In Defense of Ordinary Heroes


While the world tells us to pursue our passion, it's much nobler to find it right where we are.

The inimitable Bill O'Reilly now fines his guests who use any of several shop worn phases. Notable among these is "at the end of the day." Whether they actually pay up, I have no way of knowing. It may be a "theoretical" fine. However, watching O'Reilly from a distance, one tends to think they pay before they leave the set. He does not seem the type to let such miscreants off with a scolding.

While I have no power or inclination to fine anyone, I find that there are several phrases which have worn out their welcome with me. Not the least wearisome of these is "passion." Apart from either romance with my wife or in reference to the Passion of Jesus, I hope never to use it again.

It seems that folks everywhere now feel obligated to have a passion for something. Art, music and wine apparently top the acceptable list. I recently met a woman whose passion for Amish furniture would surely be shocking to the Amish.

No one is allowed to have an interest or, God forbid, a hobby. That would far too prosaic. No, it must be a passion. I am sure I will soon meet someone with a passion for passion fruit.

Where it becomes more than mildly irritating, however, is the way people talk about real life. Smug leadership gurus admonish us to "find our passion and pursue it." While I may understand what they mean, I cannot help but think how such a platitude must grate on the nerves of folks who hold down quite ordinary jobs to support their families. I think how unreal talk of passion must sound to parents who work diligently, faithfully at tedious jobs in factories and high rise office buildings, who are not particularly passionate about slaving away over a hot keyboard or slapping lids on pickle jars decade after decade. These may not be passion-inducing jobs but they stay at it, not to finally buy that Jackson Pollock they have always dreamed of owning, but to pay for braces and mortgages and milk.

They are ordinary heroes, real life heroes, who live decently, sacrificially, hoping to give their children better lives than they themselves have had. They will not quit their jobs tomorrow, leave their families and head off to New York to pursue their passion for street mime. What they will do is get and go to work. They buy life insurance to take care of others. They try to save for their old age so they won't be a drain on their grown kids, and they are grateful to God for what they have.

Young people in the West, particularly in the USA, are being made to feel that they must have a passion, deserve a passion. Should real life in all its vicissitudes hinder their pursuit of that passion, their only logical conclusion is that God, the universe, life, whatever, is horribly, terribly unfair. Passion is not a bad word. It is just not as good a word as duty, or sacrificial love.

I met a single father with a child in a wheelchair. Abandoned by his wife, perhaps to pursue her passion, he lovingly cares for that little boy. Their mornings start very early. You see, for kids with special needs, it takes a long time to get the little guy fed and dressed and on the school bus. Dad's budget is stretched, and his hopes for any romantic future are non-existent. What woman in her right mind, he reckons, would have a passion to buy into his life?

The thing is, he does it all with a joy and a victorious attitude that moved me.  What is his passion?  The question has no meaning to him.  In real life, he does what he must. He is not to be pitied because he never got to follow his passion. He would be disgusted by such an idea. He is not a pathetic figure. Far from it.

At the end of the day, he is a hero much to be admired.

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