How to Be a Superhero in Today’s Darkening World

November 2, 2016

Through the steam of hot coffee, I sat around the table drinking a toasty cup of coffee that my mom-friend dotingly made for me while our kids played and giggled nearby. We gibbered on in typical girlfriend chatter, catching up. She was taking on big responsibilities this year, homeschooling both of her kids, and I was smack in the middle of starting a new business and a difficult situation that Husband (and so, by default, me) was having with family. In the midst of our get-together, she said this:

“Well, you know, mama. I’m here to hold up your cape.”

She said it in the most natural of ways, so matter of fact that I felt silly for not having already known it. Confused by the adage, her son questioned, “What does that mean?” She lovingly giggled, understanding how silly a saying about a cape must sound to a young boy, “It means I’m here for her, to help her through… whatever she needs.” Her son shrugged it off but the words set off a lightning bolt. To say she was holding my cape meant that I wore one; it meant that I could be a superhero.

Hold up your Cape

I thought about this for days, on a grander scale – on the global stage. We are all superheroes in our own right. We wield powers that could be used for good or evil. But, like all superheroes, we all arrive at a point where we need help. Maybe we, as a human race, have arrived at that point? Maybe mankind needs a superhero – or better yet, maybe we could be each others’ superhero?


Forget the capes of those we know. It’s easy to help the people we know but what about the nameless? The faceless? The unknown? To be a superhero requires you to help mankind not just your kind.

What if we disregarded where people were from, the religion they believe, the salutes they pledge and held up their capes? What if we disregarded the skin they were born in, the language their family spoke, or their sexual preference and held up their capes too?

What if to hold up your cape was really just a metaphor for being in a position to hoist someone else up? What if to hold up your cape was just a way of recognizing that someone else, at this moment, is in need and because you are in a position to help – you do. Want to be a superhero? Start there.

I know it sounds simplistic but couldn’t we empathize and understand others’ dire circumstances without making it about ourselves? Help others without wondering how it would benefit (or not benefit) us? We see growing images of small, innocent bodies – the size of my son’s – staring into hell, covered in ash and shock; images of men with their hands in the air getting shot, images of peaceful protests for water clean turn into a beat down. And what follows are people – safe in their homes – whose concern is for themselves or who are offended by a movement that doesn’t “include” them. Yes, you too are important, but you aren’t in need of help right now. Close your eyes but these things are happening and it is up to us, the lucky ones, to bear the weight.

Because we can. 

hold each other up

Because make no mistake, luck is the only thing that separates us from “those people.” Lucky to be born in a country where bombs don’t explode in our backyard or to be born a color that removes all fear when being pulled over. For many, less lucky than I, these things are a reality.

We can refuse to believe that, but it doesn’t change the truth. 

Here’s the truth:

Omran Daqneesh via CNN

This is not your son only because you were lucky, born in the right place. You get the advantage of not worrying about air strikes when your kids play outside. But dust off his ash-covered hair and clean his bloody, war-torn face and how is he different? His tiny fingers & toes are the same. And he has the same strong, little legs that dangle over a floor he can’t yet reach. Same little man haircut. He also had an older sibling; an older sibling he was playing with who was not as fortunate. And maybe because I look at this horror through my Mom eyes, I don’t get the luxury of saying “not my kid, not my problem.” He is my problem. He’s your problem too.


We distract ourselves with social media, and funny videos of cats, or laugh at silly memes (myself, included) while others fall asleep next to shell casings, but the cruelest part is the absolute disregard for what is happening.

Which is exactly why it can happen.

“I’m here to hold up your cape.” I hadn’t heard the saying before but it epitomized everything a human should be – everything we could be. And it’s the kind of person I want to be.

We are all heroes. We all have in us the ability to tie on a cape and skyrocket to infinite heights. But sometimes we need help. We need each other – not to save us or rescue us – but to remind us that there are people willing to hold us up when we need it, willing to hold up our capes until we have the strength to take off on our own.

P.S. Pour yourself another: screw you, evil.

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(Photo: Syrian boy via CNN)

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