It’s easy to tell heroes from the rest of us.
They are the ones running toward danger.
Consider the New York police and fire fighters of Sept. 11, 2001. They were the ones running toward the crumbling World Trade Center towers.
Consider the principal and teachers of Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School during the slaughter of Dec. 14. They were the ones running into the gunfire of a deranged shooter, taking bullets meant for children, deliberately, consciously giving their lives for their small charges.
It doesn’t get any more heroic than that.
Those first responders and teachers have one shining trait in common. They are both working in the most unselfish of professions. Both put their clients – you and me and our children – ahead of themselves.
Most professions tend to be more selfish than that. Lawyers, business leaders, salesmen, actors and journalistic jokers like me spend most of their lives polishing their own careers, reaping rewards primarily for themselves.
But those teachers are astounding in a way that sets them truly apart. Physical courage was never expected of them.
First responders and members of the police force, by contrast, go into their line of work expecting a certain amount of danger and ready to face it. We would all be in trouble without them in our daily lives.
But laying down your life for others is not traditionally thought of as one of the duties of a teacher. They are mostly gentle folk practicing a humanizing art.
Oh, it’s true enough that teachers are expected to take the children by the hand and walk them through the terrifying challenges of an education – understanding algebra and learning the difference between an adverb and an adjective.
But colleges of education do not normally instruct future teachers on how to throw themselves into a barrage of bullets, giving their lives for the wee ones.
We never expected so much from our teachers. And yet there it was last year, teachers racing forward into a sudden death of hot flying lead, instant human shields trying to save the children.
We probably shouldn’t be surprised. These are people who have always cared more about others than about themselves.
Most of us have a list in our heads of uplifting events when a teacher or two or more said something that literally altered our lives.
When I was 12 and itching to write but not sure I could get a handle on it, a teacher pulled me aside one fundamental day and said, “You should be a writer.”
How many millions of you have had teachers like that?
Those are life-changing moments. As we speak, there are teachers all over the world who are feeding sweet words of encouragement and nourishing nuggets of inspiration to children like we once were.
However, we never expected their selfless service to extend so far as throwing away their own lives to preserve the lives of the children. But that’s merely the most amazing of the many ways in which teachers have endeared themselves to most of us. No wonder teachers are so popular.
That makes it all the more surprising that so many state legislators are currently going through a grumpy phase of waging a war against teachers and teacher unions. Do those legislators realize they are abusing people who are several times more popular than they are?
It’s easy to tell the difference between teachers and legislators.
Teachers are the ones running into the lethal space between a crazed shooter and our shrieking children.
Legislators are the ones who are running only for re-election.Bill Hall can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 1012 Prospect Ave., Lewiston, ID 83501