March 29, 2009 | The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner
You, Too, Can Be a SuperheroThe picture above of "Spiderman" holding an eight-year old boy comes from a story out of Bangkok, Thailand this past week.† The boy, who is autistic, was attending a new school for special needs kids for the first time this past Wednesday.† He became quite anxious, to the point of having a panic attack, and wanting to get away from everyone he opened the window and climbed out on a ledge.† Seeing how he was three floors up from the sidewalk below, it was very dangerous situation.
†††† The teacher tried to coax the new student back into the classroom, but had no success.† His mother was called, and the boy would still not come in.† Afraid that he might jump, or fall off the ledge, the fire department had also been called.† They, too, had no luck in getting the boy to move.† One of the firefighters overheard the boy's mother talking about how much her son loved Spiderman.† Within a few minutes the firefighter returned to the school dressed as Spiderman, using a costume that he keeps at the firehouse for use with special presentations at area schools.† As soon as Spiderman reached out to the boy and offered him a class of juice, the eight-old ran right towards him and jumped into his arms.†
†††† What a great story.† There are so many great messages in the story as well.† I would like to point out a few of them as they relate to our abilities to be superheroes in our own lives.
†††† The stories on the internet and in the press identified this eight-year old autistic boy as a "special needs" child.† While we all know what that term means, did you ever stop to think, that in reality all of us, too, are "special needs" people?† That's right, all of us have special needs that we look for others to meet.† Each of us is created uniquely, each of us is wired differently, and so each of us has special and unique needs.† The longer we have know someone, the better we know what their special needs are, and hopefully we do all that we can to meet them.†
†††† Like the boy in the news story, all of us get anxious in new situations.† When we are anxious we might pull away from others and put ourselves in a position where it is hard for others to reach us.† Some people pull away and isolate when they are upset.† Some people want to talk and connect when they are upset.† Some want to be held, and for others that is not what they want at all.
††† So what does it take to be a superhero to our friends, spouses, children, and families, especially when they are upset?† What it takes is knowing what they uniquely need and being willing to be that for them.† It probably will not mean we have to dress up like Spiderman, but it will mean we will have to be tuned in to what brings them comfort and what they find reassuring.† Offering this to them means they will most often either literally, or metaphorically, jump into our arms and feel safe again.
†††† Do we have to work this hard at reaching to people we love?† I suppose not.† I suppose the firefighter in Bangkok did not have to go through all that effort either.† But I know one young boy and his mother who sure glad he did.† Our loved ones will feel the same when we make that kind of effort for them as well.
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