Typically, these weekly devotionals are very good. They are introspective, uplifting, and direct. I feel like maybe I should violate the "rules of devotionals" a little, as my own birthday present for Jesus.I'd expand that to my few, precious readers. Do something good, next year. You don't have to change the Earth's rotation. Just do some little thing, some tiny, insignificant thing, each and every day. Add them to the pile. I guess what I am dreaming of is crowdsourced salvation.
As we celebrate Christmas this week, and as we move towards 2011 the next, I humbly ask that each and every one of you declare 2011 "The Year I Become a Hero." Jesus, of course, typifies heroic behavior: stoically true to his principles, altruistic like no other, encouraging of similar behavior in others, and at the end, completely self-sacrificing with zero chance of reciprocity. Sure, Spiderman saving Manhattan from the evil Dr. Octopus is a heroic tale (and makes a good movie). But it stands pretty pale against the Man From Nazareth who saved the entire human race.
Being a hero isn't easy, so I know I am asking a lot. We live in an age of abject selfishness, where we can see people on reality TV shows obsessed with themselves, then turn off the TV and post the latest tidbits and minutiae about our lives onto Facebook, imagining that everyone on Earth is sufficiently interested that they should care and read about us. Movies like "Wall Street" suggest that although greed is evil...it's not that evil because it is necessary for the American economy to be so strong. My entire generation has been labeled "The Me Generation," a name I find incredibly depressing. We can "tweet" our thoughts, we can write blog posts about our feelings, we can post YouTube videos about our lives. Modern technology has essentially become a vessel for our narcissism.
Enter the hero. Heroes are not born; they are made. Dr. Phil Zimbardo, a psychologist at Stanford University, has suggested that a scientific method can be designed and implemented to create heroes. First, he suggests, we must train future Heroes to recognize fatal human flaws that can allow "evil to flourish." Second, we must train them not to be a willing bystander to evil acts. Next, he suggests, future Heroes must study past heroes in order to identify with them and eventually emulate them. The final act, and perhaps the most important, is when potential Heroes go out into the world and begin performing small heroic efforts, which will gradually train their behavior to one decidedly for good and not one of evil or unhelpful neutrality.
I believe we can simplify it even further and so here is my challenge for you: in 2011, do one thing every day that is purely altruistic and cannot be reciprocated. Compliment the bus driver. Visit your grandpa. Help your mom make dinner. Drop a dollar in the red bucket. Pray for someone and let that person hear you doing it. If your recipient tries to reciprocate and perform an act of kindness back to you, refuse it, and suggest they instead pay it forward to someone else. The way I see it, none of us can shoot webs from our arms, none of us have super strength. Also, none of us is the immortal human incarnation of God. But there are 800+ members of Saint Andrew, and many of them will receive this devotional in their Inbox. And in my wildly optimistic utopia, all of the recipients hear me and perform 365 miniature acts of heroism next year. That's 292,000 acts of heroism. Just from our little church.
And while I find nearly three hundred thousand acts of kindness a delightful outcome, what I am seeking is more important than that. This time next year, I will write another devotional, around Christmas. I want to write then about the 800+ self-made heroes we have right here in Kansas City. I want to write about how each and every member of Saint Andrew, carefully and modestly, cultivated a heroic spirit in them over the last year and my goodness, what a great place our church is because of it! I want to see our membership swell, as downtrodden and saddened people of this town are compelled and uplifted by the power and altruistic nature they see in us. I want them to say, "I know they are Christians by their love." And most of all, I want to write a year from now about how my wildly optimistic utopia turned out to be a very practical and achievable reality.
So please. Go be a Hero, every day. I'm not asking you to save Manhattan. I'm asking you, tiny little act by tiny little act, to save the world.