My alarm went off at 6:50 this morning. I sleepily hit snooze, and closed my eyes for another nine minutes. When it went off again, I reached for my phone and turned off the alarm, making my notifications visible. A terrifying headline stared back at me: “50 dead and at least 200 wounded in shooting during Jason Aldean concert.” My heart sank and I considered just staying in bed with the covers over my head for the rest of the day.
It’s been a rough couple of months for America. We had an onslaught of natural disasters that we’re still recovering from. There’s been shootings. There’s the ever-looming threat of a nuclear war with North Korea. It’s getting exhausting. And every time another news headline pops up with something else terrible, I think, “What in the world did I bring my children into?”
As of this afternoon, the numbers are up to 58 dead and 515 wounded in the Vegas shooting. Almost 600 people shot. Six. Hundred. Such a senseless loss of lives, from a horrifying act of violence.
My boys are at the age now where superheroes are some of their favorite things. J is 4, and G is almost 3, and our lives revolve around Iron Man, Hulk, Batman, PJ Masks, Transformers Rescue Bots, and any other superhero you can think of. For them, it’s simple. The heroes are good guys, and if there’s any kind of problem, the heroes can take care of it, no questions asked. Since they are still so young, what they see on TV and in movies bleeds over into their reality. They assume that any bad guy in real life can and will be dealt with in the same way.
For them, a bad guy is anyone who doesn’t follow the rules or play nice. A bad guy can be the driver of the truck behind us that honked impatiently at an intersection, or someone who is mean to other people and hurts their feelings. Occasionally, J or G will consider each other a bad guy, if one of them isn’t sharing with the other one. But in their minds, these “bad guys” are all equal to Spiderman’s nemesis, Venom, or the nefarious camp counselor in an episode of Rescue Bots. And because they are all equal, they assume that real life bad guys will be dealt with the same as the pretend ones–quickly, fairly, and justly.
More than anything, I wish that were true. I wish I could tell my precious boys that that’s how this world works. That yes, bad things happen, but the superheroes will rush in and save the day before anything is truly destroyed. That bad guys always get a just punishment and the good guys will always come out on top. But I can’t. Because it doesn’t always work out that way. And it breaks my heart that someday, my boys will start slowly realizing that real life isn’t like a superhero movie. Their innocent view of the world will start to erode and their eyes will be open to the injustice and tragedies that happen every day. And as a mom, knowing that I cannot shield them from this truth forever shakes me to my core.
But there is light in the darkness. There are real life superheroes. By 6:30 this morning, there was a line out the door at a Las Vegas blood bank because of all the people willing to donate blood. There were people who jumped on top of others, people who gave strangers rides, and people who helped others to shelter during the shooting. These are our superheroes. The first responders–the EMTs and police officers–who rushed to the aid of the victims and took down the bad guy as quickly as possible are our superheroes. It’s not always easy to see the hope and love in these situations, but it is there, if you search for it.
You can see it in other tragedies our country has been through recently. Houston residents forming a human chain to help someone drowning. They are superheroes. Local Florida restaurants and businesses opening their doors to people without food, water, or electricity after Irma. They are superheroes. Puerto Ricans who are making sure their neighbors are getting the help they need if they’re not able to get it themselves. They are superheroes.
Life isn’t fair or just. Quite honestly, this world sucks. A lot. Especially lately. But if that’s all we focus on, it will just weigh us down. It burdens our hearts and darkens our attitudes. Even when it feels like all we have in this world are bad guys, don’t forget to look for the good guys. Don’t forget that they are out there. And you can be one too. We can all be superheroes.
When a problem arises in superhero world, J and G don’t get upset. Their immediate reaction to trouble is, “It’s okay! The good guys will help them.” And that’s what I’ve seen over and over again in the past couple of months here. In the midst of unspeakable tragedies, good guys have helped those in distress, time and time again. And they will continue to do it, because nothing can break the human spirit. We are resilient. We are strong. And we will love and hope until our last day.
So I will never discourage my boys from believing in superheroes and fighting bad guys. And as they get older, and they understand what real life bad guys are capable of, I’ll teach them to look for the real life good guys. I will encourage them to be good guys themselves. Because this world could always use a few more superheroes.