The people's voice of reason

Tears & Laughter: Doing Your Job Doesn't Make You A Hero!

I grew up in the 1970s and 80s, and it was not a time when self-esteem was widely recognized as being terribly important. We did not all get trophies. We were not all winners.

I don’t remember any standout losers either.

Some of us tried harder and some of us were more talented or had more ability, some of us practiced more and improved out skills, some people could have cared less.

We had one ole boy in high school that could sing pretty good, and we had another that went on to play semi-professional baseball, but I don’t remember any heroes.

I tend to reserve the hero term for people who have faced danger or death, or exhibited extreme courage. But lately it’s thrown around loosely. Over the last few months I have heard people working in grocery stores during the pandemic called heroes. Linemen with the power company are heroes. Poll workers during the election were heroes. And while I am grateful for the cashiers down at the Pig, and the men who restored power after the hurricane, and the nice couple at my voting precinct who handed me a ballot and a ballpoint pen…they are not heroes. I am not a hero. You likely aren’t either…so don’t get excited.

Everybody can’t be called a hero for doing their job. Just like not everybody who competes can’t be called a winner. If everybody is treated like the winner it takes away from what it took to win. It takes away the accomplishment. It undermines. And it squelches the desire to strive.

By the time my generation started having kids, opinions had changed. It was all about them. We thought we needed to build bigger houses with luxury baths to raise them in, we dressed them in designer clothes, and signed them up for a myriad of activities that would ensure they became well-rounded, culturally-aware individuals.

We preached self-esteem like a parable. We tried to give them undivided attention, even as broken homes became more common. We told them they were outstanding when they were loved and adored, but average. We told them they were talented, when they were just playing.

Think no further back than American Idol. Not everybody watched it for the talent that was put on display. They watched it for the opposite–people who had been told, usually by their mama, that they were talented when it was closer to the truth to say the cat fled the room when they cranked up singing.

There is nothing wrong with wanting everybody to feel like a winner.

Especially children. As parents we think they all deserve to be in the spotlight. They all deserve a trophy, a blue ribbon, and a gold medal dangling around their neck.

And that seems nice. It’s sweet. It’s an effort to be all-inclusive so that nobody feels left out or feels less than a champion, and that I suppose can’t be entirely wrong. Except everybody can’t be the winner all the time. Because in real life not everybody is a winner all the time. We aren’t all champions. And that is fine and normal. But the equal opposite reality of it requires that we also know how to lose. Because sometimes we lose.

Losing holds purpose too. If you lose, winning becomes more important. Losing makes people try harder. There is something about knowing what it is like to lose that gives a winner grace.

There will be winners and there will always be a lot of losers, but this world gives us very few heroes. Especially real ones.

Amanda Walker is a contributor with, The Selma Times Journal, Thomasville Times, West Alabama Watchman, and Alabama Gazette. Contact her at or at


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