The earliest moments of the Hero Round Table began with Matt Langdon teaching character to kids at a YMCA in the early 2000s. Becoming a camp counselor was such an enjoyable experience that it became a routine part of Matt’s life for twelve years. It was an experience that “completely changed my life” according to him.
There, he was talking to fifth graders about life.
These student campers were at a point where they were leaving elementary school and just about to enter middle school. This concept of teaching the hero’s journey became applicable as Matt saw the incoming transition these fifth graders were bracing for. Matt saw potential in focusing on developing this lesson. Later, he eventually left the camp to grow a platform and teach these lessons on his own.
Kids thinking of themselves as “potential heroes” and what that can mean led his research. Early teachings of this focused on the psychology of being a hero and how it applies to school bullying. Through the teachings, people are equipped with the means to become a hero for themselves and others. The students are taught to avoid being spectators to bullying and instead create “heroes” out of themselves.
When searching for resources on the hero’s journey, Matt would regularly reach out to anyone speaking on the topic. Most of whom he reached out to were often isolated without peers speaking on similar topics. By connecting with these speakers, Matt accidentally created a network. It soon became clear that there was a need for a conference about the hero’s journey. With that motivation, Matt formed the Hero Round Table.
Originally the Hero Round Table was planned as just one event. But now there are twelve that have happened worldwide in Michigan, San Francisco, Australia, and the Netherlands. Unfortunately, the expansion of these events was dampened by the current pandemic. COVID interrupted their Hero Round Table in New York. In May 2020, the team behind the Hero Round Table was just days away from the event when the lockdown interrupted it. Their prepping had to switch to Zoom by that weekend. The team is hoping for a conference in San Francisco during the spring of 2022 if COVID safety and restrictions allow.
The summer camp, Camp Copneconic, completely changed Matt’s life. His college experience left him depressed and trapped in bed until noon every day. This turned around when he stumbled across an article of a local Australian who left the country. The article detailed an individual who had a positive experience leaving the country for a new life and career. From that article, Matt realized he had a “calling” to go do something else and leave college. Arriving in Michigan felt like a total reset with new people and a new environment. He encountered people absolutely thrilled to be meeting someone with a novel accent. He was also given the opportunity of being influential to a wide range of children.
The first cabin he had was incredibly difficult. One child constantly acted out which put Matt in the exhausting position of having to constantly correct. Yet that same child who acted out turned out to be excited to bump into him the next year. Matt ran into the child and his family in a local mall. The child could not stop recounting the same memories Matt had but telling them in a much more positive and exciting light. In that moment Matt realized just how influential and how positive being a counselor was.
With the influence as a counselor, it came paired with many responsibilities. This job required working with the same people you share a bed with for six days a week. This included only one day off a week. Though it was arduous, it was a “huge learning experience” for Matt. He was given the opportunity to learn from these children as he gave them the knowledge of a hero.
Calling someone a hero is based on a heroic action. In this mindset, you are the main character of a story. Heroic action requires doing heroic things where someone acts for the good of others with an element of risk or sacrifice. When a hero sees something wrong, they do something about it even if there’s a negative impact or risk. Most people claim they would take the risk but in real life, they fail.
This is out of fear and more. A common excuse is assuming someone in uniform is more qualified and freezing up at the moment. The status of those asking for aid is a large additional factor. People are more likely to help people above in social order than someone below and prefer people who look like themselves. For example, more are willing to aid a man in a suit than someone who appears unhoused. There’s also a self-preservation factor where some avoid the risk of endangering themselves.
Knowing about the psychological reasons and habits helps people overcome the barrier. The Hero Round Table suggests overcoming this by complimenting a stranger every day that you don’t know. It aids in crossing the barrier of talking to them. It forces the individuals to directly acknowledge and connect with each other in an endearing way.
The Hero Round Table is providing a platform to those who wouldn’t normally have the platform to speak. Many of which may be publicly speaking for the first time. With their stories, they hope to inspire new heroes out of the everyday person.
Written by Waverly C.