My family of heroes


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.

Who can be extraordinary?

I have a cool dentist. Not only is Dr. Steve a skilled and caring practitioner, he’s also a musician and composer of the folk-rock variety. His group, the Steve Law Band, performs in the metro Denver area, and I last heard them at the Capitol Hill People’s Fair.

So what? Writers are interested in all sorts of individuals. Each person has his own story. Dr. Steve is a multi-dimensional person and a great example of using your creativity and smarts throughout your life. Ordinary people can have extraordinary lives. Sample Steve’s work at and learn about his dentistry at

I know lots of folks who, if you passed them on the street, might be overlooked. Once you get to know them, you learn of their fascinating interests and their exceptional activities. One woman gave me a five-minute overview of the intertwined social lives of common barn swallows, who work together to feed and protect fledglings. Another got the inside view of Alaska’s natural grandeur and shared it with me. Still a third, supposedly retired, just published a book on branding and marketing.

Goes to show that anyone just might have an extraordinary life, if we take the time to find out. Do you have a favorite contact you’ve learned from?