Everyday Heroism, Heroic Lives
In the face of the economic downturn that has defined our everyday lives in the last quarter of last year and the first quarter of this year is the reality that our lives are texts that are difficult.
We live in the most trying circumstances we have witnessed so far with the exception of the depression.
With two wars this country is engaged in, with the loss of employment for millions of workers of this country, with the ripple effect of all these narratives of struggle that many of us go through each day, one thing is left with us: a touch of the heroic.
Survival is what defines us in many ways.
Survival is also the first of the ethical principles that guide us in coming to terms with the difficult definition of that which is good, however simple this is.
It is this sense of simplicity of that which is good that marks us.
Because good is simple, the challenge is for us to do well despite the trying and difficult circumstances of our contemporary lives.
Here is the irony of it all: how can we do well when there is not much goodness left for us to bank upon?
Here is the challenge: can we afford to remain good?
Can we afford to remain heroes and heroines in the everyday sense?
Is there a chance for us to respond to the call to everyday heroism when we ourselves can hardly get by?
How much more are we willing to give up in order for us to realize our neighbor’s need—or in order for us to see that our neighbor is in need, some fact that we have not realized before?
These last few months are occasions for questioning, reflection, and renewal.
As in the double-edged nature of crisis, here are moments of opportunity for us to test the sterner stuff in us, to test how many more miles can we keep on walking, how much more can we still give—or are we willing to give—until the hurting comes.
In crisis are predicaments, dilemmas, and problems.
In crisis are the creative abilities that we normally do not see we have—abilities that lead us into seeing that which is our usual way of seeing so that in that seeing are the new things, the new realities, the renewed sense of what capacities we have to address the issues that are of import to us—issues that are relevant for our everyday survival.
There will be missed opportunities.
And there will be people—motivated by selfishness and greed and wild abandon—who take advantage of the difficult circumstances of our lives.
But there will be people who will see to it that opportunities will be given to the least among us first—as it should be.
This is the ethical challenge: to see that we have enough of something so that others might have something of what we already have and which they do not.
This is the ethical challenge: to assure ourselves that everyday heroism still matters, and this everyday heroism entails our commitment to the good life not only for ourselves but for everyone else.
Fair is fair is what they call this.
And in articulating what this means, in making it certain that social justice is served, social justice must begin with something concrete: with a commitment to the cause of the least advantaged first and foremost, as a matter of moral choice—and as a matter of moral responsibility.
This commitment does not—can never and ought not to—start with zero.
Justice takes sides in the way everyday heroism takes sides even in these most difficult moments of our people’s lives.
The everyday heroes and heroines are around us.
The everyday heroes and heroines can be us.
If only we are willing to try.