Rick Wamre: We like to think that we could be heroes, but many of us have yet to be tested

Photo by Danny Fulgencio
Photo by Danny Fulgencio

You’ll probably enjoy this month’s cover story about high school students who have beaten the odds and come out on the “right” side of difficult situations.

It has all the elements of a compelling story: Bad things happening to good people. Neighbors taking an interest in those whom others have ignored. Heroes who have overcome the odds.

Mostly what you and I do is dream. We don’t put in the time. We don’t do the work. We haven’t faced the situation because, for whatever reason, we haven’t been called to do so.

And that is the point of each high school senior’s story: Each student has turned lemons into lemonade pretty much on his or her own terms.

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We’ve written stories similar to these for the past few years; most people can’t resist reading about those who can’t and won’t be kept down by bad luck, people who have the will and the determination to turn something bad into something better.

The true test of this kind of story, though, is how you and I relate to the hero. We’ve seen what the hero does with his or her life, how things have been turned around against all odds. We’ve read about the causes, the betrayals, the strategies, the hard work and the ultimate victory, of a sort, over what seemed to be a foregone failure.

So the question we then ask ourselves, or at least the question we should be asking ourselves, is: Could we have done as well, given the same circumstances?

Or maybe not “could” we have done as well, but whether “would” we have done as well.

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Because reading a story about incredible intestinal fortitude is easy. Reshaping your life while facing down impending failure is a more difficult task and, dare I say, most of us simply couldn’t do it ourselves.

We like to think we could pull the rabbit out of the hat, but the magician who does so has spent literally hundreds of hours learning the trick.

We like to think we could sink the tournament-winning putt or drain the game-winning shot, but these athletes have given up their lives to practice and plan and prepare to achieve this ultimate goal.

Mostly what you and I do is dream. We don’t put in the time. We don’t do the work. We haven’t faced the situation because, for whatever reason, we haven’t been called to do so.

And those mental gymnastics support a good measure of baseless confidence, leading us to believe that when the bell rings and it’s time to step up, we can be heroes, too. We’ve seen it done thousands of times. We’ve read about and watched plenty of others do it. Who’s to say we couldn’t overcome the odds, too?

It’s something to think about, though. Put ourselves in the shoes of any of the students we wrote about this month, and then ask ourselves that question: Could we have done what they did?

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Be honest, now. Could we really have done what they’ve done and accomplished what they’ve accomplished?

I like to think so. But I’m not 100 percent sure.

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