Yes, you too can become a hero, little girl

July 15, 2011 

Today my granddaughter will be born.

Dear Granddaughter,

I don't know your name yet, but whatever your mother and father decide upon, it will be a beautiful name for a beautiful little girl.

I hope you are born healthy and strong. If not, we will deal with it, whatever it takes. And I hope it all goes well for your mom. She's a little skinny to be a baby factory; her body is more suited to running Mount Marathon. Giving birth is one the hardest things to do, so it's good she's mentally tough and physically fit. Your mom should know that even though we can't all be beside her, in our hearts the many who love her are holding her hand, stroking her brow and bringing her juice through her birthing marathon.

I look forward to hearing about your first cry -- it is the moment of life. Who cannot be taken aback at that stunning instant in time when, after nine months of discomfort and hours of labor, out comes a baby with a mew, a whimper or a full-out bellow. Your mother gave a hearty cry and then they wrapped her with a warm blanket and placed her beside your grandmother and then she went to sleep. Nice

At the moment of the first cry, nothing else matters. It is the universal sound of renewal, the promise of love and the hope that this life will somehow be able to navigate an overwhelming and dangerous world. I'm afraid we haven't given you a very good world to be born into, little girl.

We fight wars we can't win because we don't know why we're fighting them. We create feel-good religions that deify materialism and condemn anyone who doesn't fit a dangerously narrow mold. We dumb down the media and form public discourse through competitive advertising. We have moved from cultural conversation through literature and art to TV that would have us watch men playing poker and believe it is drama. We increasingly remove ourselves from the natural and the transcendental into a world of mechanized dominance. We have lost sight of the principle that economy is based on something you can eat or use, and wants become needs for no apparent purpose. We solve health problems through drugs or we cut it out. Few people walk anymore. We fill our bodies with junk laced with chemicals and call it food. We have an epidemic of narcissism. We are blind to the greatest problem facing the world today, overpopulation. We create celebrities and call them heroes.

But they are not heroes. Celebrities are perfect people: perfect hair, perfect bodies, perfect houses, perfect, perfect, perfect. No one can measure up to perfection. Heroes, on the other hand, are flawed individuals with a noble purpose. The world is not worse than it is and can only improve because of heroes. You can have a noble purpose, little girl; you can be a hero. And you're allowed to be flawed.

Nobility comes in a lot of ways. Maybe you'll be the one to help solve problems or resolve issues. Maybe you'll be a scientist, teacher, artist, engineer or doctor. Maybe you'll be a lawyer like your mom, or a journalist like your dad. Or maybe you'll aspire to be a good parent, a good friend, or nothing more or less than a good citizen who is engaged in your community, does a day's work for a day's pay and lives life without making others miserable. All require nobility; all involve being a hero.

It's hard to be a hero. When I coached a ski team, I used to tell the skiers that champions are expert quitters. Everyone, when confronted by challenges in life, wants to quit. But champions, like heroes, are different. They have within themselves the wherewithal to get back into life, to get back in the saddle and keep trying. Champions and heroes are good at it because life or self-doubt knocks you off your horse a lot. Quitters, on the other hand, quit once and degenerate into sloth and self-absorption. There will be times when you can't face life. Whether it's the next hour, the next day or the next year, you must find a way to renew yourself. Love helps a lot.

Welcome to the world, little girl. I'll come see you and your big brother soon. I love you.

-- Granddad


Alan Borass is a professor of anthropology at the Kenai Peninsula College.

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