If you were to be asked, "Who is a hero?" I'm pretty sure the answers would be grouped in a few common responses. Depending on the age of the person answering, you will get Superman, Captain America, or Wonder Woman. You will also get answers such as a soldier or vet, the military leader, political leader, sports star, and definitely the humanitarian activist. If you keep asking different people you will also find answers of people's family; their mom or dad, their grandparent, etc. So, who besides the fictitious crime fighter, the soldier, the fireman or police officer, mom, grandpa, Michael Jordan, and MLK are heroes? I'm here to tell you about another type of hero. And its the kind of hero that is becoming extinct in today's society.
The typical "hero" is generally divided in to two categories. There are those heroes that took action, think of the soldier who sacrifices himself for his platoon or the fireman who rushes into a burning building to save a family while risking his own life. There are countless stories of these types of heroes. They are brave and show courage as part of their job. When shit is going downhill and getting out of control, they run toward the flame instead of seeking safety from the flame. Then there are those heroes who take a stand without taking action. These are the activists who refuse to retaliate against their oppressors. They are the Nelson Mandelas, Ghandis, and the many civil rights activists that fought for their causes without violently or physically taking action. (Now I completely understand that "not taking action" is an "action" and I understand that these type of heroes are equally brave and risk their lives in different ways, so lets not get caught up in the semantics.) The commonality between both of these type of heroes is that they save the day, defeat the bad guys, or accomplish their goal under the lights of public recognition. History changes, people cheer, medals get awarded, etc. They are easy to notice because what they did (or didn't do) made an impact on society. Their valor, mission, and accomplishments in their field are extraordinary and far beyond average.
So here is where I think we are missing the another kind of "hero". What about Joe? Joe is an average guy who grew up in middle class America. He wasn't extraordinarily smart or discover a new cure for an illness. Joe isn't exceptional with any particular talent in things like sports, music, or the arts. He didn't join the military and dodge bullets to 'protect' our freedom. Joe wasn't active in social causes and he doesn't put his life on the line to 'protect and serve' his community. Joe is simply average.
What makes Joe a hero is all of the things he's not. But mostly, Joe is a hero because he IS NOT and will never be in the public eye. Joe is a worker. He goes out and finds a job that pays a modest salary and he shows up every day. This is the important part. He doesn't complain or wish he had a different life. He doesn't take short cuts or call in sick. He models a durability that is rare these days. He is proud of what he has accomplished in life. Proud of the work that he does every day. And Joe doesn't have a "dream job", he has "a job". And he does it well. He loves his kids and wife, and teaches them the values of family, responsibility, and work ethic. He is happy in 'the grind'. Joe doesn't blame anyone for things in his life. He is happy to go through life in the same job, same house, and he looks forward to very simple things like dinner with his family. Joe isn't settling, he is realistic. He is the backbone of what made our country great. Unlike his contemporaries, he isn't jilted because he is not the boss, or doesn't make as much as Steve down the street. He doesn't have unrealistic visions of catching the winning touchdown in the Super Bowl. He is grounded in his reality and he LOVES it. Joe has the grit to grind out 30-40 years of solid work, live a good life, and rest easy knowing he did it well. There is no parade for Joe, no distinguished guest awards dinner, or even a write up in the local paper. He is the American worker. He isn't scared of the mundane. He faces it with equal courage as did the stereo typical heroes mentioned above. Joe works week in and week out, never knowing that he is a hero. He doesn't seek or want to be recognized. He has "staying power" and the ability to endure the mundane. His heroism isn't flashy or highlighted, in fact it is the anonymity that makes Joe a hero. Joe is the factory worker, the train operator, the construction worker, the landscaper, the farmer, and the mid-level business professional. He is up when the alarm clock goes off and he is home for dinner. He doesn't have a promotion in the near future, or a life threatening mission to take on this week. He has the same job he had 25 years ago. He will wake up tomorrow to make same product or service that he did today, last year, and 10 years ago. Joe doesn't fight the ordinary or average. He isn't unsettled by taking his place in the world and working hard. Joe has grit. Joe shows durability. Joe is the "other hero" who society should recognize but never will. And Joe is happy with or without our distinction.