What Makes A Hero?

“A person of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his or her brave deeds and noble qualities”.

I like the phrase “brave deeds and noble qualities” as it resonates with me and reminds me of when I was a devotee of Pre-Raephelite artists, back in my undergraduate English student days. Handsome knights and beautiful damsels adorned my wall and pin board and I studied the Arthurian legends-yes I steeped myself in medieval romances. A knight is called on to defend the weak and helpless, to fight for justice whilst carrying his lady’s favour close to his heart. Think of Lancelot, Gawain or Percival, members of King Arthur’s famous Round Table. These heroes performed many deeds that were brave and noble, living, and dying according to the knightly code.

A different, classical definition of the hero can be found in the Greek myths. The hero of the Greek myths was often part deity, and had a tough go of things, trying to manage both divine and mortal aspects, whilst battling monsters, armies and Gods. These heroes were outstanding warriors, courageous in the face of seemingly impossible odds. There often was a lovely maiden involved somewhere, but it wasn’t guaranteed that they would marry at the end. Like the Vikings, Greek heroes were looking for a heroic death in battle, so that their deeds would always be remembered.

The world lost a hero this week, with the death of Captain Sir Tom Moore. He was a soldier who served as a dispatch rider, in the treacherous battleground of Burma. Following World War II, he lived a quiet life, having two daughters and eventually settling into retirement. He accepted a challenge from his family to walk round the garden 100 lengths as he approached his 100th birthday, to raise 1,000 pounds for the UK’s NHS. He had recently received wonderful care in hospital, after a fall, and wanted to support all those who had looked after him.

His challenge was featured on TV, where he said, “One small soul like me won’t make much difference.” How wrong he was! He captured the imagination of the nation, and then the world, as Covid 19 spread and changed everybody’s lives. He became a symbol of hope, courage, and fortitude. By the time he reached his birthday, he had raised 32 million pounds with donations coming from all over the world.

His birthday was quite the occasion. A local elementary school displayed some of his cards, as he received around 160,000; he was honoured with a flypast from both a Spitfire and Hurricane, part of the Battle of Britain Squadron. There were cakes and messages from the Queen and Prime Minister. He recorded a version of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” with the singer, Michael Ball, and it became a number 1 hit. This made Captain Tom the oldest person to have a number 1 hit in the UK. In July, the Queen knighted Captain Tom, making him Captain Sir Tom Moore.

He remained humble through all the excitement. He chose to raise money for the NHS because, as he said, “They are all so brave because every morning, or every night, they are putting themselves in harms way.” He had received excellent care from the NHS over the years, and to him everyone who worked in it was a hero. To all those who watched and supported him, he was a hero. He was someone, “admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.”

The world was so lucky to have Captain Sir Tom Moore step forward when he did.

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