The Superhero In Us All

My kids have been watching a lot of Superman at my house. I’m talking about the 1978 movie with Christopher Reeve, Magot Kidder and Gene Hackman. I love it because it brings me back to when I was 9-years-old and saw it the first time. Back when they did all the credits at the beginning – remember that?

Gene Hackman plays the bad guy Lex Luthor. And as insensitive as he is to the loss of human life and calculating in his plans to get what he wants, he seems perfectly rational in his selfish pursuit of wealth and notoriety as the greatest criminal mind of the time. He even seems quite erudite as he reads newspapers, has a library full of books and even responds using the German “Jawohl” to respond with an enthusiastic yes to a statement.

This is the model of a bad guy that I grew up with. Someone with nefarious intentions but logical methods. Life has taught me that there is another type of bad guy – one who seems to reacts out of pain and hatred in a way that seems so pointless. And when I use the term “bad guy,” I intend it in a universal way that is not gender specific. Faye Dunaway plays a good female “bad guy” in the Supergirl movie from 1984.

Given my career and lifestyle, I will probably never meet a Lex Luthor. But the other type of bad guy is someone who lives in and among our communities. Someone who has interactions with others that influences whether or not they feel seen, heard or loved. Someone who, maybe from a very young age, can benefit from others taking a step to make them feel included or respected.

The poet Mark Nepo has a beautiful description of our world as a great wheel. We share a common center, our lives create all the different spokes and the integrity of the wheel overall depends on the health of those spokes. When we open ourselves up to whatever inspires each of us to beauty, transcendence and inclusion, we have the opportunity to shine the light for others because we are all connected.

Thinking back to how to ground myself in this work, I think of this quote from Elie Wiesel:

But where was I to start? The world is so vast, I shall start with the country I know best, my own. But my country is so very large. I had better start with my town. But my town too, is large. I had best start with my street. No: my home. No: my family. Never mind, I shall start with myself.

Elie Wiesel

The little things we do – a pause to let someone cut in traffic, or a smile passing someone on the street or a silent prayer of blessing for someone who is struggling, these are kindnesses that start in our hearts and touch all those around. The smallest nod to acknowledge that the person in front of us exists has impact.

Be nice to the 38 year old in your Freshman lecture and be nice to people at the gym. Those people are putting themselves in extreme anxiety-inducing situations in attempt to try to better themselves. Just a smile or a quick conversation can mean so much.

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We might need Superman to fight the Lex Luthors of the world. But we all have a chance to touch others who may or may not become bad guys based on the path they walk among us. And we all have a chance to touch others who may or may not become great guys based on the peace and support passed to them. It starts small: be kind to yourself and be kind to others.

What are the small acts that have inspired or passed peace to you?

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23 thoughts on “The Superhero In Us All

  1. Thank you for this. I try to remember how happy I am when someone smiles at me or when I get wave and then do the same for others. I also love getting a text from someone I haven’t heard from in a while, so I send out texts to others just saying something simple like, “I was thinking about you. Be happy, today.” Maybe some of those people will send texts of their own to others. You gotta start somewhere.

    1. I love these examples, Karen! Yes – we have to start somewhere and even when it feels small, it does make a difference! Thank you for the acts of kindness that you do that are creating great ripples!

  2. No one actually knows who said this first, but it’s always worth remembering, as you point out: “Always be kind, everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle you know nothing about.”

    Also, that movie is a great one, and Gene Hackman is one of the most enjoyable villains in movie history. “It’s not that is don’t trust you, Otis…but…I don’t trust you, Otis.”

    1. Ha, ha – love that movie line. He did play a great villain. “Do you know why the number 200 is significant for both of us, Otis? For you, it’s your weight, for me it’s my IQ.”

      I love that quote about being kind…yes! Thanks, Jack!

  3. Thanks for this great reminder!

    I was struggling through a bad run this morning when another runner yelled some encouragement as he passed by- I was surprised how much those few words boosted me as I finished up.

  4. What a fun example, Todd! It’s amazing how easy it is (speaking for myself) to get lost it my own world and forget that just a small gesture or word makes a difference. I love that the other runner said that and that it gave a boost!

  5. Thank you, Wynne, for this powerful post. We need this message, and we are the ones who can implement it.

    The acts that you refer to are too many in my life to single out just one; but I assure you, when I think of them–when I think that someone went out of their way to raise me when I was struggling–they stil bring tears of gratitude. 🙏

    1. Thank you, Art! You describe how touching it is just to remember the people who lifted us up so well. Yes! And you are right on – we are the ones that can do it! What a great comment of empowerment!

  6. I love that your kiddo watching the old Superman episodes made you think of being inclusive and kind to others. It says so much about your heart and thoughtful nature.

    I think that the biggest compliment we can give one another- the one that brings the most joy… is time. Listening to a friend or noticing a stranger that perhaps is having a rough day. Reaching out to people and giving them our precious time is the soothing salve to the woes of poor human nature. If more people got that… I believe we’d have less criminals in the world because their lives would have purpose and meaning.

    1. Time!! Yes – what a great comment, LaShelle. We know what a difference it makes with our kids and loved ones but extended that further to others is such a great point. Thank you for this great reminder!

    1. And I’m sure it makes theirs as well. I love how you put into practice the things that really matter, Cristiana! Thanks for this great comment!

  7. Many years ago I questioned whether giving a street person money was a wise choice. I believed many took advantage of a kind passerby. I’ve since learned to change my view of possibly being taken for a fool. You really can’t know if a street person needs a few dollars.
    Better to give 9 deceptive people a dollar than deny the 10th, truly needy person his dollar.
    Be a strangers superhero.

    1. What a great perspective, Kevin! Such a great point that we should give to whoever is in our path without judging whether they are truly needy or not. And I love your line, “Be a strangers superhero.” It’s a perfect motto! Thanks for this great addition to the conversation!

  8. It’s when someone returns understanding for your anger or resentment that you become disarmed. It brings you back to earth. I do believe that love is stronger than hate. I believe it is act that takes great strength too. Great post Wynne 🙏

    1. Such a great point about how understanding disarms us. It’s like it takes all the wind out of the sails. Or as you say so well, “it brings you back to earth.” Thanks for such a warm and inspiring comment, AP2. Yes, love is stronger than hate!

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