I have been named an everyday super hero. The award will be presented to me before 2,000 people at a gathering called “Speaking of Women’s Health” in early October. Yikes.
Although I am thrilled and extremely honored, I can think of many far more qualified people. Right off the top of my head I think of firefighters, search and rescue people and soldiers – people who put themselves in the line of fire in order to serve, protect and often save others. (By the way, my fellow award winner is a firefighter. I don’t know… firefighter, photographer… hmmm… seems like there is something wrong with this picture.) I am far from a super hero. I stole make-up a couple of times at Woolworth’s when I was a teenager; I have sworn in front of my kids; I inhaled; I have told lies; I am often lazy; I get impatient in traffic jams and have been known to yell at other drivers.
After doing some online research, I found these to be the common traits of super heroes:
"Extraordinary powers and abilities, relevant skills, and/or advanced equipment. Although superhero powers vary widely, superhuman strength, the ability to fly, enhanced senses, and the projection of energy bolts are all common. Some superheroes, such as Batman and the Question possess no superhuman powers but have mastered skills such as martial arts and forensic sciences. Many characters supplement their natural powers with a special weapon or device (e.g., Wonder Woman's lasso, Captain America's shield, Spider-Man's webbing, etc.)
A strong moral code, including a willingness to risk one’s own safety in the service of good without expectation of reward.
A motivation, such as a sense of responsibility (e.g. Spider-Man), a formal calling (e.g., Wonder Woman), a personal vendetta against criminals (e.g., Punisher, Batman), or a strong belief in justice and humanitarian service (e.g. Superman).
A secret identity that protects the superhero’s friends and family from becoming targets of his or her enemies, although many superheroes have a confidant (usually a friend or relative who has been sworn to secrecy).
A distinctive costume, often used to conceal the secret identity.
A supporting cast of recurring characters, including the hero's friends, co-workers and/or love interests, who may or may not know of the superhero's secret identity."
Yesterday I sat down in front of lights and a camera at the local public TV station to be interviewed about my super hero award. (I did not like this, was not good at it and feel a bit sick to my stomach each time I think about what I said and what I forgot to say.) My costume consisted of the usual: blue jeans and cowboy boots. No cool weapons or gear, no displays of superhuman strength. Darn. The interviewer was fabulous, though. She had done her homework and asked great questions.
The questions that have stuck in my mind have to do with this whole hero issue. I think it’s worth considering, I realized, who really are our heroes.
She asked who mine are. Immediately, I said, “My parents, my kids, my husband.” (The thing about doing interviews is you don’t really have a lot of time to mull over the questions – what comes out comes out, and you have to then be prepared to back that up.) I was surprised and informed by many of my answers yesterday, but not by that one.
She asked me, “Why them?” I simply said, “Because they hold me up.” (That takes a lot of sacrifice and strength. Maybe not lightening bolts, the ability to fly or to use special weapons, but many, many things of equal importance and coolness.)
Again, I had never really thought about it that way before. Still, I was not surprised by what came out of my mouth.
The more we talked, the more specifically I was able to define my super hero views. The conversation turned to my friend and Holocaust survivor, Bronia.
Bronia’s main goal in life has been to shed any anger, hatred, bitterness or resentment she might have developed after losing her family, being humiliated, deprived, starved, worked to the bone and nearly murdered by the Nazis when she was a young woman. She told me once that she had had no intention of being under further imprisonment once she was liberated. To harbor anger and bitterness would have cast her into a life behind bars. She vowed not to let that happen. Not only did Bronia succeed; she has also managed to teach this lesson to thousands.
Now, that’s a super hero.