Leaving aside the Hollywood interpretation of a hero with underwear showing and the ability to fly or move mountains, the “human” perspective of it can be found all around us. People who put themselves second and do good for the sake of others, they can be doctors, police officers, or just a random person jumping in a river to save someone else. But are they glorified or are they just waiting to be killed by their lifestyle?
In the context of the pandemic, where many doctors got sick and even lost their lives, can we really blame the ones that decided to quit or retire when they were most needed? Is this a sign of betrayal, self conservation, or just a cry for help? Many will qualify this as a soldier deserting and running from the battlefield, others will say that in countries where they didn’t have protection or they were asked to come to work even if they were positive with COVID-19, they are to be understood. I do think it’s wrong to run, I do think that we all chose our careers knowingly and we all take into consideration the risks, but I also know that in times like these, being the hero means absolutely nothing. Going to war without a weapon is suicide and let’s face it, none will even remember their names once this is all gone.
During his 20s, my dad used to be part of the rescue team from the mountains. He would go save anyone who got lost, trapped in the snow or injured. A team of a couple of people would always risk their lives to save others, but as impressive as that sounds the truth was a bit different. People would be so stupid or stubborn to go behind their backs, not dressed appropriately, sometimes wearing sandals when on the top of the mountain snow could be found, with kids or alone, going off the trail, or on closed trails just because they could. When they would get in trouble those idiots would call and demand that the same people who told them not to climb, now come and rescue them.
In one year the snow was very heavy, a person got lost, although there was a restriction of going up the mountain, that person ignored it and now called to ask for help. The rescue team responded to the call and went to search for him, but not all returned, one of them fell because of the snow and died. He had a small girl at home and a wife. In the upcoming years, the old team would gather for Christmas to give candy to the little girl, but in time they stopped, they had families of their own or they just moved to a different city. Due to the stupidity of one, the life of another was lost. They ended up finding and saving the idiot but with the cost of the life of a hero. Looking back my dad says that he was crazy to do that, even though he loved the mountain it was not worth losing your life for others, yet the young him was convinced he was doing the noble thing. None even remembers his ex-teammate, his kid grew-up without her dad while the other one lived happily and told the story of when he was saved by the rescue squad.
Getting back to 2020 and the pandemic that is now going around the world, we have a new team of heroes that do their best to save as many lives as possible. Facing the enemy without appropriate gear, having to wash the masks that should be single-use, and with a system that is far from perfect to fight as well. Those are the ones that we now blame for wanting to save their lives, to put their families first. How would you feel if a parent, a spouse or a kid would be in the first line without the equipment they need? Would you judge them the same? Or would you find an excuse for them?
And even given these facts, the number of quitters is very small, the number of volunteers that decided to step in is huge. All around the world, there are campaigns to gather appropriate gear for the medical staff, restaurants and bars offer food and coffee for free and even cab companies offer free rides for anyone who works in the hospitals. New heroes emerge every day, people who genuinely want to do good. And right now the world relies on them.
If once this is all over the world would remember them, that is hard to guess, if you would ask me the answer is no, but that should never be the reason to do good in the first place. We act the way we do because that is what makes us feel good, not because of the fame or the gratitude that the world would express. There will be always those who change the course of history because they put themselves second, the ones who impacted lives with their abilities to fight and face the danger. Unfortunately, those will also be among the victims and will be forgotten in time, but that doesn’t mean that their effort would be for nothing, they will go by doing what they loved most.
There is a saying in Romania, that is better to live a single day as an eagle, rather than a full life as a chicken. The heroes that we now see fighting, those are the eagles that sometimes are saving other eagles and that is what counts. It’s up to each and every one of us to decide what we want to be in life, but also we need to understand that we have no right to judge from the comfort of our homes.