Idols & Heroes
by Judi Chow
I don’t have cable, but I do have a fancy TV antenna my Dad gave me when I was in Chicago last year. I finally plugged it in and was able to tune into a snowy station airing the final competition of World Idol. The title went to a Norwegian who is a former plumber. I remembered watching American Idol a few years ago. Although I enjoy watching these average Americans rise to stardom, I was ambivalent about the program. I am uncomfortable with the concept of “idols.” The connotation of idols makes me think of wooden plats for kitchen gods or the ancestral worship I experienced as a child.
Entertainment news reports that the American Idol 3 premiere drew 29 million viewers! Perhaps they are riding the waves of reality TV shows, but it is hard to deny the fact that millions of Americans dream of becoming the next idol. Instant fame and fortune, spotlights, TV contracts and music contracts await those who have the looks and the talent. After all, this is America, the land of opportunity!
With this idol phenomenon, we need to consider the meaning of idol. Dictionary.com defines it as an image used as an object of worship, a false god, or one that is adored, often blindly or excessively. It is true that idols often want to be adored and worshipped; they want to be the center of attention, usually for selfish intentions. I imagine that if any American Idol contestants were asked why they want to become an idol, none would say it was because they wanted to ease people’s pain or make this a better world. On the other hand, heroes are those who might not set out to be adored yet they end up being appreciated. Heroes are not interested in popularity yet recognition is given.
Both idols and heroes stand out. We seemingly look up to both, or do we really? You can clearly tell the difference between an idol and a hero. Let me bring you back to Dictionary.com. Here hero is defined as a person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life. Have you met any heroes lately? I can’t help but think of those New York firemen and policemen who risked and sacrificed their lives during the 911 terrorist attack. They didn’t mean to call attention to themselves; they acted courageously out of a sense of duty and honor. I also remember the doctors and nurses who worked in the hospital during the SARS epidemic in Hong Kong enduring separation from their own families, risking contamination, and living in hospital dormitories to care for patients who were fighting for their lives in the ICU. Due to the necessary close contact with patients, some doctors and nurses became SARS patients themselves and some of them didn’t make it out of the ICU. These are the heroes I look up to.
I don’t know too many famous heroes personally, but I do know a number of people who are willing to sacrifice their lives. These are the unsung heroes laboring on the frontline of the mission fields, missionaries who strive to imitate Christ’s humility set forth in Philippians 2. Like Christ, these missionaries also give up the comfort of familiarity, take up the challenge of winning the heathens, and try to finish the task God sets before them. Some might know about them, but many people don’t take the time to get to know them. After all, like Jesus, their value system is so different from the rest of the world’s.
What is the difference between idols and heroes? The key, my friend, is character. It is not the packaging but the content. It is not what you can do, but who you are. It is not how successful you are, but how significant you are in people’s lives. Oh how I wish there were more people who desire to be an everyday, unsung hero than there are those waiting in line hoping to become the next World Idol.