Thursday, August 12, 2010

A modest proposal

This past weekend was the Pan Mass Challenge, a fund raising bike ride for the Dana Farber Cancer Center. I've done this ride several times in the past, riding 160 miles in two days. It changed my life, who I know myself to be and how I move through the world. I raised over $20,000 for cancer research. I realized that having cancer in my 20s was only a tiny piece of who I am. Over the course of those two days, I felt like a hero - the route is lined with supporters holding signs and cheering. It has been one of the peak moments of my life.

Last year, for various reasons mostly related to my back, I decided not to ride. It was the right decision. I didn't ride again this year and, while I still know it was the right decision, I miss it. But what is that I miss?

I still ride my bike, so that's not it. I am doing good in the world in other ways, though with less visibility, so it's not the impact I miss. I know who I am, as a survivor, fighter, athlete, human being, so that's not what I miss.

I miss feeling like a hero. I miss have a few moments in my life when I am part of the parade and I know they are cheering for me. And I miss knowing that this is in every way deserved. It's kind of a drug, that kind of support. And it's something we all should have a chance to experience a few times in our lives.

So here is my proposal:

We all do heroic things. We give money and time to a cause we believe in. We are kind unexpectedly. We go above and beyond the call of duty. We love our kids even when they're monsters. We love strangers' kids when they're monsters. We don't strike back at those who have hurt us. We keep going.

Why not have a few parades a year where we get to cheer for each other? One could be for parents, grandparents, step-parents, anyone involved in raising a child, even if that child is grown. Another could for people who are nice to their co-workers, a third for those who are nice to strangers. Whatever. We could make banners proclaiming our heroic acts and march proudly along, the local high school marching bands could strut their stuff (which I think is pretty heroic - come on, playing the tuba in high school?! How brave is that!?) while our friends and neighbors line the street and cheer for us. They can hold up signs that say things like You are an everyday hero! And when it's their turn to be in the parade we can hold up the same signs for them.

We'd all feel a little better, feel acknowledged and maybe be a little kinder to each other. I think it could work. What do you say, wanna be a hero?

(c)2010 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License


  1. This reminds me of something we do for our kids at camp. The unique thing all the campers have in common, unfortuantly, is that they all have been abused or neglected at some point during their life. We have a talent show where they have a chance to do something awesome (such as a summersault) and in the end, a whole room of people cheers for them. There are a lot of tears that day. Some of the kids have even noted that before camp, they felt like no one even knew their name.

    Being a hero can feel rawther good, can't it :P

    Magi via Swapbot

  2. you're my hero!
    I feel SO blessed to call you my friend! You have been there for me in so many of the darkest points of my life and I applaud you for being the wonderful living being I call Laura!
    I cheer for you!


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