“Believe it or not, I’m walking on air…” A Stanford University professor emeritus has found that fully one in five Americans qualifies as a “hero.” Not as in sandwich.
As far as I know, there’s no actual lab test for heroism. At least not yet. But Philip Zimbardo and his research team gave questionnaires to 4,000 American men and women that asked: “Have you ever done something that other people – not necessarily you yourself – considered a heroic act or deed?” Twenty percent responded yes. Over half of them had come to someone’s aid in a dangerous emergency. Others had donated an organ, made a sacrifice for a stranger, or stood up for justice even when it meant a risk to themselves.
While I don’t know how our Canadian rate of heroism stacks up against that of our southern neighbours, I’d like to think it’s not shabby. Pretty good, in fact. I regularly hear about folks in this country who have faced peril or given up something important in order to help another person. Heck, I see it right in my own home: My husband willingly eats my cooking every night (kidding – I know my way around a kitchen!).
Zimbardo believes that heroes inspire us and give us hope for the planet. So he has launched a non-profit organization in California called Heroic Imagination Project that trains ordinary young people to become effective and wise heroes. As he told USA Today: “Heroes are really the soul of a nation. They represent what is best in human nature.”
You can find out more about Zimbardo’s work here (and then please get back to me – I really want to know if there’s a name for his particularly stylish ’stache).