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Monday, September 26, 2011

Heroes

What is a hero? (I’m using the term to mean men and women.) In movies or books, heroes are larger than life characters. Heroes rise to the challenge. They rescue those in distress. They save the day. In school, we’re taught about great people who did wondrous things. They explored continents, fought for freedom, founded nations.

In the aftermath and recent anniversary of 9/11, we heard a lot about heroes. Everyday people who helped others with no regard for their own safety. More recently, we heard about those who rushed to help people trapped under a collapsed stage at the Indiana State Fair. The consistent refrain when the media called these people heroes was “I was just doing my job” or “It was the right thing to do”.

Who are the everyday heroes? Police and fire rescue seem the most obvious. Their job is to serve and protect. They put their lives on the line every time they put on their uniforms. Thank goodness, they do. We’ve seen evidence of what happens without them in the chaos of the Middle East. Where individuals live in constant fear and/or have to arm themselves for protection.

What about the unsung heroes? The teachers who put up with lack of respect and often hazardous conditions yet have a tremendous influence on our children. Nurses who start out wanting to care for people and get bogged down in paperwork and given too many patients to oversee. The dad going to work each day, often giving up his own dreams to provide for his family. The mom who would rather stay home and raise her children but must leave them with others in order to provide. Everyday people just doing their jobs.

Skeptics will point out there are corrupt cops, bad teachers, lazy nurses. Sure. They are in the minority yet get the majority of the attention. Still, heroes are real people. They aren’t perfect. Even the founders of our country—supposedly, the heroes of our nation—had faults. In books, the flawed hero is often the most interesting.

Two of my heroes are teachers I had in high school. I wish I’d told those women how much they influenced my life before they died. In my bio, I write that I married my own hero. Maybe that sounds clichéd or hokey. I’m a fiction writer. I write about heroes. But, I truly mean it. He’s not perfect. He just does what a hero does, his job. Every day. I don’t thank him enough for being a good provider, a terrific father, and a loving and supportive husband. Maybe his greatest feat has been putting up with me all these years. Thanks, sweetie.

So, who are the heroes in your life? Say thanks to them today.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Imagination

 
What a wonderful gift we humans have that we can imagine things different from reality. Reality is what we face each day, what we must do. Imagination opens all kind of possibilities. Where would our entertainment business be without imagination? Books, movies. They transport us to another world. My favorite books let me experience vicariously a different life in another place, a different time, sometimes, another universe. My favorite movies let me immerse myself in someone else's life. For a few hours, I can forget house cleaning, waiting laundry, household bookkeeping, weeds overtaking the garden. I can put on hold worries about the economy, the job situation, whether our retirement savings will sustain us, our health issues. Reality is all around us, grounding us in the here and now.
When we use our imagination we envision a world of what might be. Imagine (yes, I'm using that word on purpose) if you will a life without modern conveniences. What if Alexander Graham Bell had no imagination? What? No phones? And what if Robert Goddard hadn't read H.G. Wells? Where would our rocket technology be today? What if Charles Babbage, way back in the early 19th century, hadn't envisioned a computer?
I can only say "Thank you, Gene Roddenberry and George Lucas" for giving my imagination a jump start. Adventures in space. Wow. I love Star Trek (especially the newest one) and Star Wars (the original three). That's what led me to write about adventures in another universe.
Remember the joy of playing make-believe when you were a kid? The imaginary friend. Cowboys and Indians. Space adventure and aliens. When we were little, my sister and I played "church" taking turns being the priest. My son and his best friend fought Cat Creatures. What fun they had hiding behind rocks (the basement couch) or building a fort using a sheet thrown over a cardtable. My granddaughter plays out her version of what happens in The Little Mermaid after the story ends. How easily children play make-believe. What creative minds they have.
Have we given up on our own imagination? Do we let ourselves get bogged down in reality? As writers, sometimes we have to dig deep to free up that imagination. Other times, the fun times, our imaginations take us on adventures that we never, well, imagined.