It was a rerun of an NCIS episode from a couple of years ago. The victim had given her life to protect others.

“She didn’t have to do it,” McGee pointed out.

“No,” said Gibbs. “She had a choice. That’s what makes her a hero.”

My cousin is my oldest friend, though we don’t see each other much any more. We communicate via the Internet, not in person.

“You’ve always been braver than me,” she said.

The context was a picture of me and Garry riding the Cyclone at Coney Island. There’s a camera at the first drop. Hard to resist buying a picture of oneself and others screaming as you go down the nearly vertical first drop on an 84-year old wooden coaster.

But brave? It wasn’t as if I’d volunteered to rescue someone from danger. I paid my money and got the best adrenaline rush money can buy. Not brave. Not heroic.


Some people have called me brave because I’ve survived. As it happens, I would have been just as happy to skip all that and lead a pleasant, uneventful life. For excitement, there’s the Cyclone. I could have lived with that.

I’ve managed to slouch into senior citizenship alive but I don’t deserve a medal. You don’t get medals for surviving or shouldn’t. Saving ones own life (and occasionally as collateral anti-damage, other people’s too) is instinct, not valor.

Staying alive is hard-wired into our DNA. Birds do it. Bees do it. Even educated fleas do it.

My definition of bravery or valor is the same as Gibbs’. You have to make a willing choice. There has to be a choice! Taking risks for the fun of it, to make a killing in the stock market, or because your only other option is death isn’t courage.

If it’s fun, it’s entertainment. I love roller coasters. I probably would have liked sky diving had my back not been so bad. A personal passion or hobby involving doing dangerous stuff is not brave. Maybe it’s not even intelligent.

Taking a risk for profit? Shrewd, not brave.

Saving your own life? Finding a way by hook or crook to keep a roof over your head and food on your table? That’s instinct.

I’ve never done anything I define as courageous. I’ve done exciting stuff, entertaining and fascinating stuff. Some of these adventures proved disastrous. Others worked out okay. I’ve occasionally been selfless in helping others when I could. But I never voluntarily put myself in harm’s way to save someone else.

The most I could be accused of is doing the right thing when it wasn’t easy. I don’t think you get medals for that, either.

Anyway, that’s what I think.

Categories: Humor, Life, Music, Sayings and Platitudes, Words

Tags: , , , , , , ,

45 replies

  1. That picture on the roller coaster is a real classic. After reading the comments I think that the real heroes are those who get through life despite the odds stacked against them. There is no emphasis on the hero thing.


  2. OMG I have a picture just like that, from when my family and I went to Hershey Park. My husband and I are in the front seat and look just like Garry, while my girls are in the back seat laughing their heads off. I love that photo.


  3. Geez, this post reminds me I haven’t been to an amusement park since 1998… which is not coincidentally when I started working at Mecca. Nobody ever goes when I’m off, and Six Flags is not a place you generally go to by yourself like I can take in a ballgame alone (It’s also about a 40 mile drive). Oh well, I’ll live the thrill of the coasters vicariously through that picture of you and Garry…


  4. What an awesome, fun picture! 😀

    “The most I could be accused of is doing the right thing when it wasn’t easy. I don’t think you get medals for that, either.”–I completely agree with this, and part of why when I get told I am strong or brave for some of the decisions I have made or actions I have taken, I don’t know how to react. It’s doing what I have to do and, hopefully, doing what is right.


  5. The roller coaster picture cracks me up, each and every time. It’s priceless


  6. It takes courage to open up about the things you experienced and to write about it too. I would find that very difficult.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s a great picture though.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Love the Cole Porter reference – he was just surviving after Linda’s death and the eventual amputation of his leg, but boy, could that man write some fabulously catchy tunes… I learned to play piano playing a few Porter songs that my dad taught me.

    As for bravery, being from a military family, they are the men and women who put on a uniform to stand guard and say “nothing bad will happen to you on my watch”.


  9. That picture of you and Garry on the roller coaster made me laugh out loud. Those facial expressions are classic!

    To my mind, heroism isn’t always about danger. Maybe it’s a matter of choosing to do the right thing, even when you take heat for it. Or being an everyday superhero and stepping forward to do something good for someone else.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree. The one consistent truth is that heroes go above and beyond. They make a choice at some point and it’s that choice that changes it from survival to heroism.


    • I covered a lot of stories where danger was in the mix. Bullets, fire, explosions, etc. People frequently congratulated me for my bravery. I ALWAYS tried to explain that I was OBLIVIOUS to what was going on. I was working “in the moment”. I felt we to often glorified folks for doing their jobs and ignored “ordinary people” stepping up against impossible odds to do the right thing. Not sexy enough, I was often told. I often ignored “the suits” on this. Maybe that counts for something.


      • Good for you. I wish there were more news stories about people doing good things against the odds. People could use the inspiration.

        Caine’s Arcade is a perfect example, and that viral video has over 4.8 million hits. That’s got to be sexy enough, even for the suits. 😉


  10. Well, you’re brave enough for saying aloud what most only think.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I love the picture.
    I love what you wrote.
    You are the hero of blogosphere! 😀


  12. This is a post with a tough topic. Donald Trump touch a nerve on it when he spoke of John McCain’s status as a “Hero”. It had never been questioned before. Are you automatically a hero when you get shot down and consequently captured? I can see Donald’s point. I happen to agree with his conclusion.

    In wartime the press or the brass often create heroes for publicity. I’ll tell you who I think are the real heroes, parents. Going to work every day to put food on the table for your family is heroic to me. Gibbs was right, real heroes make the choice to take the road less travelled, sacrificing their comfort, their freedom for someone else.


  13. I love the picture, it says it all:) I also love the lessons of life as we grow up and become adults…we are not old yet just very educated, mature and well versed:) Hugs to you my friend:)


    • Hugs back to you. Hope those fires come under control soon. It hasn’t been as dry here as last year, but it’s still too dry. There’s a drought almost everywhere in the country, with the exception of some part of the midwest. We need RAIN. Good, soaking rains.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you much…hugs always help:) We are having another windy dusty day here…the firefighters are preparing for the winds fueling the fires more. I just looked out and can see a big plume of smoke and I am guessing that one of the fires blew up. Yes we need lots of good rain and more of it. I saw where three firefighters lost their lives in WA. state on the Okanagan fires which are huge. My heart goes out to those brave men and their families and the two survivors. Forest fires are so awful!


        • And this endless drought … it puts everyone in danger. We’ve had a chronic water shortage for more than five years. It’s not as bad this year as last year, but not enough to fill the rivers OR the aquifer. I don’t know what will happen to all of us if it continues. May the rains fall for you and on all of us.


  14. I love the picture on the rollercoaster!!!


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