MPAA Rating: NR
USCCB Rating: NR
Reel Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The term “hero”, in 21st-century America, usually conjures up images of supernatural abilities and mind-boggling box office receipts. Yet while few of us know any meta-humans or even the actors who play them, nearly everyone can name a schoolteacher who inspired them or a parent who taught them something they will never forget.
Everyday Heroes, a multipart television series produced by the Knight of Columbus, makes the bold claim that not only do true heroes exist but are all around us. They highlight about a dozen examples but there are surely countless more.
The filmmakers do an excellent job finding a wide variety of men as proof of heroism. There’s an 11-year-old boy who, during Puerto Rico’s recent hurricane, organized relief for an abbey in the wildness that had lost all water and power. There is Joe Reali, who gave up a promising football career to care for an ill relative and had thousands attend his funeral.
One of my personal favorites is a group of seminarians who, out of love for music and God, form a worship band. The film spends the last half interviewing several prominent sports figures, some of whom rise to great fame and fortune, others who give it all up to serve the Church as clergy.
Many, though not all, of these men are Knights themselves, and the program is hosted by the organization’s Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. The film is brief (roughly an hour) and well-paced. Unlike a traditional documentary with a set narrative, the style is more of a mosaic, a series of short vignettes that collectively makes a compelling call to arms: everyone can be hero.
One of the joys of Everyday Heroes – and indeed the Knights themselves – is its complete lack of political divisiveness. There is no larger legislative agenda, and the film refuses to synchronize to the frequency of social media discourse. There are moments that could be construed as “liberal,” such as the volunteers and participants in the Special Olympics or the Canadian council that sponsors a family of Syrian refugees. There are moments that some might consider “conservative,” such as the inclusion of military families, including a veteran who leads a pilgrimage to Lourdes and a young man who dies in Iraq.
But Everyday Heroes rises above such reactionary and shallow labels, and instead remains fiercely loyal to the teachings of Jesus Christ: self-sacrifice for one’s friends, love for neighbor, and helping the least in our world.
There’s no strong “message” to Everyday Heroes beyond the stated theme of the title, but the film does contain a gentle warning toward the end. It concludes with a famous quote from John Adams, delivered in 1798 to the officers of the militia of Massachusetts: “Our Constitution was made for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Even in the late 1700s, Adams recognized that laws are only as good as the people who enforced them and can change on a whim if the people loose themselves. Our society will only function if each individual citizen is willing to embrace moral truth, take up the mantle of heroism, and do what is right. This includes all the theological and cardinal virtues, chiefly that everyone deserves care and respect. Although I really don’t care for the phrase, it is clearly a “message our time needs.”
As I was watching the film, I thought about my own life. I’m not a professional baseball player, I’ve never been in the armed forces, and I’ve never faced a natural disaster. How could I possibly be like any of these men? Then I thought about my two sons. Outside of Christ, there will never be a more important figure in their lives than me. I can and must teach them what it means to be a man, and I don’t need to do anything extraordinary to do that. I can pray with them for five minutes instead of searching for distractions on my phone. I can play Legos with them instead of watching television.
We are all called to be heroes, and if we want a better world, we must answer the call.
(Everyday Heroes will premiere on ABC on Sunday, May 19th, with “Not Your Average Joe”.)
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