We plant a little garden each year so that we can have fresh vegetables on the table. It’s not a very big garden; just some green beans, a couple of tomato plants, a few carrots, onions, and peppers.

We plant a little garden each year so that we can have fresh vegetables on the table. It’s not a very big garden; just some green beans, a couple of tomato plants, a few carrots, onions and peppers.


Last year was not a good year for the garden at our house. Perhaps the soil has been used up. Perhaps the "weed preventer" we mixed into the soil prevented more than just weeds from growing. It’s not that we did not have any tomatoes or beans, we just did not have many.


As our garden grows vegetables, our land grows heroes, but for the past few decades our land has not been good soil for raising heroes. It’s not that we have not had any — think of the first responders on Sept. 11; our soldiers, sailors and marines; and come-out-of-nowhere heroes like Captains Sullenberger and Phillips.


The heroes are still there, but do we have as many?


Os Guinness, senior fellow of the Trinity Forum, thinks not, and he thinks he knows why. One reason, he writes in his book, "The Call," "is the modern habit of debunking." He suggests that Solzhenitsyn’s remark about Lenin — "mistrust was his worldview" — could be applied to most of us. We look "not for the golden aura, but for the feet of clay, not for the stirring example, but for the cynical motive." In such a world, "Heroism is. . . automatically suspect."


Another reason he gives has to do with the role of the press and the media. He argues that the press and the media have created and nurtured a celebrity culture that is deleterious to heroism. Today it is possible to be famous without being great. The long-established link between honor and renown has been disastrously severed.


"The media," according to Guinness, "offers a shortcut to fame — instantly fabricated famousness with no need for the sweat, cost, and dedication of true greatness." The result, he writes, "is not the hero but the celebrity, the person famously described as "well-known for being well-known."


Try asking your kids and your grandkids who their heroes are. My guess is that you have never heard of many of them. Their faces are not on currency or postage stamps or in the Encyclopedia Britannica, but on Google Entertainment news and CD covers.


John Wayne and Kirk Douglas used to play heroes, but today’s movie stars are heroes — or the closest thing that a large portion of society will ever have.


Perhaps there is something mixed into the groundwork of our society that has prevented heroes from growing, while allowing celebrities to spring up like weeds.


It seems to me that in the past, more people believed that they were part of a larger story, and therefore had a role to play. And since many believed it was God’s story, their role took on added significance. This narrative of purpose served as a framework for occasions of heroism.


Things have changed. The larger story has been severely abridged and is now, for many people, merely "my story." It is hardly fertile soil for heroes. In this setting, people long for Andy Warhols’ 15 minutes of fame, but they do not aspire to a life of sacrifice and service.


There is, however, a conspicuous exception. It may be that, if you want to find a hero, you need look no further than the next room. Many mothers still aspire to the life of sacrifice and service. They may not be renowned but, heaven knows, they do have honor.


Many mothers work a full-time job outside the home and a second full-time job within. They are not, generally, looking for celebrity (the "octo-mom" is, thankfully, an exception); they are looking to raise happy, healthy, loving children. They know that they are part of a bigger story, and they are willing to sacrifice to play the role well. And the word for that is … hero.


The Daily Reporter