We're a nation full of hero worshippers. I'm sure that statement didn't exactly shock the pants off of anyone who lives in the U.S., but what kind of heroes are we worshipping these days? Or for the past few decades for that matter. Yes, since September 11th we have started to pay homage and recognition to a few people that really are everyday heroes, but prior to that, and worse yet after, who are the people that we still seem to revere most in the media, and in our everyday lives? Many times the people we admire, for whatever reasons, are people that we don't know, will most likely never know.
One of my heroes I don't really know in the typical sense, but I do feel I know her (no, no, not in that freaky weird stalker sense you nut jobs). When I first stumbled into 3WA I was at an all time low in my life. I had been out of work for three months, no jobs in sight, my boyfriend and I were fighting and I was just about out of money. Add to that a major battle with depression and lack of confidence that I had never known before and a feeling of utter loss, abandonment and loneliness. To put it bluntly I felt the universe was collapsing around me and I had no way to handle it. I knew I would get through it eventually, but I sure wasn't doing it with any grace or aplomb at the time. And then I started reading, and listening and getting to know someone who had and who would continue to get through far worse things with more grace, humor, sensitivity and breathtaking strength than I have ever known or probably will ever know in my life.
Suddenly it not only wasn't so easy to feel sorry for myself anymore, it didn't seem important to. This was a woman who had beaten cancer, who had beaten relationships, hardships, and bizarrely dysfunctional family situations, who was more concerned about others or making her own difficult situations seem humorous and proportional than anything else. She took a miserable living situation with a bitter, hostile, senile and not necessarily incontinent (but maybe that would have been better, although far less amusing) old woman and made it hilarious to thousands of people. She took a life threatening disease that kept coming back, and kicked it's ass into a corner all the while laughing and making jokes. The woman wanted to wear radioactive T-shirts people! She still found time to read everyone else's posts of pain and offer sympathy, to look at everyone's pet pictures and offer adoration.
And when the cancer came back she found the strength to not only do it all again, but to remove from her life people that although she loved, she knew weren't good for her. She knew that it would hurt, but in the long run it would help.
So no, I don't really know Laurie. I've left her messages on boards, I've chatted with her, I've even been with mutual friends and left messages for her on the answering machine. I don't know her in the sense that know is usually used. But I know her story, and I know how her story has changed my life, me, and who I want to become. I know how she has touched literally thousands of other people. I've seen how much those people love her and care about everything that happens to her.
And I also think I know why.
Because Laurie is one of those very rare everyday heroes. She is one of the millions of people that everyday overcome insurmountable odds. But that alone doesn't make a hero. It's her ability to light up not one, but dozens or hundreds of people's days just by showing up, by being there. She is the rarest, not only of women, but of people. Laurie is a woman who puts others first, but never at the cost of her own integrity. She is a woman who always remembers the smallest details of someone else's life, when the details of her own are so overwhelming. Her ability to bring humour, love and compassion to every place real and virtual that she goes is beyond astounding. It is truly heroic. She is the kind of woman I would like to be when I grow up, if I ever do. In the meantime, she is the woman I try to emulate in some small way at least once everyday.