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Volunteers, doing the right thing

He actually ran toward the bullets.

That’s what the country is still marveling at since the tragic mass shooting in Tucson, Ariz., earlier this year.

Six people were killed and 14 wounded, including U.S. House Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. When the shots rang out, one of her aides, Daniel Hernandez, ran toward the spray of bullets and toward Giffords to administer first aid. Experts are saying that act of bravery might well have saved her life.

Hernandez has publicly said he doesn’t deserve all the attention and accolades that the media and public are heaping upon him. But his actions undeniably make him a hero.

What strikes me, however, is how amazed we all are by his act of heroism. If I had been there, would I have done the same? Would you?

Regardless of the answer, the biggest point raised by Hernandez’s actions is how uncommon it is in today’s world to encounter such an unvarnished act of selflessness. When a person runs toward potential danger, and even death, to aid another, there can be no “what’s in it for me” negotiating that seems to permeate our society.

But it doesn’t take such a dramatic display of self-sacrifice to find other examples of selflessness. Indeed, our small community is full of examples of people who are giving of themselves in a benevolent fashion. They are, of course, the men and women who have taken on the mighty task of crafting “a better place” out of our community.

How can I start to even acknowledge the hero with a thousand faces in Pagosa Springs? I can’t, and I won’t, because I don’t know all of them. Some go about quietly to do good and hope to never have to acknowledge public accolades. I’ll try not to embarrass any of you by name.

Think of all the numerous nonprofits, groups and individuals that put in untold hours of phone conservation, e-mails, debate and fund-raising. It was probably more than many of these volunteers bargained for. But, I also know that even when the arguments flared and compromise seemed impossible, even when the meetings seemed endless and the work tedious, these volunteers kept at it for the same reason so many of you come back day after day. They love Pagosa Springs.

Just like Hernandez, our local volunteers are not trying to be heroes — most would outright reject any such label. No, they’re just trying to do the right thing. To me, that’s the very definition of a hero. All hyperbole aside, what our volunteers do in Pagosa Springs is an awesome contribution. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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