I get really emotional thinking about people who make heroic sacrifices. It is something that maintains my hope in humanity. The odd thing is I am not talking about the heroes you read about in the news. You are not likely to hear of the ones I mean. They are quiet and unassuming. Their heroism is the ordinary, profound sort that often goes unnoticed but that shows up when you get to know people really well.
Psychotherapy is the ideal job if you want to meet heroes. And, like all psychotherapists, I have had the great privilege and deeply moving experience of spending time with a long line of courageous, heroic people of all ages. I wish sometimes I had the skill to share this rather common human quality as it really appears; the sacrifice of a parent for their child, the reassuring word and deed of a kid for a classmate, the struggling against great odds to accomplish what others take for granted, the suffering that is hidden from another to save them distress.
In order to distract myself from the misery of exercise, I read while pedaling the recumbent bicycle at the gym. Recently, I picked up Michael Bradley’s The Heart and Soul of the Next Generation which tells the stories of 20 quietly courageous teens whose twin you could find in any community. Dr. Bradley is a psychotherapist and author of a number of parenting books on teens (e.g., Yes, Your Teen is Crazy; Yes, Your Parents Are Crazy; When Things Get Crazy with Your Teen). With this book, he has managed to provide a glimpse of kids who must deal with a range of troubles, struggles and trauma: divorce, bullying, coming out as gay, cancer, death, abandonment, loss, abuse. (Be warned. Parents don’t always come out looking so good in a number of these stories.) These are beautiful kids and wonderful stories of the kind of heroism that counts; the kind that surfaces in the normal course of human events.
So, there I was, reading his book, trying not to embarrass myself by crying in the gym. Hoping my tears looked like sweat and my sniffling would be taken as allergies. Nevertheless, I was grateful for the opportunity to spend some time reading about these remarkable kids and reflecting on the heroes I have known. If you want to know what every day courage looks like, if you want to see the face of heroism that wanders the streets of your community, if you want your faith in humanity renewed; get this book (though I recommend you read it in privacy of your own home).