Peak Perspectives: The Four Most Important Words in The English Language

*Note: This audio essay first aired on KRCC (Colorado Springs’ NPR affiliate, 91.5 FM) on December 31, 2020. The link to the program is here; the audio file and the text from the essay are below.

2020’s been difficult for all of us, so this December Matt Cavanaugh’s turned Peak Perspectives’ microscope on heroes and heroism. This is the last of a five-part series.

“I can do this.” It all comes down to those four words. Because if you want to save a life, step one is believing you can.

I started believing in heroes because of a story I heard once.

On Jan. 2, 2007, a construction worker named Wesley waited for a train with his two young daughters at a subway station in New York City.

Wesley noticed a large young man slump, seize, collapse, and fall onto the train tracks. Wesley saw the lights of the oncoming train, told his daughters to stay with a nearby woman, jumped down, realized the man was too heavy to pull from the tracks, heard his daughters screaming, the train’s noise, and then said silently to himself, “I can do this.”

Heroes don’t always have time to think about big philosophical ideas. Some’re simply presented with a person that needs help.

But heroes do need the confidence — the will — to be useful to another person in need. Faith such that they’ll say: “I can do this.”

Like Wesley. He did pull that man to safety.

Wesley’s story reminds us that heroes aren’t always all that complex. Don’t aim to change the entire world, aim to change someone’s entire world. One person. Just one.

Because someday, someone else will depend on you. A friend. Your child. Your student. Your husband. A stranger. It may come in an instant. It may be your life’s work. But someone will need you to be that hero.

And when that time comes, you’ll be confident enough to say the four most powerful words in the English language: “I can do this.”

And then you will.

Be good, be well, be a hero to someone in this new year. Until next week, no matter what, climb on.

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