Heroes All Around Us
As all of my readers can attest, young heroes play an important role in my stories – fiction and nonfiction alike. I am often asked why this is — what is my fascination with young heroes — and the answer is quite simple: young heroes play an important role in our lives! Or, at least, they should.
The stories I tell about young heroes are meant to serve as inspiration. In this day and age, where celebrity is often confused with heroism, I think this is particularly important. Our society is seriously confused about the difference between a hero and a celebrity.
It makes sense that young people especially experience this confusion. Celebrities are all around us. We see them in the media all the time. We celebrate them, we talk about them, and we focus on them a lot. It’s easy to mistake their celebrity for heroism when we give so much of our attention to them in this way.
True heroes are different. Celebrities are about being well known (and not always for a great reason), but heroes are about character. They may be well known, but often they’re not. In fact, heroes do what they do, regardless of whether anybody else ever notices. So the distinction is crucial between a hero and a celebrity. And I think more than ever, it’s important for young people to discover this difference.
In this time when we are all faced with so much cynicism and despair, heroes give us an idea of our own potential. I think of heroes as our guides on the trail of life. They show us just how far we can go and just how high we can climb. Because heroes are just like us; in fact, they are us! They aren’t special people gifted with extraordinary abilities. They’re people who have tapped into that part of themselves that gives them the courage to do big, great things. And we all have this courage. It’s part of my core belief that there’s a hero in all of us, a hero in every child. A potential, a force, a positive energy with the capacity to allow us to do something special with our lives.
Every hero discovers that they have something deep inside themselves, something that they didn’t even know was there when times really get tough. They dig deep and find in their hearts the courage, the wisdom, the vision, the perseverance, whatever it takes to survive and, ultimately, to triumph. Everyone has that potential and telling these stories of triumph by everyday young heroes helps other young people know that they can find their own heroes living within them.
That’s why I love telling these stories about young heroes, even those like Merlin, who are living entirely in a fantasy world. The magic Merlin discovers within himself is only a metaphor, really, for the possibility that every person has; that every child has to discover the magic within themselves.
As much as I find Merlin and his discovery of magic to be a metaphor for the possibility that all children have to discover their own “magic,” I know that it can be challenging for children facing hardships to make that connection – from the fantasy world of Merlin to the very real one they’re living in. That’s why I was inspired to create The Hero’s Trail.
This nonfiction book tells over 100 stories of real-life young heroes. It shares how children from all different backgrounds, with a host of different life experiences, facing so many seemingly insurmountable challenges, find the magic within themselves to become real-life heroes. I wanted to tell the stories about how these children, who each found themselves washed ashore in a certain way in their own lives, were able to find courage, perseverance, generosity, compassion, hope, faith, humor, and the willingness to get up and go on. These kids are far more impressive, honestly, than any of the fictional heroes that I’ve ever written about. And they are real.
My greatest hope is that by sharing these stories, the inspiration and the possibilities will shine through for any young person who might be on the cusp of uncovering their magic or doubting if it’s truly in them at all.