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Who are the heroes in your life?

As I write this month’s column, Hurricane Irma has just raged across Florida and the Southeast. She came on the heels of Harvey, which hit Texas with a vengeance, too. In the wake of such storms, likely heroes emerge. They’re the people who rescue neighbors from flooded homes. The electric linemen who restore power. The ranchers who help herd livestock to safety. The donors and relief workers who provide food, shelter, and supplies. The volunteers who come to help.

We saw the same thing happen when the farming community came together to help wildfire victims this spring. In fact, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens reocgnized those efforts with a proclamation to MFA and other ag organizations at the Missouri State Fair in August. Our industry also collaborated to provide money and meals for hungry families with the Drive to Feed Kids campaign this summer. That’s pretty heroic, too.

It’s harvest time, and invariably, we’ll hear a story about a farmer who can’t get his crop out because of some tragedy and his neighbors will come in and harvest the crop.

When disaster strikes, it’s easy to identify heroes. But heroes also exist in everyday life. You may not always recognize them, but they’re the people who made you who you are. The poeple who help you when you can’t help yourself and pick you up when life knocks you down.

That’s the message we heard from motivational speaker Kevin Brown at MFA’s “kickoff” event in August. The goal of his presentation, “The Hero Effect,” is to help people use their own inner hero to serve others well.

“Heroes are people who choose not to be ordinary,” he told us. “They’re the people who pour a little bit of themselves into you and leave you better than they found you.”

When asked, “Who are your heroes?” Brown said audiences typically give answers such as parents, preachers, teachers, soldiers, sports figures, world leaders and emergency workers. He added farmers to the list.

“You want to talk about heroes? Talk about the farmers and the ranchers,” he said. “Talk about the people who feed the entire world.”

His message made us think about our heroes. For me, I couldn’t help but think about a life-altering accident I had four years ago this month.

On the weekend of Oct. 19, 2013, my first husband, Craig, and I were camping with friends at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama for the NASCAR race. The generator on the RV we had borrowed leaked carbon monoxide overnight while we slept. Craig died. I almost did.

I was transported by Life Flight to the University of Alabama Birmingham Medical Center in critical condition. My heart, lungs and kidneys were failing from carbon monoxide poisoning. Dr. Enrique Diaz, head of the lung transplant unit, made a calculated yet risky move. He put me on ECMO (extra corporeal membrane oxygenation), a heart/lung bypass machine developed for heart surgery. ECMO wasn’t used to treat carbon monoxide patients, but Dr. Diaz believed it would allow my weakened organs to rest and recover.

He was right. Against the odds, I made a full recovery, with few effects on my health today.

So, yes, when I think about heroes, I reflect on that ordeal. I think about the friends who found me and got emergency help. The responders who made a wise decision to take me to UAB. Dr. Diaz, who had courage to try something unconventional to save my life. My mom and others who cared for my then-3-year-old daughter and managed things back home. Family and friends who were by my side 24/7 during my month-long hospital stay. I was never left alone. Everyone who prayed, sent gifts and cards and supported my family through that trying time.

They’re all heroes.

I don’t tell you this story for sympathy. I tell you because it shows the positive impact people can have when they choose to serve others. That experience helped define who I am today. It made me see just how much kindness there is in this world. It made me realize that life truly is fleeting. It made me determined to live with greater passion. That’s one reason I am now your editor. I allowed my heart to lead me to Missouri, where my husband, Jason, and I were married one year ago on Oct. 1. He and our three children are my everyday heroes.

Who are your heroes? Tell them what they mean to you. Then find ways to be a hero yourself—in good times and bad. It doesn’t take super-powers. Simply look for people who need you, and be there. Solve a problem. Let them know you care. Stay by their side. Encourage them. Comfort them. As Kevin Brown told our MFA group, “Heroes help people, with no strings attached.” The world needs more heroes like that. The world needs you.

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