We talk a lot about heroes in this country, but what makes a hero? Is it running into a burning building to save someone's life? Is that a hero? What about a woman who walks out of her house to go to work and finds a kidnapped baby on her front lawn and does the right thing, calls police, makes sure the baby gets back to his mom? Is she a hero?
Because that's exactly what a woman known to the world only as Kristen G (or by her Twitter handle @NomadPDX) did this week. She stepped outside of her house in Portland, Oregon and there was a 4-month-old baby boy wearing nothing but a shirt and diaper.
The little boy had been kidnapped, cops say, by his mom's 17-year-old cousin Kabriana Harper (who is now facing charges). Little Zacharion was left with a relative who was babysitting, but when Mom got back at 2 a.m. to pick him up, the relative told her he'd disappeared. Frantic, Mom called police, and a search ensued.
It would take five hours until Kristen G. found Zacharion on her lawn where cops say Kabriana had dropped him. Fortunately, the baby was unharmed, and his mom can breathe a giant sigh of relief.
Is that because of Kristen G.? She says no. In fact, she's spent a lot of time tweeting back at reporters and the curious that she is NOT the story here. She's downplaying her heroism, even tweeting to one search and rescue guy:
No, sir. If anyone is the bad ass, 'tis you. I don't wander through the woods searching for the lost.
She's right. She didn't go looking for a baby to save. She doesn't make a habit of being a good Samaritan.
But does that make her any less heroic? Does that make any innocent bystander who does the right thing less of a hero?
On the one hand, I worry that the term "hero" has been watered down over the years. We'll use it to describe every Tom, Dick, and Harry who manages to walk and chew bubblegum at the same time.
But I wonder if it isn't because we are so desperately seeking heroes.
Face it: simple acts of kindness are increasingly rare. People are afraid to speak up, to do the right thing. Kristen G. walked outside her front door and unwittingly walked right into another family's drama, but she still had choices to make.
Would she walk right past the baby and pretend she never saw it? Would she walk back into the house and pretend she had no clue there was a baby shivering outside? Or would she allow her day to be waylaid for the sake of a small child?
We all know she chose the latter, and thank goodness. A scared, cold little boy is all the better for it. Imagine if he'd been left on the lawn of someone who made one of the other choices? We'd have a very different story on our hands.
So maybe Kristen G. is as she describes, just someone who walked out their front door one morning. Or maybe she's someone who walked out their front door one morning and did something extra special. It might not make her a hero of the caliber of a fireman who rushes into a burning building; but an everyday hero is a hero all the same.
Do you believe in everyday heroes? Does this woman qualify?
Image by Jeanne Sager