It doesn't take a cape to be a hero. It doesn't take super powers, X-ray vision, or the ability to fly. It does take strength - strength to stand up for what you believe in and to defend what is right.
We can teach our children heroism by exposing them to real heroes. That doesn't mean someone who makes millions playing sports, though I have known professional athletes who are heroes because of the kind of husband and father they were. They stood for something.
It doesn't mean selling millions of CDs and hosting sold-out concerts at huge arenas, though I have known recording stars who give heavily to worthy causes, regularly visit sick children at hospitals and work in soup kitchens.
This is what it takes to be a hero, and we can teach our children to be heroes in their own lives.
Here are a few basics of heroism:
Heroes have a belief system
Heroes believe in something-defending the underdog, helping others, following the example of Jesus Christ, changing the world, eradicating disease all things with serving others at the forefront.
To that end, we can get our children involved early in service and thinking of others. We do this by example and by presenting opportunities for them to do so.
Heroes act and don't just dream
Teaching children follow-through principles will help them to be accountable for their goals. Help them set up goals and then check in with them periodically to see how they are doing. Give praise, but don't overdo it. Whether it is homework and doing well in school or raising money for a worthy cause, help them complete their goals and set new ones.
Heroes are all around us
Sharing stories of everyday heroes with our children will help inspire them to do good. Speak positively about people they know and how they serve others. Read stories from the newspaper and Internet about folks who go out of their way to do good.
Heroes in the scriptures
The bible is full of great heroes and their stories can be likened to our lives today. They are timeless. Esther, standing up for what was right. Noah, obeying the commandment to build the ark in the midst of ridicule. Lots of stories of living worthy to receive inspiration and then acting on it, following through to the great benefit of others.
Heroes in literature
Reading classic books with your children will also give them examples of heroism. Books like Great Expectations, Jane Eyre and Tale of Two Cities are fantastic illustrations of characters faced with tremendous adversity who chose to do noble things. They become heroes to someone. There are modern-day classics, as well, among them the Harry Potter series, which to me, shows all that is good and noble in the human spirit.
Heroes' circles may be small
It does not take helping millions to be a hero. Being a good husband and father makes a man a hero. Being a good wife and mother makes a woman a hero. Their circles may be small, but their impact is powerful. Done right, heroes begat and raise other heroes, and the circles widen to encompass many.
Heroes take time for themselves
While being entirely selfless seems heroic, real heroes take time to care for themselves, getting enough rest and eating properly. They know that if they don't take care of themselves, they won't be able to serve for very long. Encourage your children to care for themselves and be that example to others of how those practices keep them strong enough to fight another day.
Heroes simply make a difference
True heroes get up every day and ask themselves, "What can I do to help someone today?" and then seek opportunities. They don't wait for them to fall from the sky. They turn off the TV and computer and get out in the world. They are able to put themselves in the shoes of others and see how they can positively affect others.
Heroes are mensches
They are good people who realize that cleaning out sewers or picking up trash is a noble deed. They know that being a part of and contributing to a good family is priceless. They don't aspire to notoriety or greatness or publicity. They do the right thing because it is the right thing to do.
Teaching our children to be good and thoughtful human beings is one of the best things we can do in this life. Giving them positive role models and talking up good-doers is important. Being an example to them and pulling them into the service you do is essential. Encourage them to be heroes.