When I was six years old, my brothers and I often tugged towels off my mother’s clothes line and pinned them around our necks. Something marvelous happened as the tattered terry cloth draped down our backs. We became more than tow-headed children. We transformed into Super Man, Batman, and Captain Marvel. Our shoulders straightened, our demeanor grew noble, our fists found their way, in classic hero style, to rest on our skinny hips. Then, with impromptu capes streaming behind us, we raced off to save the world as super heroes.
As I grew older, I discovered a bitter truth—super heroes only lived in books and on the movie screen. They didn’t soar through the clouds and swoop down to rescue hapless civilians. They couldn’t stop wars, save humanity, or even pluck kittens from treetops. I stopped raiding the clothes line for capes. I stopped believing in super heroes.
More years passed, and I grew into adulthood. Children of my own came into my life as wee babes. As I cradled them in my arms, images of my magical childhood flickered in their blue eyes. I envisioned them racing across green pastures with homemade capes streaming behind them. However, life had a different plan.
We soon learned they carried a special gene, a mutated bit of DNA smuggled into their X chromosomes. They were disabled. There was no running, wild and free. There were no capes, no victories, and no magic. There were no heroes.
Instead, I saw a world full of villains who would mock and bully my special ones, Jokers who would torment and Lex Luthers who would apply cruel kryptonite. The world looked dark, and I cowered behind my fear.
But then, magic and wonder crept back into my world in the form of a teacher who spent hours at home each week hand-making greeting cards to mail to my son to help him learn his name. She didn’t wear colorful spandex or stand like a mighty warrior. Instead, she sported a bouffant hair style and dangling ear rings.
Neighbors and friends showed up with hugs and babysitting help. Siblings and grandparents rallied. Therapists and educators spent years teaching my sons to walk, eat, and function. More time passed and an amazing young woman escorted my sons to proms, parties, and school events. This led to friends who took them to movies where they all watched Iron Man and Captain America join with Thor and the Hulk to save the world from evil and death.
However, the greatest saving didn’t happen on the screen. It happened in real life. It happened a little bit at a time, person by person, as living heroes flowed into and out of our lives. None of them wore uniforms or leaped tall buildings in a single bound. None of them were bullet proof. None of them could fly. But in my mind’s eye, I see capes flowing behind every one of them, because I believe in super heroes. They are real. They love and serve and give, and yes, they save the world.
I believe in real-life super heroes.