I really love Ironman and Captain America, but our relationships can go just so far.
Because the greatest thing ever is to have a relationship with a bonafide flesh-and-blood hero, who puts herself or himself out there for you and others.
My grandmother was like that. She moved in with us after my parents were divorced. She gave up a lot to be there, and quietly, steadily she stood alongside us during a colossally tough time in our family. She was a storyteller, and the stories she told were like mortar connecting bricks. There she was, day after day, building a wall of love and protection around us.
Mr. Wencel, my flute teacher and orchestra leader, was like that. He taught me music at a time when so much was wrong in my life, when beauty seemed questionable, when I felt ugly. He knew I was hurting, but we didn’t talk about it. He was there for me, this funny, loving rock of a man, encouraging me, nudging me to get better, better still, until eventually I became the first chair flute in the orchestra. He taught me the language of music and how sometimes playing can make you forget all that’s not right in the world.
Once, years ago, a neighbor knocked on my door and asked to borrow some butter. I gave it to her and she ran down the steps shouting, “Joan, you’re my hero.” She meant well, but I thought, “No I’m not…”
We’ve overblown the word hero and underplayed it. That’s why we need true heroes more than ever. And every time I try to craft a good guy, a good woman, a great kid who just won’t quit, I feel that link to my own longing.
No capes required, no magic cars…just ordinary heroes taking time to put themselves out there for others, and in doing so, changing lives. That’s superpower.