I recently read something my 18-year-old daughter posted on Facebook. It was about our summer trip to Washington, DC. I expected her to write about the beautiful city and fascinating historical sites, or about the amazing museums and monuments. Instead, she wrote about our experience traveling around the city in taxicabs. Her post is titled "The Incredible Lives of Forgotten People." She wrote:
As my dad spoke to our taxi driver today, we learned about his and his wife's struggle to work many jobs in order to raise their two children properly. Thirty years ago, he moved from Ethiopia to a place near the city. During the eighties they lived in the worst conditions in the worst part of town where drugs and crime were rampant. They were, however, able to help their children rise above that lifestyle by encouraging them to obtain, and supporting them in the pursuit of, a quality education. Their children are now college graduates. This driver's story, as well as the stories of the many other drivers we had the opportunity to visit with, really touched me. They aren't recognized for their accomplishments. Most people they serve each day usually don't take the time to recognize them as a person or even thank them. The next time others provide you with a service, think about who they are and their life story. Many of them live humble lives of service and sacrifice.
The service and sacrifice of parents and teachers help ensure a better quality of life. Their contributions are significant! Their efforts can and do make a difference in the lives of children. There is no more important work than the work they do in homes and schools. They are truly the forgotten heroes of our time.
The recognition given to many of today's celebrities has little to do with heroism or contributions to society. On the other hand, parents and teachers regularly sacrifice to improve the lives of children. These actions are heroic in every sense of the word. Joseph Campbell said: "The end of the hero's journey is not the aggrandizement of the hero...The ultimate aim of the quest must be neither release nor ecstasy for oneself, but the wisdom and the power to serve others. One of the many distinctions between the celebrity and the hero...is that one lives only for self while the other acts to redeem society" (The Hero with a Thousand Faces, 2008).
What can we do to recognize and support these unsung heroes? Consider the following:
Actively seek out opportunities to express appreciation. Just one kind word can make all the difference in how a person feels.
Choose to see the good in others. Look for their positive characteristics. Everyone has a combination of weak and strong traits. People tend to live up to our expectations, and if we look for positive aspects in a person's character, then we'll probably find them.
Be patient with others. Try to empathize with what they might be going through. Don't jump to conclusions about the parent with a screaming toddler in the grocery store or the teacher who is late correcting your child's homework. You don't know what specific trials they might be having. Rather than get upset, offer to help. As you do, you'll find that your attitude will change toward others and they will be more patient with you.
It has been said that our children are our future. We can help create a better future by recognizing and supporting the people who have the greatest impact in our children's lives.