In Greek Mythology heroes are described as “men or women of special strength, courage, or ability, often of divine ancestry and noted for superhuman courageous acts”. Oxford Dictionary describes a hero as “a person who is admired for having done something very brave or having achieved something great”. For Mihai, a 17-year-old boy, a hero will have the form of a parent who has been battling an incurable disease for almost 10 years.
Some of the characteristics of a hero are: bravery, honesty, moral integrity, determination, selflessness, protective. Usually, a hero is portrayed as someone who will give their best to protect the others. In a study published in 2013, we see that both animals and humans will especially protect those who are genetically related to ensure that their genes are passed on. Out of a desire to protect others, people end up doing superhuman things without realizing it. They end up being heroes without a cape, but with superpowers.
Laura, 21 – Hero: Her mom – Superpower: kind-hearted and brave
“One of my heroes is my mother. My mother is one of the most kind-hearted persons you’ll ever meet. She makes me want to be a better person every single day. My mother is my absolute rock through every hardship that I face. Someday I’m going to be a mother just like her, because she is the best mom in the world. She carries a lot on her shoulders but you’ll never catch her complaining about anything. She is just the best.”
Alexandru, 32 – Hero: His wife – Superpower: colorful laugh
“My hero is my wife. She fought cancer and won.” Alexandru and Ioana met in college. Her dream was to become a teacher, he was passionate about computers. “I saw her for the first time at the store where I was working in my free time, to earn some more pocket money. I remember that I saw her and I didn’t know how to open the cash register or how much money to give her back, and she was just smiling, a thing which didn’t help me at all”, says Alexandru amused. “After a while she told me that she sometimes came several times a day, because she ‘forgot’ to buy certain things, when in fact she just wanted to see me”. Alexander quickly enchanted Ioana, and convinced her to go out with him on a date, a date that would’ve end up with the beginning of their life together. “I have to admit I was a little stalker, but I couldn’t let her slip through my fingers. I fell for her hard. What I loved from the beginning, and I still love until this day, after 10 years, is her laugh. She has a very lively, colorful laugh, which she did not lose even when she fought the disease. I admire her. I truly do. There were days when she was the one who encouraged me and her family that everything would be fine. She has a crazy positivism in her.”
In Greek Mythology, heroes are noted for their superhuman courageous acts. “If we take it by definition, Ioana falls into the category of superhuman acts perfectly, and this was when, as due to the chemotherapy, her hair started to fall out, and she shaved it all, without even blinking. The superhuman acts when you fight cancer are even the fact that you get out of bed in the morning, knowing that somewhere, in the back of your head, is the idea that all things could not end well. I think superhuman is to reconcile yourself to the thought of an end that may come way too soon, and still keep laughing no matter how painful it may be”.
Ioana has been cancer free for almost three years. She checks herself every few months to keep everything under control and laughs as colorful as she always did, every day, to remind everyone that being a hero means having the power to make others smile even in the darkest times.
Mihai, 17 – Hero: His father – Superpower: insulin syringe
“I consider my father a hero. He has had a serious form of diabetes for almost 10 years. I have seen him fight with it every day, with every injection he has to take; he proves to me how much courage it takes to continue, knowing that there is no cure for it. I saw him weak, I saw him soaked in sweat from the crises, and I shouted at him when he used to get sick in his sleep and wouldn’t wake up. He gets up every morning and goes to work, then comes home and spends time with us. He never complains. Heroes usually have capes in the movies we see, mine has an insulin syringe.”
Nuța, 34 – Hero: Herself – Superpower: flowers
“I was kicked out of the house multiple times by my father, who was an alcoholic, because he said I didn’t bring any money into the house. Money that would’ve went on his drinking, of course. He was constantly beating me and my mother. I have five more brothers, but he never hit them, I don’t know why. I’m a gypsy, I say it and I’m not ashamed, so the police officers wouldn’t have listened to me if I told them my father was abusing me. I didn’t go to the police to tell them because they would’ve taken me back to him.”
For Nuța, everything changed in a spring, with the help of a flower. “I was 16 years old and March 8 was approaching. Some people in the community usually go out with flowers and sell them at high prices, because they also buy them from other places. I had nowhere to buy flowers from, so I bought ribbons, because you could find some of these on the rolls and they were way cheaper, and I started going through the gardens and steal the flowers that were the most beautiful,” says Nuța laughing.
“So I took the flowers and the bow and ran up the hill behind the house to make small bouquets. Some of them I used to make simple, only from flowers, while others I decorated with fern leaves, also taken from the hill. God, I had so much fun doing that! I think it was that moment when I realized how much I love flowers, when I saw how happy I was on a hill, simply surrounded by them. When I finished, I took the bouquets and went down the hill with them, on the street, next to the others, to sell them. I still had to keep my distance. You didn’t want to step on their tails. The trick was to have the lowest price. I had two advantages: I negotiated the price, because for me any leu mattered, it didn’t matter if it was 5 lei or 10. And the second thing was that I was still a kid, and that made people come to me, it attracted them.”
Nuța’s story ends nicely, in a big way, although it had a small beginning, with petals. After noticing that she likes flowers, and that she has a passion for them, Nuța got a job at a flower shop, which was at a 30-minute bike ride from home. It didn’t bother her. She worked there for a few years, taking another job in the meantime, and then, with the help of the people from the flower shop where she worked, she managed to open her own place where she can sell flowers. It’s small – hard to fit 3 people inside, but the store is hers, and with that, Nuța, after many years, becomes her own.
Ovidiu, 32 – Hero: His grandma – Superpowers: cooking and pure love for all simple things
“She’s a hero in my eyes because she’s 85 years old, little to no book knowledge, no other languages known, never travelled abroad, never had a smartphone and yet, she’s a grandmother to four grandkids and a great-grandmother to four great-grandkids, all of them boys. Her daughter and son are happy individuals with families that have their own families. She’s been a widow for 18 years and managed to stand tall after everything that life offered her or robbed her off.”
Ovidiu’s hero was always close, ready to push him even further, to do what she could not, but what she knew he was capable of, although life inevitably separated them. “Since I can remember, my grandma has been there and she is still there, even though distance and her age makes the actual presence felt a bit challenging, but since I was born until the day, I decided to go a few kilometers further to college, she was always just an hour away from me. And for someone that only had no more than two weeks of school her whole life, she managed to convince me to learn and be a teacher more than one individual can comprehend. She wasn’t dumb, just illiterate. She wasn’t gullible, just lacking the interest of caring for other things that don’t concern her. So, she made me the curious one.”
A grandmother without love for cooking is like a hero without love for his superpowers, but this love comes in so many forms, and sometimes, if we take good care of it, it will be kept intact generation after generation: “She taught me to cook, from the most basic to the ultimate recipe, the Christmas cake which now I consider my life’s treasure for knowing how to do it like she did. She taught me traditions. Even though they may seem strangely simple and odd, they count towards irreplaceable memories. She gave me things from nothing and managed to teach me to adapt myself to every environment, cook with the most basic ingredients, enjoy the simplest of conditions, live without hoping for anything besides family and peacefulness. After 32 years of life and knowing her for so much time, it’s like having my own personal timeless hero that keeps me going. I just hope this hero will live on when she leaves on her legacy to me and her other grandkids.”
Some of the characteristics of a hero that are usually portrayed to us are: bravery, honesty, moral integrity, determination, selflessness, protectiveness. But the characteristics of a hero, seen through our eyes, prove to be as human as possible, even though they are real superpowers in our everyday normality; these powers are captured in a kind heart, one animated laugh, an insulin syringe, a flower or in someone’s love for all the simplest things.