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Who’s a Hero?

Yesteryear Yearnin’
June 4, 2024
Welcome Home
July 9, 2024

I fall into that camp that expects few to get a trophy, only occasionally for someone to be hailed as “great” and a hero to come along rarely. When we overdo acknowledgment of any kind, it sadly dilutes the real, and exactly appropriate, recognition on those exceptional occasions when they arise. I believe the same concept applies to flying our nation’s flag at half-staff. We see it at half staff so often anymore it has become meaningless - at least that’s how I view it. My concern about overuse, abuse actually, of words spurred this poem.

Who’s a Hero?

There are two types of heroes it seems
So the word “hero” gets oft misused
We call so may people, “hero”
The meaning and impact is abused

On the one hand are the casual heroes
The private ones we’re bent to admire
They’re role models whom we mimic
They mold, encourage and inspire

These aren’t the lofty heroes though
In the true, courageous sense of the word
We own them privately in our hearts
As one with whom we've concurred

They might be a successful person
Who’s achievements we’re shootin’ for
Or one with traits and habits
We personally admire and adore

Those heroes are necessary and good
But they don’t rise to the glory
Of a Hero with a capital letter “H”
One with his own, courageous story

True heroes have displayed
Singular mettle by nobly acting
Moving forward when others are
Stopped in fear or panicked-retracting

When most run for their lives
Or passively freeze in place
The one who would be the Hero
Confronts danger; shows his bold face

We expect such bravery from lawmen
For they are called and signed to aid
And while they may often be  heroes
We expect random courage displayed

I’ve seen one in my short lifetime
Rare moment when bravery was on call
When God sent courage beyond the norm
For some stranger to produce his all

That ingrained occasion I know well
It happened the spring of seventy three
When our millworks was engulfed in a fire
Most had fled outside, leaving only me

An arch collapsed all sudden-like
Pinnin’ me hard beneath a heavy beam
That was all charred, hot and smokin’
I began painfully in fear to scream

Next I knew two men appeared
I could see their sweating gleam
They tore off shirts to wrap their hands
And began lifting on that hot beam

It was way too heavy to move
they grunted and strained their best
But the smoke and heat and concussion
Had put them to their maximum test

God gave them an extra strength-surge
And move that smokin' beam they did
I rolled away scramblin' to my feet
Blessed of that fiery beam to be rid

We three crawled to get outside
Gasping for clean, sweet, fresh air
We watched as that building fell
Me, endlessly praising that pair

So let’s keep clear the vital distinction
‘Tween someone who risks his own life
And a smart, accomplished soul who
Inspires by success through minor strife

Here’s the point of my message
I’d like the world to take to heart
Words have value and such importance
Let’s teach kids in school from the start

We mustn’t overuse the word “Hero”
It dilutes esteem for brave acts
Of the rare souls who risked or gave all
And left indelible, un-filled tracks


by Rik "Yonder" Goodell
© 2024 All rights reserved

This excellent, story-telling painting is by Norman Weistling.  I am grateful for his permission to post his exceptional art here alongside my poem.

To see more of his work, go to his website:

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