“If you could have any superpower, what would it be?”
My brothers and I were playing in our backyard asking questions kids have asked forever. I was emphatic. “I want to fly.”
Although, at the age of 9, I would have been satisfied to see more than a few inches in front of me and have straight teeth. But these questions were not about our measly humanity. This was about far-away and fantasy. Living in an alternate dimension.
We discussed all the superpowers, debating which ones would be the coolest. X-ray vision. Invisibility. The ability to cling to walls. Which superheroes were the best? What about the Wonder twins? They can take on the form of an eagle or a waterfall. Batman has stealth. Superman has speed. Wonder Woman has a gold lasso. Their special powers make them superheroes but they have other traits in common. They have flaws and fears, obstacles to overcome. They wrestle with their humanity.
My son, hesitant and proud, called me a cyborg last week. I laughed because I kinda am. Part machine – so cool, right? Very superhero! But the truth is I am an ordinary person who is afraid to fail, afraid that I will be crushed by the weight of the unknown. Yet, there is more to me than my fear. I can’t manipulate time or see into the future, but people’s pain doesn’t scare me. I have empathy. That’s something my scars and cyborg-ness have given me. We are more than what’s wrong in our lives.
When I was a kid my fear was that the baseball would reach me in the furthest part of the field. What if I couldn’t catch it? I’d cringe every time I heard the crack of bat against ball. Now the fears are grown-up, bigger, and I can’t outrun them. There are some I can shake off and others that hang on tight. Everyone is confronted with fear. We can’t be fearless, but we can have courage. We can be afraid and try anyway. We can take a deep, wobbly breath and stand up. We get to be the heroes of our stories.
I’m inspired by the heroes I know, in the way they live their lives. My mom has a backbone of steel and loves her grandchildren fiercely. My world is a brighter place because of the generosity of my friends. My friend Anna lost her beautiful boy and somehow manages to find grace in heartbreak and stun us with her strength.
We get tired, sad and lost, and we have the capacity to be kind, compassionate and bold. Possess the character traits of a hero. Armed with our experiences and lessons learned and perspectives, we have stories filled with resolve and depth, bursts of brilliance and color. While I would still love to fly and have superhuman speed to save someone from disaster, being a hero does not have to be about invincibility. It’s about our hearts and minds, the glory of our humanity.