As I wrote in this post, we have the bad habit of heaping praise and admiration on celebrity and athletic figures that are far from deserving of it.
But in reality, true heroes don’t have roles in movies, throw footballs, or star in television shows. They are all around you, doing everyday things, having their small but important impact.
When I think of true heroes, my mind always comes back to my grandparents. My grandfather, and my grandmother, the woman everyone called “Nonna”. One of the inspirations for this blog, the very definition of what I perceive to be “old school” values.
They left their homes in Italy, coming to America for opportunity, for a better life. The trip to this country was far from easy. I imagine when they were arriving at Ellis Island, they weren’t treated very well. Beginning a life in America was just as hard.
They were here to experience the Great Depression, a time in the USA that made our current economic recession pale by comparison. Hard times looking at a bleak future. They made it through.
They worked physically demanding jobs in blue collar factories that were once the backbone of American industry. Proud of the work that made their living and fed their children.
They built businesses in the restaurant industry, putting in thousands of hours to make them successful, while supporting a family. The care that was put into the food and service for the restaurants was my grandmother’s stamp of excellence. No one roasted a better turkey or made a better bowl of pasta e fagioli.
They survived the worst family tragedy, having to bury a son, my uncle Anthony, when he was just a boy. I can’t even imagine the level of pain and emptiness they felt. Somehow, they made it through. Years later, Nonna would shed tears talking about him, then be smiling again just a few minutes later. Courageous.
They made a vow in 1936 and stayed together for over six decades. Through the good times and the bad, they never wavered in their commitment to each other. They had a better shot at being married for 72 years than 72 days. Take note, modern reality show wackos.
Later in their lives, they both had a variety of health issues, but very little stopped them. They never really “retired”. Just kept working until their bodies would no longer allow them to.
They rarely complained, if at all, and didn’t think they were entitled to anything they didn’t work for. They thought that people who would rely on the government for support were “misinformed”, and the only place that they would ever “occupy” would be their house, after coming home from another hard day’s work.
Heroes. How do you define them? Are they movie actors? Sport stars? Or do they have a little more…substance? I know my definition. There are no trophies or ceremonies, and the best of them may look like nothing special in day to day existence.
But they have more influence than they know. The world is a better place because they were here.