I recently had the opportunity to run a 5K road race to honor and raise funds for charities started by the friends and family of a young woman named Vickie Soto. Vickie Soto was a young first grade teacher at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. Vickie Soto loved children and loved teaching them. She also had a penchant for pink flamingos. For those of you who still do not recognize the name, Vickie Soto was killed when a deranged individual shot his way into her school with an assault rifle. He killed 26 people that day, including 20 first grade children in two classrooms. Vickie Soto was the teacher in one of those classrooms. While we will never know exactly what happened during that shooting rampage, all indications are the Vickie Soto died attempting to hide and protect the young children in her class.
They called her a hero. But what is a hero? Mark Twin wrote, “Unconsciously we all have a standard by which we measure other men [and women], and if we examine closely we find that this standard is a very simple one, and is this: we admire them, we envy them, for great qualities we ourselves lack. Hero worship consists in just that. Our heroes are men [and woman] who do things which we recognize, with regret, and sometimes with a secret shame, that we cannot do. We find not much in ourselves to admire, we are always privately wanting to be like somebody else. If everybody was satisfied with himself /herself], there would be no heroes.”
The day of the 5K run was rainy, windy and cold. Nearly 3,000 people, many dressed like pink flamingos, sodden and shaking with cold, waited at the start line. And then we ran. And as I slogged through the puddles, my toes numb with cold, I wondered to myself why I had not just rolled back over in bed that morning. What was the point of running on that dreadful day? I knew that I could run 5 kilometers. The question was, why do it on that cold and miserable occasion?
As I ran past the plastic pink flamingos used to mark the course, it occurred to me that the reason that I was running that day was that I was not satisfied with myself. That as I shivered from the cold and the wind, I could not possibly be what she was. That I could never demonstrate the courage that she demonstrated that fateful day, that day of her death. I was running because I wanted to be more like Vickie Soto.
Thank God for heroes and pink flamingos for without them we would have no reason to strive to be greater than ourselves. We would have no reason to get up from our warm and comfortable beds. We could not survive that which appears to be beyond our ability to withstand.
To learn more about surviving difficult conditions that we face in life, please read my recently published book, The Freshly Single Man’s Guide to Household Survival.
What heroes have inspired you?