HOW TO BECOME A SUPERHERO
“Look up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s…you?” Most people think of kryptonite or being able to bench press cars when they hear the word “superhero,” but there are superheroes in everyday life that may be more important than a guy in bright red tights who can move faster than the speed of light. Unfortunately, physics makes many of the beloved comic book legends complete myths. However, science has nothing against those who make the world a better place without the help of an extraterrestrial lantern. Merriam-Webster defines a superhero as “a fictional hero having extraordinary or superhuman powers,” and dictionary.com adds that a superhero’s powers may also be “magical.” Yet, both exclude real-life situations. Superheroes are no longer simply characters in comics and stories. Superheroes are needed in the world, and anyone can be one. Becoming a superhero is not always easy, but it is worthwhile.
Although I have met many real-life heroes, I know that being a superhero is not easy. Whereas Batman may have needed amazing strength, cunning intellect, and overwhelming courage, superheroes in the real world need only the slightest bit of strength, humble intellect, and a dash of courage. I like to consider myself a hero-in-training, as I am not close to achieving legendary status, but I have come face-to-face with challenges that require these heroic attributes. Of these three characteristics, courage is the most essential. Courage can start out as a tiny speck derived from simple genetics, but it has the ability to build a daring speaker or an intrepid leader. Strength functions the same way. Having a small amount of bravery, intelligence, or strength makes it possible for anyone to become a superhero if they develop these traits to their full potential.
Several acclaimed heroes are not fictional characters. They are people who lived with obstacles, but overcame them and grew to be superheroes. One of my most-loved heroes is Harriet Tubman. Early in her life, Tubman received a deep head wound that affected her until she died. She was running errands when she encountered an escaped slave. The overseer of the plantation workers was not far behind, and he demanded that Tubman help her restrain the fellow slave. Tubman refused, and the overseer, furious at her defiance, hit her on the head with a metal weight. She was sent back to her plantation where she received no medical care, but was quickly returned to work. Because of this head injury, Tubman had severe headaches, seizures, and narcoleptic attacks throughout the rest of her life. Nevertheless, she pressed on and saved three hundred slaves in her lifetime. Tubman is a superhero because she faced overwhelming odds, but did not let them stop her. She was told she could not achieve great things, yet she did. Harriet Tubman lives on in history as a hero and as a legend because she used the strength, courage, and intelligence that she was given to their maximum potential.
Even if someone has not been written about in history books, or does not plan on being put in history books, there is no reason that they cannot be considered superheroes. One of my favorite heroes might never be put in the newspaper, much less in a book. However, she will always stay in my mind as the greatest superhero in the world. I met Gayle through my mother, as she was my mother’s best friend and I was always being pushed together with her daughter, Hannah, even if she was three years younger. At first, it was annoying, being that I was eleven and entirely too old to deal with little kids. Later, though, as I began to spend more time with Gayle, I found that she was like a hurricane of goodness. She carried an aura with her that was bright enough to light up any moonless night. Wherever Gayle went, she changed things and whirled them around, surprising the unsuspecting victim as she bettered their life in some way. The downside to all of this was that Gayle had cancer. Eventually, after sewing blankets for the homeless, making teddy bears for mothers with children in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, volunteering at the local soup kitchen – all while living life to the fullest – Gayle started to slow down. Bills from the hospital for chemotherapy and other medical needs were piling up while her paycheck dwindled. Her husband lost his job, and their roof leaked during almost every storm. I had thought that Gayle was a hero when I watched her help people and volunteer, but then I learned that she was a superhero because she went through hardship, yet came out stronger on the other side. Superheroes are not made from being perfect all of the time, or never having obstacles. People become heroes because they inspire people to beat the odds and to do better.
If only becoming a superhero were as easy as following a recipe or basic instructions, then there would be countless heroes in our world today. However, it is not that simple, and superheroes do not come running at the snap of a finger. There is not one, specific way to become a superhero, just as there is not one definition of a hero. Heroes can be big or small; they can be courageous or slightly timid. Volunteering is often a major component of being a hero. Volunteering gives even the least gifted the opportunity to change lives, including one’s own. Small amounts of community service each week bring the chance of meeting amazing people, and every superhero needs a mentor to be great. Other factors that make up a hero are a bit trickier to pin down. As Shakespeare pointed out: “Some are born / great, some achieve greatness and some have / greatness thrust upon them.” A definite ingredient to becoming a superhero, though, is courage; a superhero must have a lot of courage. To become a hero, one must simply have the courage to embrace their own type of heroism when it is needed, whether it be volunteering, writing on views that no one else will, or persevering through hardship and coming out stronger.