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Heroes Take Risks

Heroes, who are your heroes? What did they do that made them a hero - to the world and/or to you? Heroes take risks. Sometimes taking a stand or standing up for what you believe in is the biggest risk you can take. Sometimes going against the flow is a huge risk; where would we be today if no one ever had?

Remember on 9/11 when the passengers of one of the planes stormed the cockpit to stop the terrorists? Those men were our heroes and have received much recognition for the action they took and rightly so. Women who will not allow themselves to be abused, but rather choose to leave a relationship or a job when the spouse or the boss won’t get help; these women are heroes. They are heroes to the children whose lives they are protecting and models not only to those children but also to other women or co-workers in a similar position. This also applies to a reversal of the gender.

I have never seen myself as a hero, but know that based on my above definition, perhaps I am. I simply just see myself as being attracted to and appreciative of other heroes. Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s, I got very involved in with AIDS in a time when no one knew what AIDS was and no one knew what caused it. I’ve often asked myself ‘Why? And I suppose the answer is that ‘someone had to’. I wasn’t afraid. I think that what causes fear is lack of understanding and I made it a point to understand. Knowledge is power or so they say — it is actually what you do with that knowledge that is power. I saw the need was so great. I began by volunteering; I answered the crisis hotline, I enlisted volunteers, raised funds, counseled people, planned events to arise awareness, and spoke to schools and other organizations on prevention and education.

A few months after I joined the staff, Magic Johnson announced he was HIV positive and my office looked like Grand Central station with newspaper reporters. As tragic as this news was, it was a blessing to the awareness of AIDS. All at once people begin to see: ‘It’s not who you are — It’s what you do’. It’s about the behavior not about the person. Behavior can be changed, if people KNOW and therefore the outcome can be different. Magic Johnson was a hero. He could have kept quiet, but he didn’t.

In 1995, my team and I raised over $150,000 for AIDS awareness in the Birmingham AIDS Walk. One of the challenges I had as Director of this event was to secure someone with HIV to act as the ‘public face’ of this awareness effort. This person would be in TV interviews, in the newspaper, and ride at the front of the walkers. In previous years a gay man had always stepped forth to play this role. This year, I wanted a woman (the fastest growing HIV group at that time) and a child. This was not an easy task. You may remember young Ryan White during that same time period; Ryan had to move from school to school and neighborhood to neighborhood because everyone was scared of him (his HIV). Ryan was then a public face and a hero as was his Mom, Jeanne. Elton John took special interest in Ryan; Elton was a hero.

That year in 1995, I WAS able to find a woman who was willing - willing yet afraid - because she didn’t want her children’s friends to know. Yet she knew, that some woman, somewhere had to step up. This woman, who had contacted HIV from her husband, who contacted it from IV drug use, is a hero; or was, I don’t know, I’ve lost touch. The little boy who stepped up was nine and so adorable. He passed on soon after. These people took a risk; they are my heroes.

A friend of mine is a Public Defender and is currently defending a young boy who in an attempt to shoot another boy in his neighborhood accidentally shot a 9-year-old little girl. No excuses for his behavior can bring back the little girl, yet my heart goes out to my kind-hearted friend as he defends this boy to the best of his ability. I heard him say in a TV interview (announcing the boy was found guilty) that he couldn’t condone the behavior, yet the death of the little girl was an accident. I think my friend is a hero. It must be very difficult to remain objective and take a stand in situations like this. The little girl’s family (during the sentencing portion of the trial) stated that they prayed for the defendant in spite of their grief. These people are heroes. They put compassion above hatred. Hatred will not bring back their little girl.

Think back on a time when you have taken a risk or taken a stand….giving up a job, saying ‘No’, making a change, getting married, getting divorced, asking for help, telling your secret, keeping someone else’s secret. Taking up for someone smaller than you, less fortunate than you, having the courage to admit you’re wrong and apologize - even when it hurts, laying your ego aside. All these are risks. Is there someone who has taken a stand for you or for others? Someone who is your hero? Take a risk by telling them what they’ve meant to you….it’s really nice to hear.


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