I grew up thinking heroes moved mountains, saved lives or won Super Bowls with last-minute drives. A few days ago, I learned they also diagnose eye problems.
On a trip to speak at the Time Out for Women 2011 kick-off event in Ogden, Utah, I began to have problems seeing out of my left eye. It was mildly irritated in the morning, sore when I boarded the plane and on fire by the time I landed in Salt Lake City.
Sitting inside my rental car in the parking garage, I did what most husbands do when they feel lousy on a business trip. I called my wife. Her advice was three words long: Find a doctor. Then she added a fourth: Now!
Have you ever been travelling in another state with sparks coming from one of your eyeballs and desperately needing to find an eye doctor? I had grown exhausted from back-to-back nights of very little sleep, a ridiculously early morning and a long flight. Then I looked at my watch and realized I still needed to shower, shave, put on a suit and report to the venue at Weber State University in just a few hours.
I searched eye doctors on my trusty iPhone and began making calls. Some said no. Others asked if I could come next week. One said I could come hang around with no promise of actually seeing a doctor.
Then I called a doctor in Ogden not far from my hotel. After a moment on hold the receptionist returned and said, "Can you come right now?"
I raced straight there and walked with one eye closed through the front door of the Ogden Vision Center. Before I could even sit, someone offered me drops for the pain. Before I could fill out a single piece of paperwork I was sitting in a chair in Dr. Lincoln J. Dygert's exam room having my eyes checked.
He took care of the pain, put in a special contact lens to help protect the eye until I could see my own doctor back home in Virginia and gave me his cell phone number. He was concerned the bright lights on stage would wreak havoc on my eye, and he made me promise to text him if it became too painful.
I didn't have to. My phone rang on the way to the venue. The good doctor wanted to know whether I needed anything. He also made me promise to contact him the next morning before I boarded the plane.
The event couldn't have gone any better. None of the 1,800 women in attendance threw rotten fruit at me, and only a few hundred had to be nudged awake by their seatmates when I concluded.
The next morning, the doctor insisted on driving in to his office to check my eyes again. He swapped the contact, gave me valuable advice on managing the discomfort until I could return home and wished me well.
I stared out the window as my eastbound plane cut through the cold evening air and contemplated just how many heroes there are like Dr. Dygert. How many heroes in my life have I taken for granted because they don't fight fires for a living or drive tanks across a desert in the Middle East?
I wondered then and I wonder now as these words hit the page, what defines a hero in today's world? Must they be brave? Should they be strong? Do they have change hearts or minds? Save a life?
Maybe a hero is simply the person who answers the call when others ignore it. Maybe a hero is someone who lives every day to serve in big moments and small moments. Sometimes they get thanked; sometimes they don't.
I wonder how many I've failed to thank. How many heroes in my life have gone undetected, unappreciated, unrewarded?
How about you? When was the last time you examined your own life and identified the heroes around you?
I'm embarrassed to think how many have zipped in and out of my life without knowing how thankful I was for their heroics. But not this time.
To Dr. Dygert and his team at Ogden Vision Center, I say thank you for answering the call when others didn't. Cape or no cape, you are modern-day heroes.