LIFE LESSONS CONTINUED • Holding Out For A Hero

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I don't necessarily have Bonnie Tyler in mind as I write today, but her hit song of decades ago did come to mind when I heard the line that inspired this column. A new legal drama is coming out soon featuring a father and daughter attorney team who work together to fight the bad guys and injustice on both sides of the legal system.

Jimmy Smits, who long ago played an attorney on "LA Law" before moving on to "NYPD Blues," stars as the father in this series. Trailers pop up on Facebook and YouTube promoting the show, and being a fan, I actually watched one. At one point, Smits' character says to his daughter, "In case you haven't noticed, there seems to be a shortage of heroes these days." Far be it from me to argue with a television character but I'm going to debate his theory. 

A few weeks ago, yet another school shooting occurred in Colorado, this time at a Highland Ranch STEM school. Since three of our grandchildren now attend schools in the Denver district, this tragedy was too close for comfort. Although eight students were injured, only one died, senior Kendrick Castillo, who gave his life to help his fellow students have more time to get to safety. This young man died a hero.

Not long before that incident, a hero emerged at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. Riley Howell became the victim of another school shooter when he chose to fight instead of run or hide. He took the killer off his feet, disarming him in the process. Two students, including Riley, died that day. Without this heroic act, doubtless more would have joined the statistics.

You only have to look around our community to find countless heroes, even if they don't make national or even local headlines. Area volunteers spend hours with various organizations to help make a difference for people, pets, the economy and more. One of the more recent groups involves educating the public about mental health and suicide awareness. With the increasing number of people choosing to end their own lives in our county in recent history, the work of this body could make a huge difference.

Walk down Hillsboro's Main Street and look at the growth in the past couple of years. Vacant buildings transformed into attractive boosts to the economy, thanks to the vision and dedication of hard-working entrepreneurs including Brian Lee and Tony Marcolini. Imagine Hillsboro members are also contributing with festivals, town beautification and, hopefully soon, a dog park for our four-legged pals. Bringing a town back to life isn't an easy job; sometimes it takes many heroes such as these.

Sometimes parents who won't give up fighting for their kids are the heroes. I think of Mary and Kyle Herschelman and Jason and Gina Burke, who continue to do, day after day, whatever it takes to help their respective children have the best lives they can, all while educating the public about rare disorders and syndromes. The extra time, effort, money, stress and uncertainty could take anyone down, but how often do you see any of these parents without a smile on their faces? If I could sew, I would make superhero capes for all of them.

Many heroes work behind the scenes, not being named or lauded. That's not why they do what they do. One of my best friends continually takes time to visit with several elderly widows. They may go out for lunch or shopping or just sit and talk, but these women know who they can call if they need help or are having a bad day. Time is one of the greatest gifts we have; spending it on others instead of ourselves is a selfless act indeed.

The past few years has seen an increase in acknowledgment of the job done by first responders, the police and fire personnel. Granted, our neck of the woods doesn't have crime rates like urban centers such as St. Louis or Chicago, but it still doesn't mean an officer doesn't risk his or her life when making a simple traffic stop. Heroin addicts and meth heads can't be the easiest or safest folks to deal with. Protecting lives while facing the possibility of losing their own? Sounds like hero material to me.

So, Jimmy, while we may not see bigger-than-life, riding-on-white-horse knights popping up every day to change the world, all we have to do is look around with open eyes to notice the quiet champions, the ones who don't give up trying to change their own little corners of the world for the better. And to all you shining examples, I extend my thanks.

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