It’s not hard to figure out why many people love the superheroes we see in the movies, in comic books and in the tall tales from the past. Jason and the Argonauts; Achilles from Greece; Hercules; Samson; etc. These were merely heroes from legend and literature.

Then came real life heroes like:

  • George Washington (1st US President)
  • Mahatmas Ghandhi (“Peace” Spokesperson from India)
  • Lech Walesa (Polish “Liberator”)
  • Simon Bolivar (South American Freedom Fighter)
  • Clara Barton (American Red Cross founder)
  • Langston Hughes (American Renaissance poet)
  • Gold Meir (1st PM of Israel)
  • Harriet Tubman (Underground Railroad “Conductor”)
  • Anwar el-Sadat (Egyption Peacekeeper)
  • Chief Sitting Bull (Native American leader and ambassador)
  • Chinua Achebe (author of Things Fall Apart)

Human history is peppered with the lives of men and women that performed magnificent feats against ridiculous odds. Interestingly, the most essential thing make-believe heroes have had in common with the real ones is the impetus to cater to the needs of the powerless and the victims of dangerous circumstances.


In society, we have several groups of people that are generally described as being “most vulnerable.” These are the people for whom we have special programs and whose needs we try to cater to most actively and creatively. While the elderly, children, and abused, impecunious women with children are three such groups, a group that may arguably be the most vulnerable are the developmentally, physically and intellectually disabled.

Meeting the special needs of this segment of society is a group of highly-trained, caring (for no other type of person would pursue careers that pay so little for what is asked from them), and talented individuals that can only be described as “real life heroes.” Other than the fact that these professionals are not the most highly paid, the list of sacrifices that these people make on behalf of their clients is monumentally essential, both for the persons they cater to and for society in general.

In fact, Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) are, literally, the embodiment of the concept of what we confidently call a “HERO,” and the following things that all heroes have in common well illustrate this:

  1. They aren’t just sympathetic. (which is what a bystander might feel) but empathetic–they feel the pain, discomfort and stress victims feel. This drives them to help others for genuine and unselfish reasons
  2. They aren’t self-centered. Heroes think of the welfare of others before they stop to worry about theirs. Patient Care Technicians, Medical Assistants, Licensed Practical Nurses, Certified Nursing Assistants, Orderlies–none of these people make huge amounts of money, get lots of prestige or attention, or wield lots of power or authority, but, yet, they work in germ-infested hospital wards, putting their lives on the line every day (not knowing when and if they will contract some deadly disease), most of the time without getting as much as a “thank you.” But the next, amazingly, they show up for another round of dangerous work.
  3. They aren’t selfish. Many people ask “What’s in it for me?” But heroes ask “What can I do for those unfortunate folks?” They may be compensated for the work that they do, but the money they get is obviously not what motivates them. Like other genuine heroes, their motivation is intangible, incorruptible and full of “giving.”
  4. They seem to have super-human powers. EMTs and Paramedics help to stabilize patients long enough for doctors and nurses to sometimes literally bring people back from the grave. Social workers, by the same token, give many people a reason to not commit suicide or commit other crimes. It sometimes takes seemingly super-human powers to do these things.
  5. They can almost see the future. Many times law enforcement people anticipate trouble and take action to prevent it. They often don’t get the credit, but this makes them heroes nevertheless.
  6. All heroes talk to people as if they were equals. –instead of talking down to them as if inferior. The “hero” may be superior in education and training, but they don’t use that as a reason to put others down.
  7. All heroes are super patient. People who work in the family court system can indeed be said to qualify.
  8. All heroes obey the laws of the land. They are, therefore, good role models.
  9. All heroes serve a useful purpose in life. They have a massive portfolio of all the good they have done over the years for others.
  10. All heroes never die. Heroes live on in the legacy that they leave behind of service to humanity and their fellow human beings. No one can “kill” that!


Heroes are not just the stuff of comic books. They live among us. We benefit from their efforts, even though we fail to acknowledge their beautiful work most of the time.