The Thing I Like About …

Spiderman II:  the scene where Peter stops the train.

From the beginning, Peter/Spiderman spends his days exploring his many super-powers – strength, casting webs, sticking to walls, swinging through the air – and trying to catch the bad guy.  But unlike Superman, Peter’s strength is only super-human, not super-galactic.  His webbing is only spider-silk-strong, not magical-strong.  And in the end, Peter is just one person, trying to catch the bad guys with an all-too-human – and barely grown-up – brain.

So how the heck is he supposed to stop a train?

We watch him, plastered to the front of the train, flinging webs desperately to each side.  But webs are stretchy – that’s usually one of their better attributes – and they don’t really have much effect on the train.  All the passengers, already traumatized and injured by the aforementioned bad guy, are screaming and panicking, and people in the surrounding houses are staring helplessly out their windows at the webs and webs and webs clinging to the brick walls.

But somehow the webs do stop the train, only inches from the end of the tracks.  Somehow Peter manages to stop the train, not because he’s Superman or because his powers are particularly extraordinary, but because he never gives up.  He works and works to the very end of his strength, and when the train stops, he falls unconscious.

So the passengers catch him, and carry him into the train, and they lay him down gently, and they see the truth: “He’s just a kid!”  They realize who their hero has been – a “kid” with little more going for him than a regular person would have.  They realize, too, that they have to carry the secret of his identity, the same way they carried his unconscious form into the train – they have to have his back.

In the movies, we get to be Spiderman (or the hero of our choice), swinging through the air, flying, shooting lasers out of our hands or our eyes or whatnot, reading minds, running really fast, picking up extraordinarily heavy things and throwing them at people.  In the movies, the heroes are superheroes, and the villains are … not numerous, and their arrogance makes them easy to trap.  In the movies, the innocent people are protected by good guys who always, always win.

In real life, the difference between the people who are heroes and the people who aren’t is that heroes don’t give up.  They do what needs to be done until they can’t do it anymore.  And all too often they’re trying to stop a train with spider webs.

In real life, the heroes need the rest of us to catch them, to do our part, to have their backs.

In real life, we don’t have superpowers.  We’re regular.  We’re “just kids”.  But we can be heroes too, if we try.

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