|in my own words|
|--by Mike Murray|
She didn't take my name when we married. She litters the house with books. She's not much for making the bed. And she informed me years ago that, should we marry, she wouldn't be washing my clothes, doing my ironing, or sewing anything. She often annoys the hell out of me.
And she's my hero.
With all the talk in recent years of what, exactly, constitutes heroism, I've been reminded of what that concept means to me. I knew several people in the early '70s -- during my stint in the Army -- who I would certainly put in that category. And, sure, those few, select members of our safety forces who've actually been in life-threatening situations (which is not to say all of them) qualify.
But I consider few athletes, politicians, or entertainers to be heroes. The awful events of recent years have made clear to most of us that celebrity is not synonymous with heroism.
Still, I think many overlook the heroes among us. It's easy to spot the obvious ones: the people who risk their lives to safeguard ours. But heroes are everywhere. I see them every day.
My heroes are people who slog along, day-in and day-out, doing what they can to improve the lives of others. It's relatively easy, in my experience, to rise to the occasion to meet short-lived -- even if difficult -- challenges. But shouldering heavy loads day-in and day-out is considerably harder.
People of modest means who struggle mightily to put food on their tables and clothes on their kids' backs are my heroes. People who care for invalid relatives are my heroes. People who work in shelters (human and animal) are my heroes. People who go into troubled neighborhoods after dark to deliver food to street dwellers are my heroes.
And my wife -- Pam ("don't call me Mrs. Murray") Hardman -- is my hero.
Pam was one of those academic over-achievers. You know the type: studied hard, got good grades. Her West Virginia high school (Gilmer) resided in a place so small that it had only one traffic light in its entire county.
After completing a bachelor's degree at the local college (Glenville State), she went on to do graduate work at Ohio University, first earning a master's degree and then a doctorate in English. Her Ph.D. gained her employment at Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, Ohio, where we met and eventually married.
Soon thereafter, my career pursuit took me to a position in central New York. She dutifully came along, and managed to land a plum job at Syracuse University. Though her primary responsibilities were in academic administration, she also got the opportunity to teach English classes. Honors classes.
But it wasn't to last. Once again pursuing career advancement, I took a job back in northeast Ohio. And, once again, Pam gave up a position she loved for my sake.
Just as she had in our sojourn to New York, she found work in relatively short order. This time, however, it wasn't to involve prestige. Pam took a job at a junior college: Cuyahoga Community College. Tri-C. Tri-High, some of the locals sneeringly call it.
Sure, there are gifted students to be found at CCC, students who are drawn to the junior college by its bargain tuition and / or unique program offerings.
But many others attend the college because of its open-admissions policy. A policy that allows students of lesser academic achievement to participate in higher education. No question about it, working where she does now is devoid of the cache that teaching advanced students at bigger-named schools involved.
To my way of thinking, however, she is now doing the most important work of her life.
Certainly, the most meaningful. Yes, it's nice to work with those for whom the phrase "a word to the wise is sufficient" was intended. It can be a wonderful thing to watch the wheels turn in an advanced mind. But it is even more wonderful, I think, to see the light go on in a mind that previously knew mostly darkness. To help someone gain a basic proficiency, a proficiency upon which future gains can be built.
Reaching those who have known lesser degrees of academic success, those who have had -- perhaps -- lesser degrees of support and encouragement to more fully develop their potentials, is a beautiful thing. A deeply meaningful thing.
All of those dedicated folks (people who nurture, people who rescue, people who teach, people who heal) who do the difficult work of assisting the neediest souls in society, and who do so day after day without fanfare, are my heroes.
Lucky me, I get to live with one.
Copyright © 2004 Michael F. Murray -- All rights reserved.