… the Die Hard franchise: John MacLean.
In all four movies, John is a man with an ordinary amount of flaws and problems; his relationship with his wife goes up and down in a very un-dramatic way. His relationships with his kids are straightforward. He has friends. He has weaknesses. He really is just a regular guy who ends up in extraordinary circumstances, and he saves the day because he wants to save people – his family, his friends, total strangers.
He has impressive skills – he’s a very good policeman – but he doesn’t suddenly become a ninja; he has to solve problems and stop bad guys with whatever tools present themselves. He spends half of the first movie hardly able to walk, in a building that the bad guys know better than he does. He only has the weapons that he can wrestle away from the bad guys – and many of them are bigger than he is.
What really allows him to save the day is not any extraordinary ability that he has hiding in his pockets (other than a good eye for things about to go bad); it is simply his inability to give up. When he’s tired, or scared, or injured. When he’s uncertain, or exhausted, or helpless. When he knows that there’s absolutely nothing he can do – he still does something, because people’s lives are at stake.
It makes me wonder how many heroes there are around us every day – milling about, doing heroic things that most people don’t notice, and making what difference they can in a world that can be bleak, unfair, and hostile. It makes me hope that I could do as much if I had to – that I could keep battling darkness even if I was tired, or hopeless, or weak. It makes me think that we should all be that brave, and that determined, and that sure of our priorities. If we were, then even the little things that we were able to do would add up to a whole lot of good.
When the bad guys have taken over the plane, and recalibrated the instruments to tell lies; when it’s dark and snowy on the runway, and even with improvised torches it would be impossible for the pilots of the plane to see the tiny little human on the ground below; when there’s no way his meager efforts will do anything at all – he goes out there anyway, just in case, just to say he tried, just because it matters.
– “What are you going to do?”
– “Whatever I can.”
When John does “whatever he can”, things end up all right … maybe if we bring a little of that to the real world, things will end up all right here, too.