Of all of the accomplishments I’ve racked up in life, I maybe pulled off the most impressive of all time this summer. I’ve set foot on North Korean soil, released a full length music album, obtained my real estate broker’s license, been featured on HGTV, traveled the nation performing slam poetry at NACA and APCA conferences, and colleges and universities, married the love of my life, and many more exciting things. Out of all of these things, they all pale in comparison to my latest accomplishment.
Here it is – I watched all 23 Marvel Cinematic Universe films in the chronological order over the course of the last two months. It was a lot of late nights, and early mornings. It was 3000 minutes of footage. 48 hours. An entire work week I dedicated to watching these movies, and I’m glad to say I did it. These films had such an over arching impact on the zeitgeist I really felt like I was missing out on something special having not seen them.
I got a lot of questions and comments along the way.
“What was your favorite movie?”
“Did you skip Thor 2? You should probably skip Thor 2”
“So you really haven’t seen any of these yet? Not even Iron Man?”
“So since The Quantum Realm is a dimension in the Multiverse only accessible through magical energy, mystical transportation using a Sling Ring, or by tremendous subatomic shrinking caused by the Pym Particles, would your clothes travel with you, and if so, which clothes exactly?”
I didn’t answer these questions. For one, I don’t like to believe in the concept of favorites, as comparison tends to be the death of happiness. And secondly, I haven’t thought enough about Pym Particles to say one way or another.
On a more personal scale, the process made me think about the concept of a superhero. There are times in our lives where we just wish we could step into the Iron Man suit, swing from webs thwarting criminals, or use a mystical hammer to stop an intergalactic warlord. There are also times in our lives where we would give anything just to grab an infinity stone and travel back in time to change something hurtful that happened in the past.
Sadly though, most (well..all) of us won’t ever have those powers. We’re more likely to get stuck on the 129 bypass than to travel on the Bifröst, and though my proximity to Oak Ridge National Laboratory is pretty close, I’m not counting on becoming Captain A’Maryville any time soon. But luckily, the superheroes are right here among us, you just have to know where to look.
We’ve got places like Haven House, a 24 hour shelter for people escaping abusive situations, New Hope Children’s Advocacy center, a place where abused children receive the trust, love and care that they deserve in a difficult time, and Blount County Habitat for Humanity, an organization dedicated to bringing home ownership to families in need of decent and affordable housing. And at all of those places, superheroes. Working every day to fight for causes as noble as one could ever hope to fight for.
We have police officers, firefighters, and people volunteering time at animal shelters.
We have teachers giving rambunctious children a space to learn and grow.
We’ve got single parents doing their best to show their kids a wonderful life, on a not-always-so-wonderful-planet. They don’t have capes, or Vibranium suits. If you blink, you might miss them, but they are right here in front of us.
Although his suit wasn’t exactly fashionable, one real life super hero had his own team of Avengers by the names of King Friday, Daniel Striped Tiger, and Lady Elaine Fairchilde. Fred “Mr.” Rogers was one of my superheroes growing up, and he was famous for this quote –
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”
And those helpers are our heroes. You may never know what it’s like to swing on webs through Manhattan at midnight, and you’ll never travel the far reaches of the galaxy with a tree-person and a raccoon. But there ain’t nothing like you except you, and you can be a helper.
You can be a hero.
And I may never be Tony Stark… I’m just Lane Shuler…and that’s alright.