then returning it to the rightful owners. Don’t you find that heroic? Imagine, these people who are in badly in need of money themselves, to go to the trouble of finding the owners and rightfully turning over the money that they found! I think that’s heroic!

A story that hits closer to home… I know of a family based in Negros. A simple family. The mom, a nurse with the local government, the Dad a retired employee. With 7 kids of their own, this couple still managed to adopt five (5) kids to care for and feed as their own. Why? Because they couldn’t accept that these kids would suffer from hunger. They wanted to ensure that these kids would grow up, live happy, normal lives, and hopefully, nurture others as they have been nurtured.Heroic? I think so.

Heroes ARE everywhere. This room, I believe, is already full of heroes… Like my friend who helps pay for the meds of Pauline, a young girl stricken with cancer. My other friend, who supports a local charity which helps send youngsters to school.My parents, while we were growing up, taught us to be generous. And they practiced what they preached. They supported local charities (which we continue to do now) such as Goodwill, Unicef, Comboni Missionaries, and World Vision. Now that they’re in the US, they support such worthy causes as the Sixty-Five Roses (Cystic Fibrosis Foundation), PVA (Paralyzed Veterans of America), Easter Seals, etc. They also still continue to send money to their friends here in the Philippines, the messengers and janitors who lovingly call them “Daddy Eli and Mommy Vener”. I remember my Mom and Dad always telling us to give to those who cannot afford to pay them back for their gifts. For them, helping others was a personal undertaking for which they were rewarded by a special inner peace and satisfaction.

The world NEEDS more heroes. And all of us here, CAN be heroes! Our purpose should be to enrich the amount of goodness in the world, by doing good deeds, performing acts of kindness, and taking care of others. May we all strive to be heroes. It’s so simple! All it takes is to make a difference in at least one person’s life! And I believe a true hero is not measured by his strength, but by the strength of his heart.In closing, let me repeat what Mother Teresa said, “Few of us can do great things, but all of us can do small things with great love…”

Good evening.

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