Most heroes don't wear capes.
Most heroes have nothing "supernatural" about them.
Most heroes have no "one shining moment" that saves the country, the world, or the universe from destruction.
Most heroes don't stand between others and the bullets, the flames, or the madness.
Most heroes won't have songs sung about them, movies regaling their exploits or will be remembered for very long after those that knew them have died.
To live heroically is not about necessarily about being a hero in the "celebrated" sense of an epic tale, a great movie, or an infinite legacy.
The reality of a living a hero's life are these things:
1. Heroes need foes. Human, object, or cause (or a combination), every hero needs something or someone to struggle righteously against. The dangerous part of this business is living life too close to the line and becoming like the foe you originally stood against.
2. Heroes need to love. Every hero needs something or someone to struggle righteously for. Without love there is no selfless behavior. It is selflessness that creates heroism.
3. Most of the drudgery of building into a heroic act goes unnoticed. All the hours, all the failures, all the training, all the practice, all the beat downs, and all the decisions to get back up and stay in the fight are considered secondary to the heroic act when these very things, in fact, are what makes a successful heroic deed possible. True love is discovered in the endless drudgery.
4. A hero isn't always heroic. No one is immune from self-doubt, angst, fatigue, fear or flaw. No one is bulletproof. And these "points of weakness" are the things that make heroism possible. If you were indestructible, being a hero wouldn't be heroic. There would be no risk. Overcoming obstacles would hold no value.
5. Weak people hate heroes. Weak people, people with no backbone or morals or work ethic or compassion hate heroes... because heroes remind them of who they are... and who they are not. Most people aren't weak but some are and they are usually the loudest and most violent of us all. Heroes become targets for these men and women.
6. Most heroic acts go unnoticed. That time you let someone sit down in your seat when they were tired.
All those times you went to work when you didn't want to so you could put food on the table.
Those times when you went for your dreams and failed and dared to dream again, and try again.
Those times when you wanted to give up and didn't.
Those times when you didn't want to go and you did.
Those times when you let it all go and lived in the moment.
Those times when you let others have their critical or false opinions of you and still stood up kindly, proudly, honorably, openly, and fiercely if necessary, for what you believe in.
Those times when you did the heroic thing, and then courageously lived with the consequences... both good and burdensome.
All of these things- that will never be recognized by song, book, blog or show dedicated to you- are what it means to be heroic. Some people say that this is "just the way you should live". Maybe they're right.
But dismissing this Way of life as anything other than heroic is bullshit. It takes grit, moxie, love, awareness, discipline and gratitude to live a heroic life... not capes, recognition or one moment.
Do you know what the reward for living heroically is?
Not songs, stories, or to be remembered.
The reward for living life heroically is to live a life without regret.
Consider this deeply.
And, to all the heroes, the ones who live quietly unnoticed, as well as the ones who stand between us and the bullets, the flames, or the madness: thank you.
Craig Hysell is a husband, father, co-founder of Wellness Groove, and a firefighter in South Carolina. He's not a hero. But he tries every day to live heroically.