Everyone loves a hero.
The stories of the world are saturated with them. Atticus Finch of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockinbird. Katniss from The Hunger Games. Indiana Jones. Robin Hood. Eowyn from The Lord of the Rings. Superman.
We love heroes, each and every one of us.
And, in our lives, there are two opposing forces: the need to be rescued by a hero and the desire to be one.
The foundation of humanity, admitted or not, is that, fallen, depraved and utterly base, a Hero came to our rescue. An unlikely Hero, but that's what made the story all the better. A Hero that was humble, kind, forgiving. One who fought battles not with angry words or lashing weapons, but with excruciating sacrifice. A Hero that fought hard, fought bravely, and won.
Our story of redemption is the original story of a hero.
As a child, I watched The Lion King so many times that eighteen years later my parents still know it word for word. One of my favorite scenes was the one where young Simba and Nala go to the elephant graveyard. I was extremely imaginative and rather liked to think that I could be a lion if I wanted to. In fact, I could be whatever lion I liked. So, in this particular scene, I would switch back and forth from pretending to be Simba to pretending to be Nala. I always loved the part where Nala gets stuck in the bones, being chased down by the hyenas, and calls to Simba for help, and he responds, giving the vicious hyena a good, hard scratch on the face.
This particular moment was such a hard one for little me to decide who to be that oftentimes I would completely miss it while trying to choose. On one hand, I very much wanted to be the courageous, albeit reckless, Simba, dashing in to save his friend. On the other, Nala was a girl, which turned the tables considerably in her favor. And there was something I relished about Simba saving me. But then I did enjoy doing the saving... And so I would argue with myself until another scene arrived and the character of choice was easier to determine.
Even as a child, this fundamental question haunted me. I wanted to be a hero, but I needed to be saved.
We forget sometimes when we're living out our stories that the role of hero has already been cast.
We are minor characters, extras in the sea of civilians who were saved from an impending comet by Superman. Not Superman.
We are the lowly peasants, given food and money by Robin Hood, who has forfeited wealth and power to provide for us. Not Robin himself.
Heroes are brave. Heroes are noble. Heroes can and should be emulated, just as I emulated Simba as a little girl.
But we must always remember that we are Nala too. And, of course, just after that scene in the movie, what happens?
Mufasa rescues them all. Even Simba, the little hero.
Somehow, I could never pretend to be Mufasa.
There is only one true Hero.
The rest of us are just pretending.