What makes a hero?

Since I started blogging, I’ve noticed that there are times when “themes” emerge in the public discourse or in the small circles through which I move. Themes are great for blogs, so my antennae are on alert for these gold nuggets. I’ve recently had cause to think about people acting heroically, in part because of this man:

Last week Newark’s Mayor Cory Booker ran into a burning building to save a woman who lives in his neighborhood, which I think is amazing. I mean, who (besides our everyday hero, the Firefighter) has the fortitude to run into a burning building? Talk about serving the public…

In thinking about heroism, I recalled a moment of personal cowardice to put things into perspective. Although, there are times in my life when I have done The Right Thing, I haven’t always played my A game… When I first left Maine at the tender age of 23, I lived in Santa Cruz for a couple of years. My grandmother June came to visit me and we went out on the Wharf, where we were amazed to see a pelican perched.

As we stood a few yards from it, snapping pictures and marveling, it took flight, straight at us! I shrieked and hid behind my grandmother, who was in her 70s at the time. We had a good laugh about it all, but it was a moment for me. I had a little chat with myself:  You don’t jump behind Gram, you jump in front of her. Got it? Good.

My March 6 post was about seeing a young man in a restaurant perform the Heimlich Maneuver on one of his dining companions. When I first realized what was happening, he was doing it without success and he began to panic. He stopped and asked the people in the room for help. My husband stood beside him and calmly told him he was doing the right thing and to keep doing it. He resumed his efforts and a moment later his friend was gasping for air.

Sometimes being heroic takes a team. In the above case, being heroic meant doing what is needed–an active role for some, a supporting role for others. And just because you are the right person at the right time doesn’t mean you know how: you may be the one who figures it out.

Can you think of some everyday or extraordinary heroism that you’ve seen recently? What does heroism look like to you?

Jury Duty Detour

Isn’t it amazing how time can pass? My life has gone into a complete tailspin, and the last three weeks (which is just shy of one month) are just…gone.

In that blink of an eye, I have gotten old. Rather than coming to this blog forum with a basket of goodies gleaned from my first experience of Jury Duty (!), as was my intention, I come to you with the Legal System Inspired Rapid Aging Program.

With excitement and trepidation, I reported for jury duty. On the one hand, I hoped I would be dismissed, because I had an event to coordinate and family in town from Illinois, and a graduate project to finish drafting by Jove. But on the other hand, I figured that I kind of owe it to the Cosmic HooHa to participate in this higher ordered civilization with all of its ideals of Justice, and seen from that perspective, serving on a jury is a Responsibility, an Honor, an act of Citizenship. Although I don’t dwell on these things often, I do hold them in a space of sacred respect: our justice system is integral to the foundation on which we have built this American experiment.

When the first round of jurors was called to the box, my name was called at Juror # 3. In a room of 60 people, my name was called third. I knew I was in this for the long haul as soon as I heard my number. Three is one of those numbers for me–our paths are linked & crossed and woven together. I am often maneuvering the number three and its angles.

The selection process wore on all of Monday afternoon, the entire day Tuesday and still we were not a complete jury. It was a case with many aspects and issues and prejudices of all kinds emerged in response to the defendants, the charges, the complications. Jurors came and went, but Juror # 3 stayed seated.

And the seat. It is the seat that is the sponsor of the blog that comes to you today. It is this seat which must be subjected to a charge of cruel and unusual punishment.

It was a vintage 1970s version of a chair. If only it had been a hard backed,  uncompromising wooden chair. But no. This chair had been prettied up with upholstery and springs, all sagging here and bulging there.  I squirmed, shifted, stretched, popped ibuprophen 4 at a time at regular intervals, rolled up my sweater to support the base of my spine, all without a moment of comfort.

The chair was not one to take criticism quietly. It squeaked and groaned and adjusted its noisy springs in concert with my every move. I should have been accused of disrupting the peace, but the crazy nonsense coming out of soon-to-be-rejected jurors’ mouths seemed to keep the attention away from Juror # 3’s shenanigans.

By the time I limped into the waiting area on Wednesday morning, I was praying with every step. Please Great Spirit, help me through this. I don’t know how I’m going to make it through another day and we don’t even have a jury fully seated yet! I worried. I paced. I stretched. I popped ibuprophen.

And voila. Shortly after noon the Honorable Judge came out and thanked us for our service: the case settled without us. Praise be!

I went home to my ice pack and an evening with the Fam in North Beach: Beach Blanket Babylon for sis-in-law Karen and me, Slim’s concert for Michael and niece Flora (a delightful young woman she has grown into, by the way.) Hooray! Liberated fun and the next day off from work!

I could hardly get out of bed the next day. I couldn’t really even figure out exactly what hurt, because I was exploding in pain. Long story short, swollen lumbar disc pressing on nerves that have rendered the right leg numb (asleep) and a woman who is half out of her head from pain and medication.

It could be worse. I could be without people who are concerned about me, without health insurance and its bounty of pills, without a trusted chiropractor and acupuncturist. But it could be a whole lot better, too.

But inspiration returns in moments of clarity. I can’t wait to write about Juror # 1, the unexpected character of substance. I want to write from my experience last night, when I went to hear author Anne Lamott and her son Sam discuss their new collaborative book. Her delightful wackiness is inspiration in motion.

So there you have it: a story without a punch line. But I’m back and I hope you are here, too.