The word Hero is tossed around a great deal lately.  I pulled into my family medical practice recently and someone had erected a sign at our front entrance that said, “Heroes Work Here!”   It seemed nice and special to be recognized, but I didn’t feel like a Hero as my staff and I had been going to work, seeing sick patients throughout the pandemic and for years of our careers because it was the job we chose to do.      

Now, there were many of my staff initially that decided not to come to work due to fear of catching the virus and the potential of taking the virus home to others.  They cannot be blamed as this can be a very nasty virus with potentially lethal consequences for the vulnerable person.  Several of my staff did not return to the medical field.  I understand their choice.  On the other hand a small number of my staff remained dedicated to seeing and treating patients throughout this year.    

In my opinion, these were the true Heroes of my practice and my community.  We took all precautions in our practice and to date none of my staff have contracted the COVID 19 disease.  I am the only one who has had this viral infection.  I am nearly positive I contracted it from outside the practice.      

Getting back to Heroes.  A Hero is defined as someone who is admired for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.  I believe that within each of us a Hero exists.  We may not feel that way or believe that, but I’ll explain the reasons.  We all have projected courage at one time or another.  We all have the capacity for outstanding achievements, and we can act with noble qualities if we choose.  Now, it may be true that we may not have been presented with a circumstance in our life that required our Hero to come out.      

This year has presented many opportunities to find our inner Hero.  That Hero can be subtle and silent.  Helping a neighbor, donating blood or plasma, giving to someone less fortunate, helping a friend move to a new location, or staying strong and vigilant in the midst of what seems to be chaos.  These individuals are what we refer to as “unsung Heroes”.  They never receive recognition and in many cases no one even knows what they have done.  They are what makes our world a better place.      

It’s also possible to be a Hero by taking care of one’s self.   How can that be?  When I have a patient who is dedicated to their weight loss goals and accomplishes what they set out to do, the ripple effect to others around them can be amazing.  I have seen patients lose 30 to 100 pounds and without saying a word to anybody, inspire a whole office to begin to get healthy.  I have seen mothers who start eating better and begin exercising  inspire their children to become healthier eaters and more active.  In many cases their husbands join the process.      

These people are also Heroes.  They have the courage to act, are accomplishing outstanding achievements, and are demonstrating noble qualities of resilience, persistence, inner strength, and personal growth.  By definition, they are Heroes.By getting lean they also become walking testimonials to the ability to change their lives.  They often inspire others around them to start the journey toward better health.  In most cases they are unaware that they are having this effect.    

In one instance, I have a patient who is a receptionist in a large firm where hundreds of people work.  She did very well on our treatment plan and lost a dramatic amount of weight.  She began exercising regularly and changed her body shape and appearance within 9 months.  Unknown to her, the Owner of the company had noticed the transformation.  He learned that several of the employees were getting similar results.  He was able to ascertain how his receptionist was able to make this life change and he contacted us for an appointment.      

He had been in poor condition as he spent most of his time working on his business.  He was markedly overweight, had elevated blood pressure, and signs of pre-diabetes.  He decided to undergo treatment in our office and to date has done extremely well.  He told me at a recent visit that his receptionist may well be saving his life and she is unaware of his following her footsteps.  She is an unsung Hero.      

He also is a Hero.  He is a Hero to himself, to his family, to others he works with, and to his business.  A mentor of mine speaks of the Hero’s Journey.  It’s doing one’s best at all times and growing and learning and becoming better each and every day.  Being on the Hero’s Journey requires being open to change, accepting of our weaknesses and past mistakes, and working to become the best person we can become.      

The journey is never ending.  Striving for excellence and significance is the goal along the journey.  We are human and by virtue of that are flawed.  Understanding that and still working toward improvement and being the positive exception is being a Hero.  There are times in life when we may be an accidental hero, or an unknowing hero, or even a situational hero, but it is also possible to decide to become a Hero and work toward having a life of courage, outstanding achievement, and noble qualities.      

Become your own Hero and you will become a Hero for others.