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?