I grew up reading comic books, though you would never have gotten me to admit it. Cool kids didn’t read comic books. I shudder now to think about how much money I spent on those adventure-filled pages; but back then, week after week, month after month, the heroes in each panel came alive for me for a small fee that amounted to most of my allowance. Wolverine and his claws, Spiderman and his webs, Batman and his… angst. These colorful characters awed and inspired me every time I entered into their worlds. I didn’t want to be like them, I wanted to be them. I wanted to be a superhero.
To help you better understand how serious I am when I say that, I’ll let you in on a little secret.“Superhero” was a legitimate career option for me until the age of thirteen. At least. Even now I still try to move the occasional ketchup bottle with my mind. (“Andrew, do you want the salt? You’ve been staring at it for five minutes now and you look like you’re about to pass out.” “What? Oh yeah, thanks”). As a kid, I was dead set on serving criminals big bowls of justice for the rest of my life. Tommy wants to be a fire fighter; Ben wants to be a doctor, and me? For me, pretending to have powers with my friends wasn’t pretending at all. It was practice. I was going to be a superhero, just you wait and see.
Super powers. Everybody wants them, you can’t deny it! If someone were to make an infomercial advertising vats of radioactive waste to jump in with a one in a hundred chance of becoming Superman, “For only three easy payments of $19.99!”, you would pick up that phone faster than I can say “Holy radiation Batman!” And so would I, we would die together. The thing is, comics and movies aren’t about a bunch of guys with the same powers; they’re about a bunch of guys with different powers. They’re unique. Now we’re on to something.
If all superheroes had the same powers, what would be the point? Sure there may be a few aquamen among the hydroguys, but for the most part each hero has their own individual power set. It’s not about the specific powers though, per se. Batman doesn’t even have powers, aside from being super rich The uniqueness though, that does matters. No one really wants to be known for being like someone else. Even if that someone else is a person we idolize, deep down we hunger to know that we are unique. That our powers are different, and that the difference matters. And even then, it’s not the powers we want, it’s something more.
A couple of years ago, I spent a few weeks in Nairobi, Kenya. More specifically, in the slum of Kibera. The level of poverty was like nothing I had ever seen in my entire life. One million people live in less than one square mile. Diseases like AIDS, Malaria and Typhoid Fever run rampant. People that I now call my friends live their lives on less than a dollar a day, not knowing where their next meal is going to come from, or if they’re going to have a next meal at all.
I left Kenya desperately wishing I was a superhero.
The superheroes in all my comics believed in something bigger then themselves. A greater cause to live for than me, myself and I. And they believed in this cause strongly enough to do something about it. They did not take the gifts given to them for granted; they took the gifts they had been given and did something with them. Even if that meant sacrifice, even if it meant pain, even if they knew that the road they would go down was going to be a hard one, no matter what, they stood by what they believed. And when they fell, as even superheroes are sure to do, they never failed to pick themselves back up.
Whether we admit it or not, we’ve all been given powers of our own. Like the heroes of comic book legend, they are unique, and no matter how small or large we may make them out to be, they are there, residing deep within each and every one of us. We are left with the choice of what we are going to do with those powers we’ve been given
I believe the reason we all want to be superheroes is because we are superheroes. Some of us just haven’t realized it yet. Please understand, I do not say this lightly, or to be cheesy or cliché. I say it because the world desperately needs us to realize this truth. No Superman is coming to the rescue of my friends in Kenya, and none ever will. Even if he did, what purpose would he serve? The starving have no need of super strength, the uneducated don’t need someone in tights with the ability to fly. The world is in need of a different kind of superhero, one they will never know unless some of us take the gifts we have been given and use them to make a difference.
If you stand up for what you believe in, you are a superhero. I don’t tell you this to boost your self-esteem, or make you feel good about yourself, I tell you this because you need to hear it. I tell you this because there are millions of people out there waiting for you to rescue them, to give them hope. You have the power to feed the hungry, clothe the cold and naked, and provide a future for hopeless hearts. Your skills and talents were given to you to serve a greater purpose. Please, don’t give in to apathy. We need you. Stand up, and save the world.
I still want to be a superhero when I grow up. I’ve never been able to let go of that dream. While reading a comic book the other day, (yeah, I still pick them up every once and a while), an interesting thought crossed my mind. I saw my life in panels and pages, lines and inks, a comic adventure of my very own. You’ve got one too, you know. God in heaven is writing beautiful, powerful, meaningful comics, and you know who the superhero is?