I sat at a college interview, intimidated by my solo drive through NYC and Long Island traffic to get to the large unfamiliar campus, fully aware of the potential impact of my performance that day. The program director, a smallish energetic man, settled back in his chair, crossed his ankles on his desk, and inexplicably, ate a grapefruit. "Who is your hero?" he asked.
Where did that come from? I was prepared for questions about my education thus far, my chosen career path, my future goals, even my personal life. But a hero? I hadn't had one since Superman when I was six.
Or did I? I answered my interviewer in moments, but the question has been with me for decades.
My hero was and still is easy to identify. It is a person who becomes more than their genetic make-up or social class, who uses obstacles as times of personal growth, who finds joy in the daily rhythm of sunrise, meals with loved ones, and restful sleep. My hero is not defined by the media, the world of sports, or my country's government. He or she is defined by a personal moral compass that somehow points North when all around them head south.
I've found these heroes in the children and families I work with, in my neighbors, friends, and family, in my church, and in my writer's group. And I've found them in stories. I savor the experiences of my literary heroes and try to absorb the lessons so I won't have to learn them the hard way. And isn't that the point?