Becoming Superman

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Superman!

In a past blog (if my mommy-memory serves correctly) I described the ‘superhero phenomenon’. When a boy is seen in a superhero outfit, grown males will stop, point, and say, “Hey! It’s Superman!” My son beams and sticks out his chest. It’s a natural reaction. ’ I have yet to meet a little boy without the natural desire to save the day. They are born superheroes, leaping from chairs in a single bound, defying both odds and gravity.  The invincible feeling my son has as he runs around the house beaming, cape blowing behind him, is one I feel responsible as to support. Soon enough he’ll learn that life is full of kryptonite; it’s no reason he can’t save the day.

On days where we defy odds, win the promotion, accomplish the errands quickly, save money on a big purchase, or achieve some great victory, we feel a bit super-human. We can strut around in out cape and boots knowing that we saved the day.Then there are days where we are just human—flawed and doing our best, but still capable of great things. Here we can have great triumphs, but feats of superhuman strength are clearly out of reach.Sadly, there are also the days where we feel trapped and need a hero to save us. These days we lack the ability to handle life’s usual challenges. Life’s crushing blows have captured us. Sometimes we are even too weak to cry out the classic line, “Help! Help! Superman!”

The movies and comics glorify Superman’s abilities and character—he could face impossible odds and conquer evils that regular humans couldn’t face. Still, what Superman faced was equal to his unique abilities. He battled other non-humans and faced the dangers of kryptonite. For crying out loud, he could hardly have a date without a disaster ruining it…sometimes he had to rescue his date before dinner! Metropolis marveled at what Superman can do, but Lois Lane asked a very important question as Superman flew carrying her: “You’ve got me, but who’s got YOU?!”  Superman couldn’t fly forever; he came down and lived the life of Clark Kent as well. As ‘just Clark’ he handled traffic, work deadlines, relationships, and balancing his abilities with reasonable limitations.  On the other hand, he chose to use his abilities to allow the people to benefit from his willingness to sacrifice. He didn’t stand idly by when trouble came, although he could have. That’s when Clark disappeared and Superman arrived.

‘Superman’ has been played by many men and drawn in many ways, but to me and many others, Christopher Reeve is a defining Superman. Reeve is a unique Superman because we have had the rare privilege to see him in the three forms of humanity; Superman ability, ‘regular human ability’, and ‘limited human ability’.

After Christopher Reeve was thrown off his horse and was paralyzed from the neck down, he questioned whether he should continue living. Although his physical body lacked the use it once enjoyed, he learned how to live a full life and learned to view himself as ‘differently abled’ rather than ‘disabled’. He was still witty, charming, intelligent, and capable of making a difference. His influence is felt in foundations, funds, speeches, and personal relationships that all came from a result of his paralysis. He made millions believe that even when weakened by various forms of kryptonite, you are still the same person.

Whether he was flying over Metropolis rescuing Lois Lane or taking the stage in his wheelchair to speak to a crowd, Christopher Reeve was still Superman.

In our worldly perspectives, it can be hard to see people for more than what they currently are. Great parents, teachers, coaches, family members, and friends have often inspired us because they could see our potential to be Superman when we were just Kents.  Although he had different DNA and abilities that made him feel isolated, the Kents raised Clark like any other human and then pushed him to be even greater. There are millions in the world who are ‘differently abled’- and by no accident. Many have shorter lives or live lives that have various limitations. However, these are often the people that inspire us; these are the ones that show us something truly super in humanity.

Team Hoyt is a father and son team of marathon runners and tri-athletes, although Dick has pushed or pulled his son every step of the way for over 65 races. His outpouring of love allowed his son to reach new heights, but Dick says without reservation that his son Rick is his hero. Together they have inspired and encouraged the disabled to be active in their community and to think beyond limitations. Rick can now speak with a machine, graduated from high school and Boston University, lives in his own apartment, helped begin a foundation, and have inspired many to rise above their limitation. Dick Hoyt may have thought he could change the world through with determination and ability, but it was through being a father to a son that could not do the basic things without help that allowed him to change the world. Like Christopher Reeve, Dick Hoyt’s Superman was not flying, but in a wheelchair. Likewise, Rick Hoyt’s Superman was carrying and pushing him to new heights.

We can all defy the gravity that pulls us down, although we will all be weakened by our own kryptonite and face impossible odds. Every gold medal Olympian, world leader, tri-athlete, child born deaf who hears for the first time, soldier who takes his first steps on artificial legs, or stuttering student who bravely delivers a speech at school  understands the feelings of both Clark Kent and Superman.  The pains of feeling alone, different, and weak are as human as the glorious victories that make us feel super-human.

My sons will have their own unique kinds of kryptonite. They will be in a world that is full of evil, vulnerability, and wonderful things worth saving. No matter what limitations they have or how the world sees them, I am determined to be someone who points at them in delighted awe and says, “Look! It’s Superman!” After all, it Mrs. Kent was the one who sewed her ‘different’ and ‘exceptional’ boy the cape. We may look around and see a broken Metropolis full of normal Clark Kents, but if we just raise our view we will find we actually live in a world full of limited, normal, supermen.

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