The Lady with the Chalk (aka: Heroes All Around Us)

Yesterday, my teens and I watched Unbreakable, a 2000 film by M. Night Shyamalan. It was such a good movie. Super, you might even say. Afterward, I couldn’t help but ask my kids, “How would you feel if you learned that one of your parents was actually a superhero?”

My 13 year-old replies, “If I found out that Dad was a superhero, then I’d be shocked. Like, what the heck? But if I found out that Mom was a superhero, then I’d be like, oh. Okay.” He shrugs. No big revelation there. My daughter nods in agreement.

This has been a long-running theme in our family. You see, no matter how much I try to dissuade them, my teens are convinced that I am either a). A superhero in disguise, b). A CIA operative, just like Sydney Bristow; or c). a super hacker. Or possibly a combination of all three.

“Please,” I say each time the topic comes up. “I am just an ordinary, cookie-baking mom who works in a cubicle at a tax agency.”

“Su-u-ure,” one of my kids will answer. “Perfect cover.”

I’m not sure what led my kids to believe that I am somthing greater than I appear to be. Maybe it’s my hopelessly INTJ prsonality. Maybe it’s my ability to run very fast (though nowhere near the prerequisite superhero speeds displayed by the Flash). Or maybe it’s my steady lack of close friendships. Superheroes know how difficult it can be to form attachments while keeping their true identities a secret.

It is flattering that my kids think so highly of me, I guess. But I would prefer that they look arond them to honor the real heroes that walk among us. No, not cape-wearing comic-book characters with extraordinary superpowers to fight gainst supervillains. I’m talking about the real people who help humankind with their courage, altuism, and sense of duty. Police officers, firefighters, soldiers. Teachers, surgeons, and even regular people, from time to time. The heroes who save lives, offer hope to those who have lost hope, pick up the lost and set them on the right path.

Not long ago, I encoutered one such real-life hero in my own neighborhood. While out for a run one day, I came across something that made me stop in my tracks. A large, colorful chalk design had transformed a section of the sidewalk into a work of art. “You are needed here and now,” the message read. My heart soared with the positive impact of those simple words. As I continued to run, that day and in days to come, I came across more of these beautiful, uplifting messages, as did my daughter, as did other people in our neighborhood. They brightened our day each time. They filled our sails with wind.

And then, one day, we happened to spot the woman who was responsible. She wasn’t wearing a cape or a super suit. She was an ordinary human being, anyone’s neighbor from Anywheretown. She probably didn’t even realize that the offerings she had left had such an enormous impact on the people in our neighborhood. In fact, she seemed surprised, and perhaps a little timid as I thanked her for making such a difference.

Can you imagine what our world would look like if each one of us strove to become a hero in our own small way? No, not a superhero. We don’t need X-Ray vision or Iron Man suits or the ability to fly to save lives, or to make someone’s life better. Maybe all we need is to care a little deeper. To show our compassion for those who are less than ourselves, rather than our disdain. To use the gifts we have been given to do good, rather than to do harm. To offer someone a genuine smile and encouraging words to give them a positive boost. Maybe all we need to save each other, to be something greater than we are, is a piece of chalk and the willingness to make the world a better place for the people around us.

 

Everybody Wants to Be Superman (aka: Useless Goals)

Supergirl TV ShowLook! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s…it’s…Supergirl? A collective groan runs through the crowd. Oh come on! What a gyp! Everyone knows that Supergirl is a total wannabe. No matter how supercool she tries to be, she will never live up to the badass standard set by her cousin, Kal-El.

Really, no one can.

Here’s the thing – I am totally not a superhero person. I get the Green Hornet mixed up with the Green Lantern, and the Hulk mixed up with the Jolly Green Giant. I think that Batman lives in a cave and likes bats, and drives a weird car, but I could be wrong about some of those.

Super SomethingBut here’s what I do know: every superhero and supervillain wants the same thing. They all want to be Superman. But no one – not even Clark Kent himself, can be that awesome. Want superspeed? Fine – but that’s the only superpower you get, Flash. So you wish you could fly? Here – have some stretchy spider-webs so you can fake fly around the city. Have an invisible jet (seriously, Wonder Woman creators? Was that the best you could do?). Want to be strong enough to push a ginourmous meteor deeper into space so it doesn’t destroy Earth? Yeah, good luck with that one. Good luck with freezing a lake with your icy breath, cutting through rock with your laser vision, and super-self-healing, too.

SuperheroesJelly yet, Justice League losers?

It’s hard not to love someone who is the ultimate superhero. I mean, his only weakness is kryptonite. And unless you live in Smallville, kryptonite is pretty rare stuff.

Okay, okay, maybe I’m judging too harshly. I should acknowledge that the other superheroes all have their special, unique gifts, too. Where would we all be if not for Wonder Woman’s incredible ability to lasso people and force them to tell the truth? And the Wonder Twins’ ability to turn into animals and…um…water? So much better than the ability to keep an entire jet plane full of people from crashing into a crowded stadium.

There’s simply no way to compare. Nor should we try. Superman is just…super. But as super as he is, he is not my most admired superhero. Who comes to mind when you hear the words, Go Go Gadget car!? A truly impressive superhero, right? One who can use technology to fight crime, chase super-villains, and do amazing things. No, not Inspector Gadget! Don’t be ridiculous! The true superhero was his niece, Penny, who kept saving the world while sitting in front of her computer screen. Now that’s the kind of superhero act I can get behind.

Penny and her computer book