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Monday, June 14, 2010

Heroism

 
by Anita Mae Draper

Heroes. We know them. We dream about them. We want to be rescued by them. But what exactly is a hero?

 Dictionary.com says a hero is: 'A man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.' It then goes on to say that in today’s world, hero is considered gender-neutral when you’re talking about deeds although a romance novel will always have a hero and heroine. But, if the lady down the street saves a child from drowning, she is a hero for all intents and purposes.

Remember the old story where the hero takes his cloak off and spreads it over a puddle so a woman could pass without getting her boots muddy. Is that a heroic deed? I’m see-sawing here between it being gentlemanly and stupid considering he now has a soiled cloak.

So if a hero is defined by a heroic deed, what constitutes a heroic deed? Last Sept, I attended a workshop by Literary Agent Natasha Kern and she said a hero was “someone who overcomes to get something worthwhile.” She used the example of Indiana Jones and his fear of snakes – yet he gets dropped in a snake pit. And she mentioned a heroine with a fear of water who gets dropped in the Atlantic Ocean. She said, “Courage isn’t people without fear but those who go ahead and do it in spite of it”. These characters will become the Hero because they overcome their fears.

I’ve often read – or seen on TV - real-life heroes who can’t explain their actions, but when faced with the task, they just did it because it was the right thing to do. In spite of everything.

- A man who can’t swim jumps in a raging river to rescue a drowning woman.

- A mother who’s allergic to bees rushes into a swarm to rescue the child lying on the ground.

- A teen who’s petrified of fire charges back into a burning building to rescue his sister who’s probably hiding in the closet.

These are all examples of true heroic deeds.

The Bible is filled with stories of heroes:

- Queen Esther who went before the King with a request to spare her people fully aware of the king’s edict of a death penalty for appearing without a summons. (Esther 4:11, 5:1-2)

- The Good Samaritan who stopped to give aid to a wounded Jew fully aware the Jews hated Samaritans. (Luke 10:30-36)

- The prostitute, Rahab, who hid 2 men and then helped them escape fully aware they were Israelite spies hunted by the king of Jericho.

- David, the young shepherd boy, who went up against Goliath fully aware the Philistine was a nine-foot giant. (1 Sam 17:41-50)

- Gideon, who led the battle against the Midianites while doubting his own ability as a military commander. (Judges 6:15)

All these people faced theirs fears and then did what they had to do because it was the right thing to do. That’s heroism.

There’s no way what happened to me on Sunday can compare with the above acts of heroism, but it will give you an idea of what I’m talking about…

Just after lunch on Sunday, I took my son to the city via the route which passes by the cheapest gas station around. About a mile after leaving the highway, I passed what looked like a block of dynamite sticks on the side of the road. Well obviously it wasn’t.

I backed the van up and pulled alongside. But yes, it really looked like 100 sticks of dynamite all taped into a block. I took photos both with my camera and cell phone although I stayed in the van. The dynamite was stained, making it look old and was probably unstable. We were still 10 miles from the city. It probably wasn’t dynamite but to be safe, I drove about a hundred feet up the road then pulled over to phone the local Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). The Mountie I spoke to said he’d send someone out to see. I said I’d wait there.

Now you have to understand, it was 2:30 on a Sunday afternoon. My son, JJ, was going on a school camping trip and needed some items. I needed to pick up hubby’s prescription. The pharmacy closes at 6pm on Sunday night. I could only see 2 houses from where we were parked and I really didn’t think it actually was real dynamite that we found. And yet, I was worried some kids would happen upon it and blow themselves to smithereens. So we waited.

And waited.

I didn’t know how busy the Mounties were, but I explained to JJ they would come when they could. Cars zoomed past. Birds sang. And mosquitoes hovered. Still we waited. After awhile I started to feel silly because after all, who tapes 100 sticks of dynamite together and leaves it on the side of the road? Really.


Well, around 4 pm, the Mountie showed up. I signaled where the dynamite was. By the time he pulled in behind me, he was on the radio calling it in. He couldn’t confirm it was dynamite, but he told the dispatcher to send out ‘a team’ to dispose of it. The Mountie proceeded to take down my personal information then said they’d be in touch in a couple days to let me know what happened. I looked in my side-view mirror as I drove away… the Mountie was roughly 50 ft from the dynamite, on the far side of the road, standing on his tippy toes to get a good look.

JJ was flying high because it seemed we’d done the right thing. Was it heroic? I wouldn’t say that. It was an inconvenience because I needed to be someplace else. Did I face my fears? Actually I did, because I did not want to be blown up and yet I went back for photos and a second look knowing it looked unstable. Would I do it again? Yes, of course, because it was the right thing to do despite not knowing if there really was a danger.

Have you ever passed something weird or suspicious on the side of the road? Did you stop to check it out?

21 comments:

  1. Oh Anita! I've looked at those pictures a dozen times and can't imagine what it is. But it DEFINITELY doesn't belong all taped up and sitting in the grass. What a good eye! You'll have to let us know what it turns out to be. Wow!

    Good for you for doing what you did. Think about how many cars passed you and just kept on going.

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  2. Wow, Anita. Good detective's eye, regardless of whatever it turns out to be. I'm not usually that observant when I'm driving. I probably would have kept on going, blissfully unaware.

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  3. Hmm, can't think of a time I saw anything crazy like that. But I do regularly pick up lost dogs from the side of the road and take them home until I can find the owner.

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  4. Actually, Diane, I kept an eye on all the vehicles, just in case, and one pickup did stop and back up to it. I took photos of it in my side-view mirror in case they picked it up. I figured if it was dangerous, the Mounties could use the license plate number to find it again. But after 10 seconds or so, the truck roared off, dirt flying from the tires. It was kind of funny, really.

    Anita.

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  5. Hey, Lisa. The Mountie on the phone said it was probably a bunch of road flares. He said they look similar. But I could tell from the body language of the Mountie who drove up that the 'item' was to be treated with respect. He never said they were calling the Bomb Squad, although he didn't correct me when I called them that. And, when he radioed it in, he said, "send over the...team" as if saying bomb squad or EOD team would cause a riot with people running in all directions. Right. We were half a mile from the closest house.

    Anita.

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  6. Dina, you're doing a good thing with the dogs.

    With all the rain we've had, the land has gone from drab brown to vibrant green. The road I was on is narrow 2 lane gravel, and I drive a Chevy Uplander which is quite low. I see lots of cardboard boxes, etc that have blown off the backs of trucks but I've never stopped to look inside them. However, I remember hearing news reports of people finding a baby in a box on the roadside so everytime I pass one, I wonder if I should stop.

    This was the first time I felt compelled to go back and check. Probably because in the second that I saw it, I visualized a cowboy grabbing a stick, lighting the fuse and heaving it away. The dynamite looked that old.

    Just goes to show - those old westerns were educating me, after all. :)

    Anita.

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  7. Oh my satellite dishes! That does look like dynamite. I suppose I'll confess that if I'm driving, I don't notice much around me. Since I don't like to drive, I have to force myself to focus on the task at hand and not start daydreaming. Or sleeping. I love to sleep in a car.

    The 20 minute ride to the Richmond airport screams "nap time" to me.

    I will add that there's something inherantly sexy with the words "Canadian Mountie." Kinda like "NFL quarterback."

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  8. Anita,
    LOL! We must have heard the same news reports! When I see a black plastic trash bag on the road I think there's a body inside. Since moving to rattlesnake county every time I see anything ON the road I think it's a snake. I've mashed quite a few.

    It could be flares, or the tubes they use for fireworks. Although when I saw it I thought it looked like the insides of a beehive box.
    Hmmm. The mystery of it all, and the Mounties to the rescue!

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  9. Serious story but I'm laughing over the inkie remarks. Writers. Gotta love them!
    I expect a dead body in anything I see along the road, myself!

    And I would have stopped and waited for the police too, Anita. But in my case I don't think it's heroic, mostly just nosy and a do-gooder. However would I do it if I had to give up too much of my time? probably not.

    Being heroic is taking a stand and being willing to give up stuff like your time, your energy, your life. You gave up your time out of concern for others, with the reward only of a job well done. That's exactly what I would have expected of you because you're observant, caring and ex-military. WE LOVE ANITA!

    Ooooo, we'll all be waiting for the results! And perhaps it will fit into someone's next WIP! I love how training shows up when the officer treated both you and the package with respect. He didn't panic but he didn't ignore it. I absolutely love how you took photos of 'suspicious' vehicles.
    Great story!

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  10. Gina, I stopped listening to the radio about 2 yrs ago, so now when I drive, I'm either plotting or listening to audiobooks or conference workshop tapes. So maybe I've missed all sorts of things without realizing it, haha. Although, our here on the prairie, we're kind of attuned to watch the sides for deer, porcupines, racoons, foxes, coyotes, and yes, even 2 legged creatures who could be hiding/feeding/collecting bottles or cans in the roadside ditches.

    And speaking of the Canadian Mountie, that post I did for Narelle over on the Int'l Christian Fiction Writers blog was about the Canadian West and how we missed the 'Old West' because of the Mounties. In fact, the comments over there were so enthusiastic, they've convinced me to write a series on the Mounties way back when they were the Northwest Mounted Police vice the Royal Canadian Mounted Police circa 1873.

    Ideas are churning and it's quite exhilerating.

    BTW - hubby was a military policeman and tried to get into the RCMP back in the early 80's but wasn't allowed because they had a weight minimum of 150 lbs and he just couldn't gain the extra 5 lbs. At the time. LOL

    Anita.

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  11. Anita - love the idea of the mounties on mounts. great idea for a historical, can't believe it's not been done. Maybe you should keep this on the QT and I should not post this comment eh?

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  12. Niki, I once lived in the town of Casselman, Ontario, which is right on Hwy 417 between Canada's capital city of Ottawa, and the metropolitan city of Montreal, PQ.

    The 417 is a divided double lane highway which winds through farmland and forested areas. I drove it for 45 mins every day/night to get to work (shiftworker). It had exits every 10 mins or so and if you missed your exit, you couldn't make a U-turn (emergency vehicles only) but had to drive all the way to the next exit. Travelling it at night was no picnic especially on the nights with no moon. Total darkness punctuated by blinding lights.

    One night, a body was left in one of the lanes on the 417 in the treed area after a bend. A trucker couldn't brake/swerve in time. Yucky. But before he could do anything, someone else came around the corner, drove over it and kept going. And on and on it went. They figured everyone was so busy trying to avoid the truck, they thought the mangled body was a deer.

    So, Niki, my dear, you're not the only one to mash things on the road.

    I can feel a few of you Inkies getting ideas right about now.

    Anita.

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  13. Okay, Deb, I'm reading and answering these in order and I just read your comment about expecting a body on the road. See, I knew it! I immediately thought of 3 Inkies when I wrote that and you were one of them but I didn't want to name names. But, since you volunteered... LOL

    Thank you for the vote of confidence. I appreciate it.

    And on to your next comment... there are oodles of books out there about the Mounties. Almost too many. In fact, Love Inspired Historical has a new series coming out about the Klondike Gold Rush and since that's in the Yukon Territory, Canada, you can bet your buttootie there'll be a Mountie or two. And if there isn't, there oughta be!

    But the LIH series may be the first inspirational Mountie books so here's hoping they get a good response and it's just the tip of the iceberg. :)

    Anita.

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  14. You are much braver than I am, Anita! I would've just passed on by! Yikes!

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  15. Ah, D'Ann, you say that but you never truly know what you'd do unless faced with the situation. And as a mother, we sometimes take on a different mentality that doesn't make sense to someone without dependents.

    Anita.

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  16. Anita, I would be an avid fan of your Mountie novels. Love it! I hadn't heard about the LIH novels and I will have to get my hands on them. Since Mrs. Mike I've been a lover of Mounties.

    Ok, whatever it was you passed, it's totally scary! You did the right thing! It totally looks like dynamite...how bizarre. You're right, too, about being a mom and looking at situations differently. You were being a good citizen, that's for sure.

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  17. Hi Anita!
    I'm laughing at these Inky answers too. But I think I'm worse than the rest. I think there're body parts in those bags and I don't want to know. Maybe it's just old underwear. :)
    Oh and Deb,
    I love this:"Being heroic is taking a stand and being willing to give up stuff like your time, your energy, your life." Just a non-chalant, by the way, give up your life statement. Is it just me?

    Anita, you are the new Nancy Drew! I would have gone really fast, praying all the way that I wasn't going to do the "smithereens" thing.

    Scooby Doo, where are you? We need you to sniff out a problem. :)Run Scooby, run!!!!

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  18. Susie and everyone, I erred. I just did some checking and the Klondike series is the Love Inspired contemporary imprint and not the Historical one. Book 1 in the Alaskan Bride Rush series is Jillian Hart's Klondike Hero and is available now from www.eharlequin.com as a July 2010 release.

    I guess I got mixed up because Jillian Hart usually writes Historicals and then with it called Klondike, well, there ya go.

    The series will be in my next eHarl shipment regardless.

    And thanks for the kind words.

    Anita.

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  19. Haha Jilly - you were another one I thought of who'd imagine bodies in bags. Just from what you write, of course.

    Yes, Deb's hero definition is very good, although like I said, I have a hard time reconciling sitting in the vehicle talking to JJ as being particularly heroic. But it was a good opening to tell you all of my adventure. :)

    Anita.

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  20. Ooh, that's scary! I found a suspicious bag and the bomb squad was dispatched. This was in LA mind you, their practically on call.

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  21. Hey T.Anne, good for you for reporting it. Did you ever find out what it was?

    Anita.

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