"...sent to a cardiac arrest last night and got a successful resuscitation..."
Every now and then I get a text like this. It's from my friend who volunteers as a Community First Responder. I've got friends who are doctors and nurses who probably face these emergencies more often, but there is something a bit special about an ordinary member of the public who serves his community in this very real way. My small part is to rejoice with him when it works out and commiserate when it doesn't.
It is good to be interrupted by positive news. Much of the news diet over the summer has been disaster and fear. Or the antics of anti-heroes, figures from politics or celebrity (the current occupant of the White House and the media storm back and forth around him seems the pinnacle of both of these). Yet in the midst of earthquakes, hurricanes and floods, which have been so devastating, we know there are 'ordinary heroes', reaching out to others with lifesaving actions or just a hand of empathy.
The ordinary hero makes a decision to break the fourth wall of their existence, to break out of the box of their own life to touch someone else's. In the past we may have seen it as the duty of society to aid one another, but the independence and individualism of both wings of politics, as well as a society riven by subconscious messages in support of a perpetual egocentric childhood which never ends, means that selfless acts are not seen as duty, but as 'extra'-ordinary.
The truth is we can be heroes wherever we are, and we don't have to don a green jumpsuit to do it. Befriending, politeness, listening, caring without expectation of return. That could be a start. I suspect it happens more than we hear. Maybe we should devote a news item each evening to human goodness.
It's interesting that William Wilberforce had two distinct aims: the end of the slave trade, and the 'reformation of manners' - as one commentator put it recently, 'making goodness fashionable'. There's an idea. It certainly doesn't seem that goodness is fashionable: doing the right thing doesn't sell a story like doing the other.
It seems that with traditional media filled with the negative and monstrous, and social media focused on much the same with an unhealthy portion of the benign or the trivial, we are lacking a positive picture of our tomorrow - or dare I say, a vision!
That's where my friend comes in: not content to hear about the struggles of local ambulance crews, he had a vision to do something about it. He had vision and acted on it to make a positive difference, recognising that we can all be ordinary heroes wherever we are.