“Who would you consider a hero?” I ask my students as we begin a new unit of study.
The kids giggle and shout out as many superheroes as they can, as though it is a multiple-choice question with only one right answer
“Let’s try that again. What makes those ‘superheroes’ heroic?”
Thirty sets of eyes stare blankly until one student tentatively raises his hand and replies, “They are strong. They save people’s lives.”
“True. But do you think that is what defines a hero? To be a hero one must give up life for someone else’s?”
The kids nod, affirming the definition. My heart beats faster. A smile spreads across my face. Directing their attention to the television screen, I command, “Watch this. Then tell me what you think.” I click play on a one-minute preview of Chesapeake Shores. Kevin and Abby are sharing a heart-to-heart chat on the screen while my students’ faces light up with understanding.
“Well, I’m impressed.”
“What? That my life is imploding?”
No. That you stuck up for what you believe in. You’re a hero.”
“I’m definitely not a hero.”
“Yeah. You are. A hero is just someone who makes a decision that no one else has the courage to make.”
As a class, we continue our discussion of what makes a hero versus what it takes to be a hero. What we learn that, while heroes come in all sorts of forms – fictional and factual, past and present – it is not necessarily about being a hero through one decisive action. In reality, a hero is made through a series of choices that produce a period of suffering, requiring perseverance. That perseverance builds strength of character. And a person of strong character will have an abundance of hope. In order to reach that state of hope, we have to make decisions that others will not make – the ones that take us down a “road less traveled” like a swift turn of the rudder sending the bow of a ship directly into an oncoming storm. We may be afraid of what’s coming, but we make that decision in spite of the fear.
At the end of Season 3, Abby chose her home and family in Chesapeake Shores over the love of her life. Then, this season, she sacrificed her job to maintain her integrity – and to keep others from being hurt by an investment company’s scheme. At both points, Abby knew the stakes were high. She could see the heartache coming, but instead of taking the easier road, she remained true to what she knew in her heart was right, and turned her life headlong into the unknown. At the end of last Sunday’s episode, Abby stood at the edge of the cliff, her back to the white gazebo. She stared across the churning ocean and the television audience became immersed in her struggle against the storm. Her willingness to make tough decisions brought her to this place of inner turmoil.
As she stood there, gazing out over the water, she faced those storms of life and the look on her face mirrored that of her sister, Bree, as she and her boyfriend, Simon, decided to end their relationship. It can be so easy to stay with someone, romantic or otherwise, because it is easy and comfortable. When we love someone, we can choose to ignore the unsettled feeling that something “just isn’t right.” We want that relationship, that other person, to be the one so badly that we can talk ourselves into almost anything. In fact, Bree tried. She listed all of Simon’s traits that appealed to her, but deep down, she knew better. In the face of heart-wrenching pain, she forced herself to confront Simon. In turn, Simon couldn’t bear being the man who would be responsible for making her unhappy, so he chose to walk away. Doing the hard things like that, especially when it means losing someone we love, produces a season of suffering.
Through these past few episodes, Abby and Bree made choices that many do not have the courage to make. As they walk these very lonely roads, they endure criticism and questions. At times, they will regret their choices. Even as they falter, they will become stronger. They will learn to live life in a new way, and they will discover what it takes to rise above the challenge.
In rising, new opportunities and relationships will enter their lives. In the midst of their storms, the sun will break through, offering rays of hope. When they come out the other end, they will be better for it. In the eyes of many who are struggling to make a difficult decision, these fictional characters – if only for a moment – become heroes. They remind us that, though these choices are hard and they leave us feeling so alone, there is always a glimmer of hope waiting to greet us when the clouds begin to part.