On courage and being a hero

I know a man who jumped into a raging river torrent. The river was raging over the waterfall and there was someone in the water being dragged into its undercurrent. This man didn’t stop to have a conversation with anyone about what to do. He didn’t ask himself or others for that matter, about courage. He didn’t stop to consider what a hero looked like. He just reacted to a very tough situation and without thought plunged into the turmoil. As a result someone’s life was saved.

When I went scuba diving on a regular basis with the diving club I knew that there were strict guidelines to follow to be a safe diver. Consequently, I also know that it only takes a minute or so for someone who is panicking to drown. I was taught that if you had to rescue someone who was panicking and thought they were going to drown to approach them very carefully and with caution, they will grab you and use you to hold onto in an attempt to save themselves, and you might end up being the victim. Better to wait until they were ‘half drowned’, whatever that means?

So jumping into a winter torrent and saving someone is a very brave thing to do.

Yes, it was brave, yes, it took courage, yes, it saved a life and yes it made someone a hero.

England manager Gareth Southgate praised the “courage” of his side after they beat Spain to claim their first Uefa Nations League victory.

Southgate said his side “showed quality” and were “brave”.

I wonder what Southgate meant when he used the words, ‘courage’ and ‘brave’. Did he mean a type of bravery or courage; perhaps he meant fearlessness or nerveless? Sport so often delivers commentary that provides us with heroic statements, ‘His save was just heroic.’  ‘He is the hero of the hour.’ In society we have public bodies that have taken the word ‘hero’ and given it new status. ‘Help for Hero’s.’

I am often left wondering what constitutes a heroic act, what does take courage?  I don’t want to mix up the regular societal use of the word courage, which could now mean anything, with those who run to danger as a duty then go beyond that duty as an act of courage.

Think of the police at Borough Market, fire fighters at Grenfell Tower, citizens who put their lives at risk and died doing so on London Bridge; those who lost their lives because of the courage they have shown; are these not the acts of courageous people, do they not become our hero’s?

Certainly for the members of their families who have had to confront their own fears at what a loved one has done in saving or attempting to save lives, these acts may seem foolish. But, are undeniable courageous.

To some the word ‘hero’ is the only word to use, in its truest sense and meaning. Recent press coverage announced the award of medals to those who displayed courage when getting involved at Borough Market in London. Some motivated by duty had to confront their worst fears, but still they responded. For one person instinct took over and they went to help and paid the ultimate penalty. Yes, awards for courage were rightly presented; to one family a posthumous award for their son’s selfless courage.

I can’t recall, which might well be because it hasn’t happened, when a footballer or sportsperson received a medal for courage, or heroism.

Not every person in the armed forces is a hero. This doesn’t stop the word being ascribed to them because they wear the Queens uniform and take the Queens shilling.

My friend David has Daniel (as in the Bible Daniel) as his hero.

My own hero is Jesus; because he became a human being, to be just like me when, he didn’t have to, so he knows how I feel today. His story is written on his hands and feet and on his side. It’s a real story worth reading. Jesus’ heroism needs careful thought and scrutiny.

Image Credit: Erwan Hesry