What Defines a Hero
What defines a hero? In today's popular American culture, heroes are generally identified as sports stars such as Michael Jordan, music idols like Brittney Spears and the Backstreet Boys, or movie stars like Mel Gibson and Sandra Bullock. Perhaps these people are seen as heroes because of their success in the highly competitive professions of sports, music, and film, or because they have large sums of money in a society that views a person's worth as directly proportional to the dollar-figure in that person's bank account.
However, in my view being a hero has many more qualifications than fame or a large bank account balance. That is not to say that someone cannot see a person like Michael Jordan as a hero - Jordan has done much more than play basketball. Jordan has done much in Chicago to help with inner-city literacy programs and he has contributed time and money to several charities.
The most concise definition of hero that I can think of is probably a sentient being who has done something to help or aide another being in some fashion important to the recipient.
The wording of that definition is very specific - "sentient being" not "human being" or "person" as animals other than humans can be heroes as well. I have known several feline and canine heroes, and have heard of many other types, as well. In addition, the method of help/aid needs to be meaningful to the recipient; otherwise any "heroic actions" are wasted. If someone tries to help me by yelling or nagging at me in order to encourage me to get some sort of work done, s/he will do nothing to actually help me - instead only succeed in annoying me. However, that person may be one who gets encouragement from constant nagging pressure. Though the method may be meaningful to the person performing the action, if it is not meaningful to the person receiving, the action is useless.
One of my personal heroes happens to be my best friend, LDO. We met in the eighth grade and became the closest of friends, as we were both the 'outcasts' of the school. At the time, I was trying desperately to 'fit in' and be 'part of the crowd' because I was supremely tired of being laughed at. LDO was nothing of the sort. She was her own person and to the wind with what anyone else thought of it. Over the course of the school year, through LDO's example I began to be more of who I was, instead of what everyone else thought I should be. I honestly do not know what I would be like now, or if I would even be here, if LDO had not been there - an example of what I could do, regardless of what other people thought. She and I are still best friends, and she is still one of my heroes. Now, instead of silently encouraging me to be my own person regardless of what the popular mind thinks, she bolsters my desire for academic success with her own very successful academic career.
While discussing the subject of heroes with my friend Anubis, he told me that his dad is a hero. When I asked him why his father is a hero, Anubis said, "Because he helped through my life, taught me things that I should know, laughed with me, cried with me, and has shown me how to see the world clearly. And he's saved my life." Again, this person is a hero because he helped another in a meaningful manner.
Something as simple as a sympathetic ear during a time of need can make someone a hero, just as something large and dramatic like saving a drowning child from dying can. What actually makes someone a hero is as individual as the people on this earth and it is up to each person to decide.