Why do some people choose to run into a burning building while others remain immobilized? What makes this person run inside? What internal drive allows him to act against the Darwinian instincts that cry out for self-preservation? How does this man up-end human nature? The answer is both simple and complex.
Every hero chooses to give something up. It may be his safety or it may be his dignity or may be something of value. The hero always gives something up. But there is more.
Below is the story of how some people chose to be heroes, coming to the rescue of others- and in doing so put their own lives at risk. It is bt extensin, a story of the people who chose to do nothing.
A person may only be in such a situation but once in his or her life.
The opportunity to be heroic manifests in the smallest of our choices. Every day, heroes of every kind make choices that define their identity and character. As inconsequential as the small choices seem, we can never know the effect that each of our actions has on someone else. Every person can recalls a few words, off handed remarks or the small action of another in passing, that still resonates within us. The person who spoke those words or committed the particular action may not even realize their significance or how those words or actions have impacted us.
Heroism is a choice. Fate may determine whether or no we will have the opportunity to run into a burning building or hide defenseless people. Whether or not that ever happens is besides the point. To commit to a moral life is a series of decisions that are made over a lifetime. To make a moral choice is to make a commitment to act. To choose to be a hero is by definition, moral clarity.
During World War II, Villagers in a French Farming Community Rescued Thousands of Jews and Other Refugees. Most Europeans Failed to Hinder the Genocides in Their Midst. Why? « Sigmund, Carl and Alfred
I’ve been spending time in two places that were, in the last century, tested with awesome violence. One, a great ravine found now within the city limits of Kiev, Ukraine, was the site of one of the most deadly massacres of the Holocaust. There, on September 29 and 30, 1941, German occupation forces assisted by Ukrainian auxiliary police rounded up almost 34,000 Jews and shot them to death. The ravine into which their bodies tumbled was called Babi Yar. The other place, the Plateau Vivarais-Lignon, in south-central France, is up high and hard to get to. Living in relative isolation, its people have evolved their own folkways over the centuries. The actions of these villagers were almost unparalleled in the history of the Holocaust: Many of the region’s 24,000 residents helped rescue about 5,000 people, some 3,500 of them Jews and most of them children, from near-certain death during World War II.
Tangles of trees and harsh winds are part of both places’ stories. The roads through the woods of each led, in the darkest moments of the last century, to two spectacular precipices. In those moments, with their insistent swirls of killing in the name of nation or race or religion or class, there were still various roads to choose from. What road takes you to one precipice, or the other? Given the limits of choice and of will, how does one find the right way?
Kiev—still struggling to come to terms with its bone-filled muds—can’t be compared analytically to the Plateau Vivarais-Lignon in any responsible way. The places are so unalike, their histories so distinct, the nature of the surrounding violence of entirely different magnitudes. But in both locations, more-or-less regular people faced tremendous pressure to preserve their own well-being to the detriment of targeted neighbors and strangers. Their responses were vastly different. In considering the two side by side, I aim not to curse nor to praise any given people (who endured moral tests the likes of which most of us will never have to face), but rather to meditate on these questions: How do small actions of groups, in the aggregate, make huge differences? How can social habits—the things we learn from childhood and pass on to our children—teach us immunity to the winds that whip around us, terrify us, tell us that we must think of ourselves first?