I caught some of the Discovery Channel’s excellent documentary Rising: Rebuilding Ground Zero this past week. I would highly recommend watching some or all of it if you have the chance. The program certainly stirs up lots of emotions and memories of that terrible day, now nearly 10 years ago. It gracefully touches on the sorrow and loss our country experienced in those awful hours, but also appeals to our “better angels” and asks us to raise our eyes and look ahead.

About a month after the tragedy, several musicians performed at Madison Square Garden for an event called “The Concert for New York.” One performance that still sticks with me was Five for Fighting’s “Superman”, which had an exceptionally poignant message about heroes and our definition of them. The term “hero” certainly took on a different definition for me at the thought of the firefighters and police officers who charged up those stairs with the singular and noble purpose of helping others, with little regard for themselves or their own safety.

That day changed my view of heroism. Now, I know that real heroes are people who put others ahead of themselves and are willing to sacrifice for the betterment of others. As an educator, I get to work with these kinds of people every day. What an incredible blessing…

If we stopped to notice, real “supermen” (and women) are everywhere. Unsung, infrequently noticed, taken for granted … but still there. That’s unfortunate but of no real import as true heroes aren’t concerned with the recognition or the acclaim anyway. What matters to them is the often quiet and patient work of helping others. Saving lives (more often than not) happens with persistence, genuine love for others, and just being there – not in “leaps and bounds.”

I think the challenge for all of us isn’t to try and recognize and thank more heroes, although that’s important. The real challenge is to try and live our lives with a spirit of service that puts the needs of others ahead of our own.

We all have the choice…