Superheroes are all around us. Usually, we find them in the movie theaters in digital 3-D with ultra-whatever surround-sound. While the adventures are colorful, move and make noise (the key ingredients of toddler toys, by the way), most of us have been lured emotionally into the action. I have anyway.
The cinematic ride is a heart-pounding and joyous one for a while, but real superheroes can be found a little closer to home. They are heroes to many people nonetheless and their actions are much more long lasting.
Growing up, I always wanted to be Batman. I imagined leaping from roof tops, saving the day, and securing the safety of a city. I thought Bruce Wayne (the man behind the mask) was the ultimate ‘man with a plan’ and emulated what he stood for. I believed protecting your community required a cave full of high-tech weaponry and 18-inch biceps.
What guy doesn’t love the idea of being a young billionaire playboy by day, and muscle bound vigilante by night? No wonder this storyline has spawned a comic book franchise that has run for more than 70 years, seven major films, a sea of merchandise, and spawned enough Halloween costumes to last a lifetime.
The superheroes I focus on now don’t wear a fancy costume or have X-ray vision. They are individuals throughout our Miami County communities that commit great feats of physical and emotional strength. They have dedicated their lives to serving those in need.
I think about the men and women in our community that do good without the assistance of a mask. I’ve seen many do their work under a cloak of pride-less secrecy.
Through the years my view of the world has changed, as it does for everyone. Bruce Wayne has not been safe from my paradigm shifts, unfortunately. Wouldn’t it be great if everything from our childhood kept its same luster as we aged?
Where the mythical Bruce Wayne, the hero, once stood in my young eyes, now stands a brash outlaw that appears at times more dangerous than the villains he fights. He is a friendless recluse, who never truly wishes to succeed in his mission, fearing that his identity would be lost.
So where is the true hero in this story? Is it the enabling butler, Alfred? Or, the sheepish boy wonder, Robin?
Like most men, Bruce Wayne is shaped by the influence of his father, Thomas Wayne (aka Batman Sr.). Now, Thomas was a physician in the community who delighted in philanthropic endeavors. His charitable nature knew no bounds and the city was better for it. I am fortunate to know men and women in our community just like Thomas in this way.
Thomas Wayne fought injustice by setting a better example in the community, without a mask. He spent his nights in meetings, not jumping roof tops. Thomas gave to his community with his heart, not with his body.
If you think about those you come in contact with on a daily basis, you will know folks that set the same example in reality that Thomas Wayne did in fiction.
Maybe this is you. Maybe this is a family member. Maybe this is someone you have always aspired to be. We certainly don’t need to wait until we have a Wayne-like financial fortune to volunteer in our communities.
One night a month at the local soup kitchen would get us all one step closer to Thomas. Organizing a clothing drive through your church makes you a hero. Sacrificing your personal time to give more help to those in need is a super human feat.
What kind of results could we produce for our community by putting aside masked delusions of grandeur and picking up the call to act today?
No one would ever read a comic book about ‘Board Meeting Man’, who drinks coffee by day and types the meeting minutes by night. However, these are the men and women in our community that make the difference every day. Exciting or not, and typically without any type of recognition, these are my heroes now. These are the folks I idealize in my age.
I still read the adventures of Batman and nerd-fully want 18-inch biceps to vanquish evil wrongdoers. And, if my wife lets me, I’ll pay for popcorn at the usual consumer-friendly prices, on the way in to viewing the soon-to-be-released epic Batman movie in digital 3-D with ultra-whatever surround-sound.
In the real world, when the lights come back on, the Thomas Wayne character truly does more for me now than Bruce. To me, Thomas is in reality, what Batman is in fantasy.
Justin Coby has been affiliated with Health Partners Free Clinic as a volunteer pharmacist since 2007, and was appointed executive director in 2012.
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