What makes a hero? My daughter’s one. Yesterday, driving through downtown Denver, she spotted a woman bent over, clutching her chest. Since my family is made up of heroes, she leaped out of her car, and went into action. While she asked the stranger if she needed help, my daughter called 911 and stayed on the line and with the victim (by that time turning blue) until the medics arrived.
The thing strange to her was that although hundreds of people passed on the crowded sidewalk, not one stopped to offer assistance. Not a surprise to me. Years ago I learned of a concept called “diffusion of responsibility” or “bystander effect.” This social psychology theory was developed after the murder of Kitty Genovese in New York, during which many in the crowded neighborhood heard her cries for help but didn’t take action.
The idea—the more people around an emergency, the less likely anyone will help. “Let someone else do it.”
When I learned of this concept, I vowed never to fall victim to it. And my entire family subscribes to the approach. My husband, two children, two grandchildren, and myself have all stepped in to offer emergency assistance. By my count, we’ve saved about eight lives as well as rescuing numerous others from lesser crises. That’s why we’re a family of heroes.
We don’t have superpowers. We’re not outstanding athletes or geniuses. We’re ordinary, not extraordinary. But extraordinary things happen to us, and they can happen to you.
The first and most essential quality of a hero is simply for a person to be willing to step forward and take charge and responsibility. Sure, other things are important: ability to stay calm, rational thinking, empathy. But none of those matter unless you realize you have to act.
Check it out. Next time you hear about a person who was heroic, see if he just acted, rather than waiting for someone else to be a leader.