It’s tempting to place our heroes on a pedestal, to imagine that they are or were something unique and extraordinary in this world. And there is a sense in which that’s true. After all, each one of us has and brings our own passions, gifts and talents in this life – and we each find ourselves, as ourselves, in our own set of circumstances. Yet, at the same time, those high pedestals on which we place others separate us from those whom we admire most. They create role models at a distance, showing what’s possible for a human being, whilst also absolving us because it implies 'we’re not like them'.
Various heroes have inspired, challenged and humbled me throughout my own life. Jesus Christ stands at the pinnacle, with other well-known figures including Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi as icons. They are striking by their central passion for God and, each in their own way, a determined stance on behalf of and alongside those who are poorest, most vulnerable and oppressed. They are exceptional by their decisions and actions to outwork their mission, vision and values at considerable personal cost. They didn’t shrink back. For most, it cost them their lives.
Their examples resonate with various people I have had the privilege of knowing and working alongside, including: Jasmin in the Philippines with her radical concern for the poor; Mike in the UK with his intense work for racial justice; Rudi in Germany with his relentless passion for peace. Each looks beyond their own self-interest towards a greater cause – a now and a hoped-for future for others that’s worth staking one’s own life on. Mother Teresa: ‘Do something beautiful for God’. Robert Frost: ‘I took the road less travelled, and that made all the difference.’ Please God. Let that be my life too.
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