Learning from our own heroes

Sunday June 13 2021

Well done. Joyce Serwaniko meeting Museveni on Hero’s Day in Rukungiri in 2016. PHOTO | FILE

By Msgr John Wynand Katende

Within a span of a week, Ugandans observe two public holidays, in honour of their heroes. Let it signal a double denunciation of those villains who frustrate efforts to transform society. National Heroes embody the values of a nation. They can teach us about the ideals of life and fill us with sentiments of admiration. Stories about national heroes provide legacy for the next generation to aspire to be. 

The noun heroism comes from the Greek “hērōs”, which refers to a superman/superwoman. As someone who shows great courage and valour is referred to as a hero, their actions are considered to be acts of heroism. A hero can be a person that saves lives. We salute the different categories of heroes during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Who is a hero?

Heroes are exceptionally endowed with the principles of sacrifice, gallantry and perseverance. Sacrifice may be described as the forfeiture of something highly valued for the sake of one considered to have a greater value or claim. 

Gallantry is the adventurous courage, which courts danger with a high and cheerful spirit. Courage is admirable, but unless it involves risk or sacrifice in order to help others, then it isn’t heroism. A hero is, hence, someone who is not selfish; he/she thinks of others before thinking of himself/herself. 

Perseverance is described as persistent determination. It involves honesty to pursue justice, patience and dedication to pursue goals, courage to face adversity, trustworthy for faith and conduct and endurance to tolerate pain in hardship. A hero must have the ability to focus towards a particular purpose, for what he/she believes is right. A true hero is a martyr, and martyrs are honoured in death.


What a hero does

The world in which we live is oftentimes quite dark and miserable. It abounds in corruption, murder, and all sorts of temptations. Romans 5:12 describes the scenario as original sin, a tragedy of disobedience to God that befell mankind. The entire Bible is about God seeking people who would undo this predicament. Figures such as  Abraham, Moses and the prophets, are fronted as heroes in this struggle. God still calls heroes to save a particular society, at a particular time. They respond by exhibiting service above self; in obedience to God. 

Jesus is the personification of heroism. He came to save the world that was lost in sin (Romans 5:15). Jesus is the Light of the world (John 8:12). He summarises heroism with a two-fold mission: “You are the salt of the earth… You are light of the world… A light is not lit to be put under a basket, but on a lampstand, so that it may shine to all in the house” (Matthew 5:13-16). So, if Christians allow themselves to be imbued by the spirit of Christ, they will almost automatically radiate joy and peace, calm and conviction, moral goodness and determination, in a fallen world. The mission begins with baptism.

In reality, everyone is heroic in one way or another, to someone even in the smallest ways. “I don’t do great things. I do small things with great love.”   “Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies,”  says St Mother Theresa. Mothers are our unsung heroes.

Let us begin our legacy of heroism by initiating the change we want to see, rather than simply talk or complain about it. Let us think about other people’s needs before considering our own. Let us be ready to act when others are passive. Let us perform random acts of kindness. Let us volunteer our time. Let us use our talents. Let us promote the good. Let us offer a hand even when people don’t ask. Let us emulate our own heroes.