I was in the middle of a run along the canal when I noticed it, a hat barely visible above the canal wall. The running and biking path I was on is 10 feet from the canal wall, and only fishermen venture near the edge, so it was odd that someone was actually in the canal. An individual may be able to slide into the muddy, fish-filled canal water, but getting out is nearly impossible with such a steep incline.  

As runners, dog walkers, and bicycle riders continued to pass by I couldn’t help but wonder what the individual was doing. Deciding to investigate, I walked to the edge of the canal and peered over to find a young man about ten or eleven years old trying to grasp the cement wall of the canal and climb out. He was visibly upset and soaked to the bone. I asked if he was okay, and peering up at me with terrified eyes. He said, “I’m stuck, and I want to get out because there are fish in here.” I realized this young man was on the autism spectrum. “Are you okay?” I asked. “Yes, I fell in trying to get my dog’s ball, but there are fish in here, and I don’t like fish.”

“Let’s get you out,” I said.

My first try to get him out was to lay flat on my back and hang my leg over the edge for him to grab. I could then move back and pull him out. As I tried to push back, I realized I couldn’t get leverage in the gravel.

I looked around and 15-20 feet from where we stood there were grooves in the cement wall of the canal for individuals to climb out. I showed my young friend what I noticed and encouraged him to wade to the grooves where I would meet him and help him out. He didn’t like the idea. “I know this sounds weird, but I don’t like fish, and there are fish in here. I can’t walk over there.”  

“How about I climb in the water, and we will walk to the climb out together?” I suggested. He quickly replied he didn’t like fish and there were fish in the water.

He wasn’t going anywhere. 

I looked around for others to help, and the running path that minutes ago was busy was now deserted.

My next idea was to take off my shirt and wrap it like a rope. Sitting down, I braced my legs against the small edge of the canal and handed him my shirt. I told him to climb up as far as he could and put his knees against the canal wall, and I would pull him up enough to grab his hands. “Your knees are going to get scraped, but we will get you out,” I warned.

“One, two, three,” I called out and then heaved my young friend up far enough to grab his hand and pull him up. “You okay?” I asked. “Thanks, I’m out of the water with the fish,” he replied. Then he ran to his bike and left the scene.

As he rode away, I was thrilled. I have always wanted to be a hero and to be in a situation where I could save the day. I will admit I imagine more of a grand scenario, but I was a hero to that young boy. I was glad I was there, glad I investigated and glad the water wasn’t deeper.  

During difficult times the hero always emerges. While many are noticed, most are not. Now is the time for you to be a hero. There is a tremendous opportunity for you to be a hero to your neighbors, your friends, and others you don’t even know. The heroic act doesn’t have to be big; it only has to show you care. A note on a door, a message chalked on the driveway, a fifteen-minute call to say hello and connect. Heroes don’t ask what is needed; they act, they do. So today, keep your eye out for your hero moment. It feels great!

Thanks to all the heroes who are making a difference during this difficult time.

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