What is a hero?  A hero can be anyone regardless of ability. A hero is someone who is selfless and has a goal. 

Whether it’s contemporary or historical, a hero can be a role model and someone to look up to. Most importantly, you can be a hero if you have a greater goal in mind. This can be helping people with disabilities, but also I think overcoming obstacles can be heroic. As Christopher Reeve once said, “A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.”

We as people don’t need super abilities to be heroes. Only a selfless heart and attitude of gratitude. When we are thankful for the abilities we have, rather than focusing on limits, we begin to recognize our skills instead of seeing our restrictions. After she was diagnosed with MS, actress Terri Garr explained it like this: “When you hear the word ‘disabled,’ people immediately think about people who can’t walk or talk or do everything that people take for granted. Now, I take nothing for granted. But I find the real disability is people who can’t find joy in life and are bitter.”

  Similarly, after her cancer diagnosis, tennis player Martina Navratilova said: “Disability is a matter of perception. If you can do just one thing well, you’re needed by someone.”  This is true. If you can do just one thing really well and enjoy it, that means someone will need you. Disabilities to me, are largely perceptive. Being a hero is all about helping people who need you. The next step is to make it a habit.

   To this end, we need to take risks. We may start small. It may be as simple as doing one thing we have never done before. You will never know what you can do unless you try. And then, the more you practice, the easier it will come. Muhammad Ali said: “It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.” If we believe in the skills we have, they become natural to us. It is a hero's nature to be heroic.

   All of these examples, besides the individual lessons of perseverance, gratitude, focus, and repetition have one thing in common. They didn't let their disabilities stop them. So the first and last step to being a hero is to go out and do what you put your mind to. Dreams won't work unless people work too. That's what being a hero means to me. Working to make dreams into reality.

  • - Chris Bowsman


Image: Becoming Disabled by Dadu Shin

Outlines of people with different disabilities layered on top of one another