What constitutes a hero?

As a child, my hero was probably either Captain Jean-Luc Picard, or someone named Saracen/Zodiac/Wolf/Unicorn/Trojan off of Gladiators (yes, really – was there a Trojan in US Gladiators?), and as a teenager, my heroes grew into those of the English language.  I devoured all the Shakespeare I could, used Peake in an art project, and memorised Chaucer by heart.  As an adult, my heroes once again changed.  No longer celebrities or people who passed away hundreds of years ago, today I look up to people who simply desire to change the world.

According to the dictionary, the primary definition of ‘hero’ (in a non-sandwich related sense) is “a man of great strength and courage”, with a further definition of “someone admired for his qualities or achievements, and regarded as an ideal or model”.   Now, there are a lot of people out there who use their talents, morals and dedication to make a positive difference in the world, and significantly less caped, muscular crusaders zipping about the skies battling evil, and I think these people ought to be given a lot of credit.  Heroes of the written word and the silver screen may have battled monsters and other terrible foes, but they did it for the sake of others.  Translate it to the real world, and your everyday heroes may not be the strongest, handsomest, butt-kickingest demon-slayers, but courage, altruism and grace are certainly transferable skills.

So my heroes today are people that change the world.  People who volunteer for hours on end for a cause to help the less fortunate.  People who give up their Christmases to give the homeless food and somewhere warm to eat it.  The kind-hearted geniuses that came up with It Starts With Us, and everyone who carries out every single one of their weekly missions.  People who go on great feats of endurance to raise money for charity, and people who decide to use their talents to make the world a better place.

One of the people who’ve made my world a better place is author Neil Gaiman.

In a world where future generations of kids will develop arthritis and obesity sitting in front of televisions and computer screens, he churns out literary ingenuity, satiates our appetite for imagination and transports us to other worlds full of fantastic characters that’ll have you begging for his next book two birthdays before its publication date.  He’ll lead you through familiar places – the London underground, an American road trip, give you a relatable protagonist (a young Scottish businessman, maybe, who helps a girl on the street, or perhaps a recently released convict, let out early on account of the death of his wife), add in centuries worth of folklore, cultural symbols and mythology and transport you on journeys you’ll never forget.  There’s not a whiff of a wizard or a dragon that give the realm of fantasy such a stereotype, but his wit, intellect and sheer imagination make him a master of the genre.  I’ve loved Neil Gaiman for years now, loved him for all the times he’s made me rush home or cancel plans just so I could savour another journey into the impossible, and loved him for everything he’s left for generations to come.

And this afternoon, I found out he was coming to Winnipeg.  I read the words and my initial reaction was to scream, however managed to temporarily stifle my exhilaration by quickly holding my breath.  I couldn’t hold it in, so I quickly did some laps around the office and did everything I could not to skip through reception.  NEIL F***ING GAIMAN IS COMING TO WINNIPEG.  You never think you’ll actually meet your hero – so what the heck do you say if you do?  I met someone from Star Trek a few years ago at a convention (hush), and naturally proceeded to clam up, turn beet red and squeal something unintelligible while he signed a photograph for me.  I don’t want to make an even bigger arse of myself in front of the most talented and respectable man in the world.

So if you had the chance to meet your hero, what the devil would you say to them?


  1. Oh I’d probably clam up, become beat red and not be able to say anything. 😉

    You are very right on when you say that those who are there to help others are today’s heroes. Without them, the world would definitely be a worse off place.

  2. Gosh, i don’t know who my one hero would be. I admire and respect many people for their charitable work for sure so it would be hard for me to narrow it down and choose one. But I know I’d either clam up or talk waaayyy too much. It’s one of the two with me =)

  3. I think you can tell a lot about a person by who they admire, and if Neil Gaiman’s your type, I’d say you have your head screwed on right! As for what to say, I think a big ol’ “Thank you!” would be appreciated, and just go from there, reminding yourself beforehand that he’s a normal person and there’s no need to get too worked up! But we all know that doesn’t always help!

    1. Haha I guess we’ll see when I get there (IF I even get close enough!) – I’m taking my best friend with me to calm me down/pat my face dry/prod me when I clam up, but a simple thank you definitely sounds like a good option (if I can get it out :))

  4. That’s awesome!! What an amazing opportunity!

    Am I horrible because I have no idea what I would say to my hero? I would probably (knowing me) just start crying and never even get a word out..boo!!

    I hope it’s everything you hope it will be!!

    Oh, and thank you for commenting…I loved reading it 🙂

  5. I would never want to meet someone I regard a highly as my ‘hero’. I don’t have a hero of course, so this helps. I mean in terms of, you don’t have to meet them, say something or even glance at them from a busy room. If I held someone to hero sature they are there for my reason and my reason alone, I wouldn’t want to go and gush out a hundred million ‘I love yous’, or ‘you’re my hero’, Me just knowing it, and the silent indentations they make on my life would be enough, Why? I hear you say… Because even heros have egos, and anything I say/do may change their perception of what they do, or my perception of them, and may affect the way I perceive future works.

    Of course all that pertains to someone alive, other than that, the painter Turner is my hero! but i still wouldn’t want to meet him, seeing the world through his eyes is enough for me.

  6. I have had the opportunity to meet some really cool athletes and authors. Unfortunately, I can’t really remember anything profound I said to any of them. It’s so hard because usually there is only such a short time to talk to them and I’m usually just in complete awe in front of them.

    We met Jenny Finch, who was the pitcher for the US Women’s Softball gold medal team and Michael Phelp, who…well, everyone knows him. It was awesome to meet both of them. Jenny Finch even let me wear her gold medal. That was amazing and it was hard for me to hold back tears. She was awesome but holding that medal was like holding history. It was very cool.

    Most recently I met Julie and Andrews and she is just a complete icon to me. It is so interesting to hear her story and to know how fiesty she is compared to how nice and she seems in some of her movies. She is an amazing woman.

    It seems like people we meet who are heroes just feel completely bigger than life. They just have an aura about them and just seem set apart, whether they are famous or not.

  7. Oh wow – THE Julie Andrews?? That’s amazing – I always find it fascinating even to see actors in interviews and how drastically different and normal they are compared to how they are on screen. I’ve been trying to imagine how Neil is going to sound, move, act.. I hope I don’t act too starstruck 🙂

    Did you get a picture with the medal??

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