Imperfect heroes

News Photo by Julie Riddle

“‘I am with you and will rescue you,’ declares the LORD.” — Jeremiah 1:19b

Whenever I go for a drive, a superhero travels with me, a jaunty tin helmet on his head.

For several years, I’ve traveled Northeast Michigan roads in my work for The Alpena News with a stuffed Super Grover propped inside my windshield.

Blue and furry and still able to make me giggle, Grover the monster long ago claimed a place as my favorite of Jim Henson’s delightful Muppet characters — especially when he donned a red cape to become that true 1970s icon, Super Grover.

In a shiny helmet that eternally slipped over his eyes, Super Grover truly was “everybody’s favorite superhero,” as an announcer’s voice would declare each episode.

“Faster than lightning. Stronger than steel. Smarter than a speeding bullet,” the announcer would say, whereupon Super Grover would burst through a paper wall, helmet askew, adding, “and I am cute, too.”

A graceless stringbean of a monster, the undeniably cute Super Grover flew over Metro City, scanning for children in distress and arriving at their feet with a comedic scream and a crash.

With unflagging self-confidence, Super Grover would launch into solving the problem at hand, offering ridiculous advice with glorious ineptitude.

Always, when the adventure was done, he would fly away — or attempt to fly, often thwarted by something snagging his cape — determined to do more good, a bumbling superhero with a heart bigger than his scrawny chest and an irresistible belief in the power of one person — or one monster — to change the world.

Four years ago, I joined the staff at The News as a reporter, visions of superhero capes dancing in my head.

I wanted to fly in and change the world from my keyboard. If journalist Clark Kent could turn into Superman, I could write words that could help people, shining light into dark corners and exposing hurts and lifting the downtrodden.

Turns out, superheroing ain’t that easy.

Many’s the time, over the last four years, that I landed with a crash, botching a story or missing a deadline, making my poor editors sigh in exasperation.

While I plodded along imperfectly, cape snagging as I went, the people on whom I reported astounded me as they showed me what true heroism looks like.

On my beat, I met people who give their lives to helping others and making their communities better.

Firefighters and police officers.

Courtroom participants, from attorneys and victim advocates to probation officers and clerks.

People who cook for the hungry, open doors for the homeless, and give people struggling with addiction a fighting chance.

I met nurses and commissioners, cashiers and snowplow drivers and postal workers, all offering their time and talents in service to others.

I talked to folks who go out of their way to be kind, to take care of kids, to give what they have to those who need it.

If you asked them, I imagine those heroes of mine would readily tell you of the times they failed, their stumbles and snags and hiccups.

But, imperfectly, they keep going, refolding mussed clothes in the thrift shop, smiling at the disgruntled customer, making their world better.

Even the noblest of heroes falls flat sometimes, of course. Superheroes we are not, as we crash-land and misstep and do silly things.

And that’s OK. We don’t have to save the world. It’s already been saved, the day our hero-Savior bounded from the tomb.

No, we are not superheroes — but we have a superhero at our side.

Ever listening for our cries for help, the One who loves us flies to us with comfort and strength, promising to fight for us and with us as we go and do and love one another.

After four years as a reporter and a decade writing this column, I must now pack up my tin helmet and head to the next adventure. My husband has accepted a job downstate, and I need to be there with him.

I ache at the thought of leaving Northeast Michigan.

But my heart swells with hope as I think of all the heroes I leave behind, fearlessly failing and always looking forward, helping one another with willing hearts and hands.

And, if all those intrepid heroes make my heart glad, imagine what they do to the heart of our Father, watching and supporting and working through us, each of our little, bumbly efforts another way for Him to show us how darn much He loves us.

Strap on your cape. Go. Do. Take care of one another. Love, humbly and with gusto.

You are, after all, an imperfect, dearly loved hero.

And you are cute, too.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today