Recently, as I tucked my preschool-aged son into bed for the night, I asked him what he was looking forward to doing the next day. He looked at me with a sparkle in his eyes and enthusiastically replied, “Play superheroes all day!” I smiled, enjoying his excitement for the next day’s plan. Superheroes are the latest obsession to consume this household. My kids dress up in their superhero capes, fashioned from an old fleece blanket, and spend hours running around the house fighting the surprisingly large number of “bad guys” who have apparently infiltrated our living room. They can get lost for hours as they create impressively elaborate plots where their team of superheroes perpetually outmaneuvers and defeats the invisible “baddies.” I thoroughly enjoy my kids’ active imaginations, and their recent interest got me thinking about what makes a superhero.
I think deep down I, too, always dreamed of being a superhero. When I watch Marvel movies, I envision myself as one of the superheroes, complete with impressive stunts and a super cool look, all while rescuing people from perilous situations. But, of course, reality looks very different from a fictional movie and I realize that real-life superhero moves are not always impressive or graceful. For example, one recent morning I caught myself getting lost in a nebulous daydream of “saving the world” when reality kicked in and rather than heroic skills, I found myself practicing simple, quick reflexes as I reacted to my child involuntarily emptying their stomach in the middle of the kitchen floor. Not the enviable skills I daydreamed about, but in the moment I felt a little bit like a supermom who at least didn’t have to mop the floor.
Of course, real-life superheroes do exist. There are the obvious comparisons of superheroes to firefighters, first responders, doctors…and a whole host of other professionals who clearly enact heroism, strength, courage, and selfless service on a daily basis. But, maybe the superhero label needs to be more expansive as it is evident that we rely on many people within our communities who fill positions that are not typically given due superhero credit. It doesn’t require imagination to realize that many of the roles we often take for granted are oftentimes the ones we can’t live without. Imagine a world without janitors, hair stylists, grocery store clerks, garbage truck drivers, utility workers, construction workers, or customer service representatives – suddenly, it’s not so difficult to accept that people who fill indispensable, often under appreciated, roles are truly superheroes by completing work that is essential to our everyday life.
As I thought through the various professions whose work is critical to the daily functioning of our communities, it occurred to me that maybe I needed to shift my perspective yet again to be even more inclusive and view being a family member, friend, or neighbor as containing aspects of a superhero nature. Although maybe not “saving the world” in the literal sense of the phrase, everyday exchanges can have a huge impact on those around us. Similar to what I shared in my “You are never ‘just a’” post, we are all more than the titles associated with us; our value and influence in the world extends far beyond the requirements of the roles and positions we fill.
While I considered this expansion of the superhero label, it became clear that superheroes are more than just their actions. In addition to filling innumerable roles, positions, and work that are crucial for daily living, there’s another aspect of superhero strength that we often take for granted: character. While it might be cliché, it is true that we have a huge impact on others just by our words and actions. All it takes is one sour interaction with a complete stranger to realize just how big of an impact we have on each other. That is when it occurred to me that maybe I have had the wrong approach when it comes to the notion of being a superhero. Instead of daydreaming about an alternate reality where I wear a cape and possess bold skills, maybe I need to shift focus and consider how I can be a superhero in my day-to-day interactions. Maybe we’re all superheroes just by doing our best to make our corner of the world a better place in our daily routines, in our small yet still significant interactions, words, and behaviors.
My kids love to wear their capes, it’s almost as if they believe putting them on imbues some sort of magical super power. But, what if we envisioned putting on capes of love, kindness, empathy, compassion, and forgiveness and viewing these qualities as having similar life-saving components? What kind of world-changing impacts could we have if we viewed these characteristics for what they are, super powers? I often rely on visualization as a way to better focus on a concept. As I thought through the idea of putting on positive qualities as if they offered a physical layer, it struck me that the Bible talks about doing just that. Chapter three in the book of Colossians encourages the reader to “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience….And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” What a beautiful reminder that these characteristics are so powerful they are all but visible when we put them into practice.
So, the next time I watch a superhero movie, or catch myself daydreaming about “saving the world,” I’m going to do my best to take a minute to reframe the perspective on superheroes and remind myself that love, patience, and kindness possess superhero powers that can truly make a difference.
Wendi, her husband, and their two kids live in Minnesota and are currently perfecting their best “ya sure you betcha” accents. She is co-author of the blog The Unexpected Ever Afters and a member of the podcast Moms Who Wine.
*photo credit: personal photo*