Everyday Heroes / or, Strong Heart

With the world being so crazy right now, last week I was needing to ground myself a bit, and I was remembering one of my real life heroes: Bear Heart, an Algonquin Shaman living in Albuquerque New Mexico, of all places.  I was a transplant from Alaska, living in Albuquerque as well.  I don’t remember how we met, some friend of a friend I suspect; Bear Heart was destined to make a huge impact on my life from that day forward.  With 10 years of Vision Quests, Soul Retrievals, sweats, soujourns into the Sacred Underworld, and yes, beers in the bar, about 3 years in, he bestowed upon me my Native American name, “Strong Heart”…an honor I hope I have lived up to in these past 30 years since Bear Heart moved on.

Those memories got me thinking…Who are my Heroes? Gandhi, with his non-violence message to the world and his Strong Heart, surely.  Martin Luther King, Jr.  with his Hope and Trust in Humanity, his Dream, and his Strong Heart.  Mandela, anti-apartheid and Nobel Peace Prize winner.  Viktor Frankl –”When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” So many Strong Hearts leading my way. Closer to home, my mom: her sacrifices, perseverance, compassion, and her Strong Heart, never resting on her laurels. An every day Hero.

But the unsung heroes- young and old that I saw on a daily basis dealing with the trials and tribulations of the human condition, not confounded, but with compassion that reached into my own heart and changed me…those are my real heroes.

A young boy, Greg I believe, in my junior high school. He was a bit deformed and in a wheelchair and the subject of menacing chatter and out right bullying for years. I worked in the school library and always gave Greg special help when he was working in there.  Gregg wanted to be an attorney!  I lost track of him after high school graduation, but later learned that Greg went on to become a Public Defender, working with underrepresented people and communities for the betterment of all the world, actually.

And Julie, one of my young employees in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.  She was on my campground staff, working on the trails, picking up trash, and greeting guests.  She spent her days off visiting schools and hospitals as a Clown, lifting hearts and spirits of others, with a smile on her face and a joke up her sleeve.  She was full of stories every Monday morning. 

“Hey Angela, I met the spunkiest little girl ever this weekend.  Such a kick!” she would say. 

I knew that 2 years before my arrival, she had received a devastating health diagnosis. While visiting with her in the campground one day, she told me she went to Clown School because she wanted to uplift others- especially children who were ill.  And that is just what she was doing. 

Julie died on my watch. The entire town came out for her memorial.  She was such an every day Hero and taught us all so much.  Some of us put on red rubber noses and big white gloves in remembrance.

Especially when I am frustrated and maybe a bit whiney about MY Life, I think, “Who’s heart have I lifted today?” Having a strong heart is one thing, but using it to uplift others, is what life is all about, especially in these tentative and scary times.  Who’s Hero am I?

Yes, the Great Masters are my teachers, but the ‘Greg’s’ and the ‘Julies’ are my Heroes. Who are your Heroes? And more importantly, Whose Hero are you?


For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com


Angela Cook
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