The Compassionate Superheroes Amongst Us
Today, I saw a real life superhero. Others may not have noticed it because she wasn’t wearing a cape or a mask or an awesome utility belt, but the powers she had were far greater than any of those could possibly be.
On this particular day, a child walked into school at Ptach with a look on her face that has become this child’s norm. I can only describe it as a mixture of loss, sadness, and defeat. Her hair was flying in every direction, her shirt stained and untucked, and her drab color socks were falling down no matter how many times she pulled them up – almost as if they too couldn’t bear to put in the effort to do what they were supposed to.
You see this child, like many that we have here at Ptach, needed a little extra TLC. In this case, her parents are going through their own hard times. The superhero I referred to before swooped this little girl up and took her to the main office before she entered the classroom and risked being silently (or not so silently) judged and ridiculed by her classmates.
This superhero ran to the store and purchased new socks and hair accessories, and proceeded to reinvent this child for the day. She then walked the girl into class and proceeded to launch into an exciting lesson. Then the most extraordinary thing happened: The girl smiled. Can you tell me one thing that is worth more than that?
As a social work intern working in Ptach, I was amazed daily at the amount of compassion, devotion, and sensitivity that was poured into these students every day by the administrators, teachers, and social workers. It got me thinking about all of the hidden superheroes that walk among us and look like your average man or woman.
The Morah that notices the kid who never seems to bring snacks to school and happens to have some pretzels in their desk; the administrator who notices the child who never has a Purim costume and just happens to have an extra one donated in just the right size; the Rebbe that sees the anxiety rising in a child who didn’t do well on a test and reteaches it, tests again and changes the mark; these are our everyday superheroes that mostly go unnoticed.
Do they care that no one says thank you, gives them a trophy, or buys them a present? That’s the thing! They don’t. Their trophy is the knowing smile on the child’s face as snack time approaches, the overheard proud words of a child telling others she is “a special queen” for Purim, the deep breath that settles into the child staring at his 95 test paper as he tucks it into his knapsack.
We don’t live in a perfect world; many times our precious children have to suffer because they just got a run of bad luck: academic trouble, emotional issues, social problems, mentally ill parents, etc. This is what Hashem wanted for them. We don’t question Hashem’s will and although we don’t know why some children have to suffer, we do know what Hashem wants from us: Love and support for all of our children, but most of all compassion and understanding.
There is a concept in Buddhism that speaks about how love is a natural thing that we all have, but it is also a skill that we need to work on. It may not always be innate to have compassion. We may get frustrated or annoyed by a student. We may not even like some students, but we can work on ourselves to love and be kind. If we can’t, it is a reflection on us, not on them.
There are those that have the capacity to help a child fly. This is an act of God, this is an act of extraordinary measures, this is what it means to be a superhero, and there are many walking among us. You just have to take the time to look and maybe just maybe you can learn to be one too!
Dr Shani Verschleiser is a noted speaker on the subject of child safety. She has educated thousands of individuals on the topic of protecting children from sexual abuse through the curriculums created by her and Magenu.org, a national not for profit organization that Shani co-founded.