Not of all of us can be a Zelensky, but we can be a hero

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By Howard Feldman, Head of Marketing & People at Synthesis

We are drawn to stories, and we are drawn to heroes. Every compelling book or movie that has a hero, follows a similar pattern. The tale often begins with the would-be hero living his life in relative complacency when an event shatters the calm. There is often an existential threat and there is almost always an internal struggle. There is a guide and there is the force of evil that threatens to consume.

Think of Moses, living his life in the palace of Pharoah when he is confronted by a scene that shakes him to the core. Think of Jonah who doesn’t want to take on G-d’s mission or of Queen Esther who is forced into the position of her nation’s saviour. The existential threat is real, but so too is the internal one. Will she be successful, is she worthy and what will her future look like?

Heroes are seldom ready for their mission, which is what makes them so endearing. Volodymyr Zelensky is someone who donned the cape. From unremarkable approval ratings of less than 40% for his handling of the Covid 19 pandemic to more than 91% for his role in the fight against Russia, he has become the darling of the free world. He leads his people by standing amongst them. He talks to them, and not at them like the Russian propaganda machine, and as a consequence has established a very high credibility factor.

Around the world, everyone adores him. And acknowledge it or not, everyone has a bit of a crush on him. Women want to marry him, and men want to be him. He has made being short sexy and being Jewish cool.  He understands the value of the soundbite, is quick with the costume changes and although many of his photo opportunities are staged for impact, he understands not to overplay his hand. He comes across real and authentic and relatable. So much so that if my wife told me he was at us for dinner just before COVID began, I wouldn’t argue.

I might even remember the night if I try hard enough. It really was a lovely evening.

Heroes don’t just fight wars and save nations. What defines them is not the magnitude of their actions, but that they stand up when the need arises. It was during the pandemic that we witnessed another breed of hero. Our own community saw many a hero, from organizations to first responders, to professors, to specialists, general practitioners, physios, psychologists, nurses, teachers, parents and cemetery workers. Ordinary people who did extraordinary things. Because they could. Some gestures were grand. Others were not. But all were heroic in their actions.

It is not possible for us all to be Zelensky. Most of us are thankfully not asked to face an oncoming Russian army. Most of us will not be asked to face a pandemic on the front lines and to deal with all that follows. But each day, in a small, perhaps quiet way, we are given the opportunity to be a hero. We might never be as Jewish or as short as Zelensky, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make a difference.