When Heroes Fail Us

It’s inevitable that heroes fail us.

In a way it’s not even their fault.

We make them our heroes even when all they wanted to do was to act normal, to excel at their chosen profession, a sport, a business – even to lead a private life we denied them.

Olympian Oscar Pistorius is the latest.
He surely won’t be the last.

By now much of the world has repeatedly heard the story alleging he killed his girlfriend. A double amputee, he rose to international prominence competing as a “normal” athlete in a foot race reserved for the speediest men on earth.

Certainly to tens of millions of people with disabilities he was a star. A shining example of perseverance, inner strength. This was the Bobby Thompson shot heard round the world. A world class racer on fiber legs is a wheelchair bound person reaching the apex of Mt Everest. Pistorius rocks!

Choose a sport, an industry, an elected office and you’ll find a Pistorius. Why? Because man is human. He has failings. When we hold man to be so above himself we will invariably be disappointed.

But we need heroes.

Small children and grown men and women yearn for them equally.  They motivate us. They help us reach beyond ourselves. They enables us to hope,  even to love. Vicarious feelings of success allow us to fill their shoes. And if those shoes are attached to prosthetics – all the more super heroic!

A new series of the Fantastic Four is brewing. Iconics at the gateway of our minds. They are like hats in all sizes, shapes, colors. After all, we’re taught to dream. And fantasies can be fun, harmless, fulfilling.

Yet what happens if that hero who fails us is not some distant star –  he is our teacher, he is our father, or worst of all he is our self.

We hear it nearly every day a man of prominence beats his wife, a leader is an embezzler, a father fails his daughter. How could it be that a father can so hurt his child that it violates the most basic of human senses? A pain so searing embedded into that child’s psyche – that not even death can bury the memory.

Everyday heroes are those we wish we could be. But their failings remind us we need to be ourselves.

One can be their own hero even if not noticed by any other.

About the Author
David Mandel is Chief Executive Officer of OHEL Children's Home and Family Services in New York