I strayed off course. The past year or so I spent a lot of time trying to think of ways to get myself known. By known, I mean a presence on the Internet related mostly to writing and speaking at events. This, in the greater scheme of things is no grave sin, until I looked deep in myself to ask why I wanted this acclaim.
I heard a story once about a guy who worked hard in many areas of his community. The story was being told by a well-known author. The author explained that the guy had opportunities to leave his town, raise his own profile, and could have made it if he really tried. After the guy died, his funeral was scheduled to be at the local church, but too many people turned up so they relocated to a local school gym. This proved to be too small and the funeral ended up being at a local stadium, such was the crowd that came to send this guy off. The famous author finished by saying, “I wonder if that many people will turn up for me?” The reason for the unknown guy's massive turnout was simple. He had helped many people in deep, personal, and tangible ways without any measurement gauge or expectation of reciprocity. Sounds like a hero to me!
This story gets me thinking of just what it is I/we are doing here. Think about it for a second. What is your purpose? If my purpose is to be measured by how many people rate me on Twitter/Instagram/Blogging/ _________________? (insert your own sought-after ambition), then I am royally screwed. (And please don't get me wrong, I am not condemning creative expression or following your dream, you should completely go for it! We all have something truly unique to offer the world. What I'm saying is don't let it become a god). I may be able to influence people with my content, sure, but it has no resounding meaning or influence. The words I write in a book may help someone with an alcohol or drug issue, but not in the way walking side by side with them would. And here is where perception comes into play. Without sounding like a Marvel movie soundbite, there is a hero in all of us. Unfortunately our definition of hero has become so grossly distorted that many of us have strayed. Our “heroes” nowadays have accomplished something that can be gauged by a “like” count, positive comment section, media coverage, public recognition, cool job, regular international travel, how fast or far they can run, how well they can throw/kick a ball and so on. The person under the radar doing amazing things in their community? Pfff, who wants to be that person. I mean, doing something for the good of the community and putting others first? Where's the acclaim in that? Yet this is how our world is being shaped.
Same goes for charity. It seems to me that folks like publicly announcing, “I donated” more than the donating part. Surely there is more heroism and humility in giving through anonymity? I call it Guerrilla Kindness, where you get involved and no one knows except you and the other person/people involved.
Let's take back what it means to be a hero. What if we turn away from a life of hustling to further our own careers and reach out to the people suffering through grief, depression, abuse, and addiction? I guarantee you won't have to look very far, and the world around you will change drastically! I am not some guru with all the answers nor do I want to come across as preachy. I just want to challenge myself to step up and be a person of substance. My own plan for changing is to deeply invest in my actual community and not my online one, to make simple and practical decisions every day that will amount to something greater when combined together, to take my confidence from knowing who I am and what my purpose is, to finish what I start, and to be a man of my word.