Some people say that you should never meet your heroes. That, inevitably, what you’ve built them up to be in your mind will come crashing down before you when you meet them in person. When you come to look at their frailties and weaknesses in the eye.

When you see them as human.

“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles”. – Christopher Reeve

This week I had the distinctive pleasure of spending a day with a Canadian hero (and her lovely husband). After meeting at Tim Horton’s (of course), we drove NW of Cochrane to the meeting spot, where we transferred ourselves into a couple of Enviros’ trucks for the remainder of the drive into our Base Camp program.

You know those people that you meet every once and awhile and think to yourself, are they really that nice? Can anyone be that sincere and heartfelt?

That’s Clara Hughes and her husband, Peter. Two of the nicest, humblest people I’ve met in a long time. When I inquired as to what they’d been up to lately, she nonchalantly mentions the 100 km bike ride they’d been on the day before. As if it’s no big deal. Which, when you’ve won medals in both the winter and summer Olympics, spent 4.5 months hiking the Appalachian Trail and crisscrossing Canada on bike (more than 11,000 km of riding)… I suppose a leisurely ride up and back on the Bow Valley parkway isn’t that big of a deal.

Which brings me to my point about why you should meet your heroes. Not to be inspired by their feats of strength or stamina, or wowed by their intellect, or moved by their music and writing. You should meet your heroes to realize that they too are human. That they’ve struggled. Overcome obstacles. Are actively overcoming obstacles. Even when they seem to have it all together on the outside, they’re on an inner journey no different than you and I.

There were many reasons why Clara Hughes shouldn’t have been an athletic success, and she details much of that journey in her book. From addiction to mental illness, the obstacles she faced could have been overwhelming. And sometimes I’m sure that they felt that way.

As Christopher Reed says in his quote above; a hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.

I might argue that it’s not despite the obstacles that someone becomes a hero, it’s because of them. It’s the obstacles that give someone the opportunity to be heroic. That without those obstacles, they might just coast along like the rest of us…never realizing their true potential… and never inspiring us to do the same.

So if you have the chance to meet these ordinary heroes? Take it.