It probably won’t come as a surprise that my favorite super hero growing up was Wonder Woman – both the Lynda Carter live action version and the Saturday morning cartoon version on The Super Friends. Wonder Woman was glamorous and smart and could more than hold her own among men. I can remember playing super heroes with my siblings and friends and always being on the hunt for a stray piece of rope to serve as my lasso of truth – I remember being certain that if I could find an actual lasso of truth it would be the coolest thing ever.
I looked up the definition of “superhero” on dictionary.com. It says, “a hero, especially in children’s comic books and television cartoons, possessing extraordinary, often magical powers.” Now, I don’t mean to criticize their definition, however I don’t think this one is correct. It’s not inaccurate; it’s just incomplete. Superheroes are more than just extraordinary, super-powered, exceptionally skilled people. Superheroes are superheroes because they utilize their abilities within a specific context to help in a specific way. I don’t care what the superpower may be, whether it is flying, fighting, webbing, running, super strength, or anything else. If a hero isn’t using that power in a specific context to help in a specific way, then they’re just a person. Having superpowers is one thing, but it takes action to make one a hero.
So what is it about super heroes that resonates so strongly with generation upon generation of people? Sure the super powers are amazing – who doesn’t want super-strength, the ability to fly or laser vision? But it’s deeper than that. I believe that we all have the capacity to be superheroes. I believe that we all have the super powers of heart, courage, wisdom and hope. Each and every one of us has the capacity to dig deep and find our own inner superhero.
Every person walking this earth, both those near and far—can have tremendous power in our lives: the power to speak words that lift us up or ones that crush us beneath their weight, to reinforce our belonging or magnify our isolation, to be the one remaining thread we hang by or the straw that finally breaks us.
It can be easy to focus only on the doubters, the discouragers, the hope stealers, the dream killers. Their presence can be so loud and so disheartening and so disruptive, that it can sap us of our resolve and obscure the sun from view. In a superhero analogy, those people and situations are the evil villains.
But there are radiant people of brilliant light among us, and I am trying to make sure I see them and treasure them; these ordinary superheroes who are daily reminding me of the good in this world.
This week I looked and I noticed them everywhere.
The families in my church who packed sack lunches for the children in a local summer program, the dozens of people who donated to the food drive my daughter and her girl scout troop just completed, the local school district and library who are making sure no child has to be hungry this summer by providing free lunches to all children every weekday this summer, the city work crew who halted the street work in front of our church during a memorial service, the 2 teenage boys I watched push an elderly gentleman’s car to safety after it stalled in the middle of an intersection, the friend who looked at me and seeing I was feeling overwhelmed gave me a hug and some words or reassurance.
We need to see the superheroes; to recognize the people who carry us, who lift us, who steady us when we are overcome by all that feels so very wrong. Each of us reach moments when we find ourselves crushed under the weight of a world that can so often be “too much”. When we allow enough space in those moments for people to show us compassion and decency and love and courage; we allow enough space for an everyday superhero to save us. They swoop into our living rooms, news feeds, and peripheral vision at just the right time, and remind us that we are not in this life alone.
Sometimes that can be enough.
On the rough days we need to let ourselves be saved by someone else; to let another’s reassuring presence rescue us, to allow their lives to be the catalyst for our hope in those moments when hope is hard to come by.
And the truth is, we all have this same potentially saving power. Because of this, we need to continue to speak and care and love and forgive, and do our work and raise our families and live well, and look into the eyes of strangers and to ask how they are and really want to know—because other people are watching us and counting on us. For someone else, we might be the difference in the day.
So look around you today and take note of the people who are sustaining you; those who through humor, goodness, talent, empathy, or righteous anger, show you heroic things and give you the strength to go on. Look carefully at the good people crossing your path and you may notice a cape trailing behind.
See the superheroes who are saving you, and be encouraged.
Back to Wonder Woman. At some point I “outgrew” her the same way I outgrew other fictional heroines of my childhood. She always remained my “favorite superhero”, but I never spent anytime as an adult really thinking about her and what she represents. That all changed last weekend when we had a family movie date to see the new Wonder Woman movie. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. Hopefully I am not spoiling it for those who have yet to see it, but Wonder Woman’s closing words of the movie are a testament to the power of love – the greatest superpower each and everyone us possesses. The super power that we can use to change our world each and every day.
“I USED TO WANT TO SAVE THE WORLD. TO END WAR AND BRING PEACE TO MANKIND. BUT THEN, I GLIMPSED THE DARKNESS THAT LIVES WITHIN THEIR LIGHT. AND I LEARNED THAT INSIDE EVERY ONE OF THEM, THERE WILL ALWAYS BE BOTH. A CHOICE EACH MUST MAKE FOR THEMSELVES. SOMETHING NO HERO WILL EVER DEFEAT. AND NOW I KNOW, THAT ONLY LOVE CAN TRULY SAVE THE WORLD. SO I STAY, I FIGHT, AND I GIVE, FOR THE WORLD I KNOW CAN BE.”