IN SEARCH OF HEROES Will Rodgers, that great American cracker-barrel philosopher, once observed that we can't all be heroes, “Somebody has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by.” Unfortunately, the wait at the curb no longer results in a parade much less a hero. There are still front-page events that involve courageous acts or heroic rescues: our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan daily deal heroically just to stay alive. However, other then Lady Gaga, a few football players and a couple of rock stars, durable heroes are hard to come by. How I thrilled at the sight of William Jefferson Clinton on the eve of his election to the presidency of the United States. Here was a hero worthy of my applause: young, handsome, intelligent, daring. But alas, again my heart was broken. His feet of clay extended from the floor all the way to his libido. “Oh, how the mighty are fallen”. I no longer sit on the curb waiting for heroes. I have discovered a more reliable and foolproof source for those who warrant my admiration and respect. They are everywhere, they are legion: they can be found among the good, decent, hard working ordinary people we see everyday. To illustrate let me single out one individual I believe represents what one modern American hero looks like. Most mornings I can be found at my local coffee house in line for my daily caffeine fix. While it seems as if there is one on every corner and the middle of every block, the coffee house I frequent is one of a huge international chain and is managed by a young woman named Dee. Dee works very hard at her job. In addition to the mix and serve of the endless variety of espresso drinks for her demanding and addicted clientele (“gimme a skinny, extra hot double tall mocha, half decaf, with half shot of vanilla, and heavy on the whipped cream and a sprinkle of chocolate”) she is also responsible for training a constant turnover of staff, plus the daily task of keeping the books. Still, it's not that Dee serves a great latte that distinguishes her as a true, modern day heroine. What defines her as heroic are the courage, perseverance and dedication she brings to the many tasks required of her as a single working mother. Dee is one of the vast, ever-increasing legion of brave American women (count them: 13 million) who, either through divorce, widowhood or choice, get up every morning for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness or in health, come rain or come shine and go out to face a tough, cold world in order to make a living for themselves and their children. The single working mother now makes up the majority of households in our society. They represent an awesome economic force with a buying power of 174 billion dollars. They are overworked, underrated, usually underpaid and their efforts sadly unsung. With them it's one less egg to scramble, one less man to take out the garbage. They are single, alone and have to learn to survive in a world made for couples. So if you are looking for heroes in this increasingly hero-less world take a good look at the check-out girl in the grocery store, that over-worked nurse at the doctor's office, the lady bus driver, and that friendly barista who serves your espresso. Chances are she does not wear a wedding ring and very likely looks a little tired. After work she gets to go home and do the toughest work of all – the job of a single mother.
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