The Ordinary Hero

by Debora Dale

As a romance writer, when I think of heroes, I imagine the tall, dark and handsome man with just the right amount of muscle and invisible wounds. I imagine him patiently listening to me and not only hearing what I have to say but also understanding and responding appropriately.

As a romance writer, I recognize the difference between fiction and reality. While the romantic novel hero may exist, it’s more likely that our true heroes are nothing like the stereotypical strong, silent type.

With Memorial Day and Mother’s Day falling in May, I consider it a month for heroes. Men and  women who have gone into battle for the greater good – sacrificing more than we can ever image, including their own lives – are heroes to which we can never do proper justice. Women, our mothers and grandmothers, who have also sacrificed – and often we don’t realize how much until one of two things happen: we become mothers or we lose ours – and yet their love for us is boundless.

There are true heroes.

In fiction, mothers (and fathers) are more often the cause of great angst. They are the reason our hero is sullen, our heroine insecure or guarded. They were abusive parents. Drunks. Harlots or gigolos. They were so rich, they hired servants to dole out affection so they could run off to Fiji without the responsibility of children.

Our heroes and heroines have to grow on their own – and with each other – to overcome the burdensome lessons of their parents.

In real life, more often, our parents are there for us no matter the reason, need or time of day.

My parents always said if I was in trouble, regardless of why, I should call them and, if need be, there would be no questions asked, no judgments made. I could count on them. They are my heroes.

Yet, they too are flawed.

It is the hero’s flaw that helps us identify with him or her. The imperfections make our heroes familiar, make us root for them and follow their character arc as they fight to conquer the odds against them.

My grandmother was also my hero. A tiny, round, Sicilian powerhouse – she was as flawed as they come. Now that she’s gone and severely missed, I remember her laugh. I remember her silly idioms. Most of all, I remember her unwavering support of my deepest most outrageous desires.

That is the gut of a hero – in life and in fiction – someone who believes in you even when no one else does – including yourself. Of course, deep inside, they, too, may have doubts. But what they show us, how they react to us and our dreams, make them bigger than life and endears them to us.

A hero we rarely imagine existing in today’s world is the warrior. The man or woman who jumps in at a second’s notice to battle a terrifying and never-before-seen beast. They don’t know if they will survive, they may not even give thought to that concern. Instead, they will do all they can to help ensure survival of those around them. The Amazonian “lost” tribesmen responded to threats to their clan by immediately donning war paint and shooting arrows. No questions, no hesitation, they jumped into battle.

As the soldier shipped off to do battle in foreign lands, as the mother rolling up her sleeves to make her sick child’s favorite meal, kiss a scraped knee, sooth a broken heart or repair a shattered dream, as a tribesman shooting arrows at helicopters…our heroes need not always hit the mark. They need only try when no one else will.

True heroes – those who’ve crossed our paths and those we’ve yet to create – come in all shapes and sizes as they fill our hearts with hope and battle evil both great and small.

We love them more than they will ever know.

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