Heroism has a face of courage and is often associated with a monumental deed that saves lives. However, heroism lives within all us because it comes from the most basic of human values — a sense of justice and compassion for ourselves and others.
James Shaw Jr. was with friends after a fraternity party in Nashville, Tennessee. They entered the Waffle House at 3:20 am. At 3:25 a shooter entered and opened fire. Grazed by a bullet and watching others die before his eyes, he didn’t take a victim attitude. “. . . I distinctively remember thinking that he is going to have to work for this kill.” When the shooter stopped to reload, he rushed him. “I grabbed the gun and kept it down. He had one hand on it. I pulled it away and threw it over the bar.” When it was over there were four dead and four wounded. Just hours after the shooting he set up a GoFundMe for the victims of the shooting and raised $165.000 in a few days. The Waffle House followed his lead and when they reopened pledged 100% of the sales for the next month to the victims. James Shaw Jr. had the courage and the heart of a hero.
Heroes are born when injustice becomes too great for a courageous soul to stay silent. Rosa Parks was a seamstress and a simple woman, but she could no longer be silent when she was asked to give up her seat on a segregated bus to a white person. Her refusal got her arrested and convicted. The day of her trial a civil rights protest was formed and the segregated buses were boycotted. She became a symbol of the Civil rights movement. “People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired,” she wrote in her autobiography, “but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically… No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”
In 2012 Malala Yousafzai, a young girl from Pakistan, was shot in the head as she sat in a school bus. It was her punishment for keeping a diary about her life under Taliban rule and broadcasting it on the BBC. Close to death she had to fight to live and when she recovered she didn’t skip a beat. She used her notoriety to embrace the cause of a girls right to be educated in school and she won the Nobel Peace Prize.
No one knows how they will handle a dangerous moment until they find themselves in one. A hero is born out of a simple need for justice. It’s like the perfect storm. Suddenly the necessity to act or speak is stronger than safety or reason. If luck is on your side you will survive and your act of courage will change your life and those who experience it with you.