Comic books have lied to all of us.
Heroism isn’t capes and costumes.
It doesn’t come from radioactive spider bites or metal suits or gamma rays or distant planets.
It isn’t tricked out all-terrain vehicles, gadget-laden utility belts, hammers from the heavens, or indestructible shields.
The real heroic stuff here on this planet is firmly seated in the chests of the ordinary people who embrace an extraordinary calling; those whose superhuman hearts beat quite differently than the rest of us mere mortals.
They rise before the sun does, and in the most counterintuitive fashion, they run directly, passionately, purposefully into the thick of the flourescent-lit fray—and they simply save children.
They do this not in a grand single bound, not in some last-second, desperate flurry of force; not in the bombast and fanfare of spectacle; but through steady, loving attention to a methodical, repetitive, mundane string of a million seemingly insignificant decisions, because they know how important each second is and how precious every child is. They see what we normal citizens don’t see.
My son is a pretty amazing kid by most accounts. He’s creative, bright, at times funny and serious, and he has a perception about people that is decades beyond the single one he’s spent here on the planet. He’s also prone to anxiety, to self-doubt, to worry, and to rushing quickly through work when he feels the pressures of comparison. This all means that an educational system built almost completely around standardized testing and his performance on a single day, is a really bad fit for him. He often struggles in an environment that doesn’t necessarily celebrate or nurture his strengths.
His fifth grade teacher, Ms. Sass has been tireless in her efforts to help Noah improve and grow, and has even come to school an hour early every Friday to tutor him and a group of students who have difficulty with their math work.
She regularly holds fun celebration events on weekends for those kids who have shown character in the classroom, and she has created all sorts of creative games and programs to inspire and challenge her class to do their best and to treat people well. She communicates with me and my wife regularly and always seems to know exactly what Noah is going through, where he is having victories, and where he is faltering.
Ms. Sass is a straight-up superhero; not just for my son but for all of the wild, insecure, impulsive young lives in her care every day.
And thankfully for us she is not alone. Within a few miles of wherever you are reading this, a ragged army of sleep-deprived, woefully under supported, horribly underpaid do-gooders is willingly braving the daily bullets and the bruises and the battles, so that your children can become the adults they were designed to be.
I couldn’t be more grateful for the way Ms. Sass has cared for my son and for the work that she does in this world. He has blossomed under her shepherding and guidance, and I have found the weekdays to be much less worrisome as a parent, because I know he is safe and supported.
To her and to all you ordinary classroom superheroes on the planet, who may not hear it enough or perhaps at all: Thank you.
Thank you for enduring the countless weird, individual quirks of dozens of kids, for learning how they specifically think and process things, and for seeking to speak their brain’s personal language so that they feel heard and seen and known.
Thank you for the rest that you forfeit, the off-the-clock hours you give up, the money you take from your own pocket, and for the thousands of small sacrifices that no one will ever see from a distance. Thank you for the part of you that you give to other people’s children.
Thank you for continually fighting through defiance and shyness and laziness and silliness and bad home life, and getting intimately close to the hearts of your kids.
Though we often don’t stop to say it, we know just how much you do and just how blessed our children are to have you battling for them every single day.
Thank you most of all, for the very heroic way that without cape or costume, you fly in and you save kids—and you save the world.