Preserving goodness

Morado Jam

I have a confession to make: I’m a sucker for superheroes.

Whether it’s Marvel or DC (and certain opinions are afoot chez nous about which one is better), there is something incredibly scintillating about slipping into a superhero story.

Perhaps it’s found in the constructs. Take one ordinary person and introduce extraordinary circumstances or an event that draws out some innate characteristic or converts them into something out-of-the-ordinary. Maybe the opposite is true. Take one person who’s weird or different and instead of erasing the difference, it becomes their strength instead of their weakness and it helps them save hundreds of people from the attacking monster shooting fire-bolts down onto the city below.

Masked, caped or spandexed- these crusaders make me giddy.

I have a hunch if you found out you had super-powers, you might take on the things which right now seem beyond reach.

We watched Captain America recently and marveled at the character and spirit of the small but scrappy protagonist Steve Rogers. Eschewing the establishment and the word “no”, he repeatedly attempts to enlist in the army. Dr. Josef Reinstein sees his tenacious spirit and chooses him to receive the super-soldier serum. The doctor explains that this serum heightens the inner qualities of its recipients. Steve Rogers becomes Captain America, the hero of the tale, while this same serum transforms Johann Schmidt into the Red Skull, the despicable villain. In a superhero story, you know who’s going to win and though you may be on the edge of your seat when the hero is in peril, you know they will make it through to the other side.

This makes me wonder about good and evil outside of the superhero story. Telling one from the other in real life is not always so simple or well defined, is it?

In graduate school, one of my friends and colleagues wrote her capstone for her master’s program on the need for superheroes. At the time, it seemed even more relevant than usual. She presented her senior project the spring after 9/11.

Do you find yourself giddy hearing of ordinary people doing extraordinary things? It’s as though in the moment of crisis, the moment when it seems all hope is lost something snaps inside a person to try and change the odds. Everyday heroes call us to a higher level of communal accountability.

“Let’s roll.” In the worst of circumstances, several passengers took on plane hijackers to help divert their destination. Did it change their final outcome? It didn’t and in a graphic novel, the hero would make it out alive and be written into another serial chronicling his/her feats and latest adventures. Life unfortunately is not always so tidy.

What made Todd Beamer and several other passengers on flight 93 that fateful day in 2001 stand up when everyone around them was rightfully and understandably cowering in fear? What makes a hero emerge from the trappings of an ordinary person?

Of the words used to describe Mama, I remember her telling me she’d once been called onerous. It’s not a word you probably would want to describe yourself, but it gets to the heart of the matter. She is outspoken about the things around her that are wrong and will call them wrong aloud and put her actions behind her words. I would swap that word out for tenacious. At the end of her life, it will easily be said that she spent her life in the service of the people around her. I learned early from her about the practice of picketing, and the purpose of our mouths and voices. She modeled for me what it looks like to be the voice for those without. And lest I’m painting her to be hard core, she’s got a big heart. She’s as close as I get to meeting a hero in real life.

If I could have a super-power, it would be to heal people by touch. Wouldn’t that be an awesome gift to have? I’m inclined to believe that in spite of this not being a super-power, it is something that does have power, whether it’s a hug or a pat on the back- there are many forms of touch that are life-giving. It’s one I try to employ daily.

I often pray for eyes to see and ears to hear things as they are, to both see goodness and ask for fearlessness when the time comes to do what is right. And sometimes, that involves taking the bounty of the fruits readily available and preserving them for the months when they’re dormant. Sometimes, it involves making Morado Jam.

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