My age group grew up with a number of heroes … both real and fantasy-like heroes. Some of these were Joe DiMaggio (baseball), Joe Louis & Jake LaMotta (boxing), Superman, Marcus Haynes (basketball/Globetrotters), Lou Groza (kicker/football), Bobby Hull & Stan Makita (hockey), Babe Zaharias & Arnold Palmer (women’s & men’s golf), Audie Murphy (war hero) and finally, my Mom and Dad (although I didn’t realize it at the time).
It’s very hard in this era of a child’s life to have a hero who, at some point in his or her career, may not have transgressed into drugs or steroids. That is not to say that everything was entirely copasetic with my heroes because little was known about their backgrounds or the “goings-on” in their personal or professional lives. Of course you’ve all heard how life was much simpler back when. Indeed it was! When we played any sport it was usually unorganized without any adult supervision. We made and enforced our own rules and were able to argue them without being told that what we were doing was right or wrong. Our parents didn’t really have to worry much about where we were or what we were doing. There weren’t any cell phones but they knew where they could contact us and the chance of harm befalling any of us was minimal to non-existent.
We “stood up for one another” in the face of any adversity that might arise. Bullying was at a minimum and the bully, if there was one, usually paid a higher price than the victim because he or she would have to answer to the other members of the “gang.” Where I grew up, “gangs” were usually a group of neighborhood kids who played together. We might have challenged other gangs from different neighborhoods in friendly (but not always) competition in a sport. We had our chores and couldn’t go out and play until they were done and that was final! Oh yes, we griped about it but the chore got finished because the threat of remaining homebound was too much to risk.
Most of us didn’t have money to speak of and we’d often pool whatever funds we had individually in order to purchase a necessary item in order to play a sport. Everyone played. There wasn’t any prejudice with regard to gender or age. The younger children engaged peripherally and learned so that one day they would carry out the legacy. There were no cliques … no sense of anyone being excluded from engaging in whatever play that might have been going on. We treated our elders with respect. In fact, by and large, we treated each other with respect as well. If someone didn’t have something, those that did would share their “wealth” with them. Conflict was dealt with dignity and everyone was expected to “fight their own battles” but if someone was outnumbered or being unfairly abused, others would step in to create a more “even playing field.” Now I don’t mean to say that all of these were planned or even conscious behaviors. All of what I’ve described was automatically practiced.
Is it possible to re-create those conditions? I seriously doubt it. Indeed life has become so very complicated which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We’ve made significant and important advances in science and technology. However, I believe that we’ve gone backwards with respect to treating people with dignity and attempting to involve them. Even with all of the prejudice that prevailed back then, there was still a sense of caring about what happened to “the other guy.” Someone would usually offer a helping hand to those who needed it. We slept at night with our screened windows opened and the doors were seldom locked. There were neighborhoods where families would look out for other families. In the even of serious illness or a death in a family, food appeared at the back door from people we didn’t even know knew us. It was comfortable. That’s it … it was a very comfortable lifestyle even though there wasn’t much that we looked to materially to create that sense of comfort.
Today, the heroes are still there. The single mother who is struggling to “put bread on the table” for her children, the father who works two jobs in order to make ends meet, the parents who forgo their planned vacation in order to help pay for their child’s college tuition, the child who has a physical birth defect but keeps statistics on his/her favorite sports figures as if playing the sport themselves, the neighbor who voluntarily helps out an elderly couple or individual who just lost their mate and is living alone, the unsung heroes who volunteer to help those who are less fortunate in their community … all of these are heroes of sorts. Single out the heroes in your life. If possible, let them know what you feel about them if it is appropriate. Life may be more complicated now but the spirit of heroism is still very much alive.
Both as a consultant and author, Charles Bonasera’s story-telling have motivated people to change patterns and resolve problems in their lives. All of his books contain valuable, practical lessons that people can easily apply to bettering and managing their lifestyles. He has also written a myriad of articles which can be found on his website at www.charlesmbonasera.com.