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It Took a Hero

March 11, 2014

You’re not going to believe this, but my fourth period class got locked in my room.

Not locked out, but locked in.

“Hey, something’s wrong with the handle of the door,” said Brent.  “Lilly’s out in the hall and wants to come in, but the door handle’s stuck.”

“Come on, Brent, twist it down.  You can do it,” I said.  “Let’s get back to the notes.”

“No, seriously,” he said, tugging on the door handle.  “It won’t open.”

I went over and rattled it a bit.  It was holding fast.  We really were locked 1bbbinside.  The students looked at  each other.

“My lunch hour’s coming up and I’m hungry,” groaned Karen.

“Just hang on, hang on,” I said as I called the front office.  There were still twenty minutes left in class. “I’ll get maintenance up here.”

Within minutes the workers were pounding and prying.  I sent out a fake distress call via email to the other teachers, telling them that we were hanging on by a thread.  We were having fun with it, although in all seriousness, we were indeed stuck.  Nobody could go to the next class if the bell rang.  Twenty minutes later it rang and we were still locked in the room.  “Now what?” cried Karen.

“Well, I have some coffee grounds and there are some bottles of powered creamer,” I said.  “I might find some mints in my desk…”

She frowned.  Rick snickered.  Brent shrugged.  “Can we play a game?”

After forty minutes, they pulled the door open.  The class cheered.  The students in the hallway clapped.

“You saved us!” we all cried, “You’re our heroes!” The maintenance men grinned sheepishly.

I was driving to school this morning and grinning as I thought of the fellows being patted on the back and congratulated by the many students.

Heroes.

It’s quite a dynamic word.

As a child, I loved super heroes.  Batman. Spiderman.  Green Hornet.  Iron Man. Superman.  Captain America.  I could list the many reasons why I liked these comic book characters.

Spiderman had a teen age mystery about him as well as a whole arsenal of funny quips and comebacks in the midst of battle as well.

The Fantastic Four members acted like a dysfunctional family, with jokes thrown in during times of stress.  I could definitely relate to that.

Superman could pound anybody into the dust.  Plus, he could fly. And the melting ability with his eyes, now that was also a feature I could deal with.

Ah, but Batman and Robin were my absolute favorites, especially the kitschy TV series.  I loved everything about them, from their insanely cool utility belts to their over-the-top dialogue.  We’d cram around the living room TV set every Thursday night, waiting to hear that theme song which was and still is, in my opinion, the greatest television theme song in the history of broadcasting.

Oh, how we loved Batman. Every kid in Dallastown Elementary loved Batman. And Robin, of course. The TV show was the talk of the school. Playground time was all Caped Crusader stuff.

As a second-grade kid, I wanted desperately to be a superhero.  I wanted to take on bad guys and send ‘em to the hoosegow.  I wanted to fly.  I wanted to run faster than a car or train, for that matter.  I wanted to team up with other powerful beings and form a league like the Avengers or the Justice League of America.  I was totally, drop-dead serious.  That’s no big secret; virtually every boy in America wants to be a super hero.

But unlike other kids, I had a secret on how to make it actually happen.  I wasn’t going to just dream about it, doggone it, I was going to do something about it.

And I’ve kept a secret about my background with superheroes until now.  I am going to tell you the absolute truth. This one is going to be hard for anyone to swallow, but I swear it is true, down to every detail.

I was so serious that I actually tried to organize a superhero convention.  In real life. As a second-grader.

I was going to hold an international super hero convention in Dallastown, Pennsylvania.

I’ll say it again:  I was in second grade at the time.

It’s true.

As a seven-year old, I was so serious about gathering the Good Forces of the World that  I flopped down on the floor of my bedroom (actually, I shared the room with two of my brothers at the time) and got to work on an undercover project.  I hauled out my crayons and a piece of cardboard (cut painstakingly from the side of a refrigerator box), made a large poster.

I marched downtown in order to recruit superheroes to help me organize a league of do-gooders.  It was time for action, and I was making the first move.

Remember, these were the dynamic TV years of the George Reeves Superman, Green Hornet, and as I had said, my personal Mt. Everest of all crusaders: Batman.  There were plenty of superheroes to go around, so why couldn’t I organize some of them?  I’d watch the television, wishing that I could team up with these guys, and wonder of wonders I noticed the glaring loophole (at least on television) that none of them seem to buddy up with each other as allies against evil –  or even a good laugh at a backyard barbecue, for that matter.

Fueling this insane idea was my dad’s purchase of two crates – crates, mind you – jammed with comic books ranging from early Iron Man, Spiderman, Aqua Man (I didn’t really like him), Silver Surfer, Hulk, and others.  You could see I was a mess.

I would sit and read the old DC and Marvel comics and just hope against hope that I could be a superhero. We would, of course, gather into neighborhood superhero groups of our own in the gravel lot near our home with our own custom-made names and powers: FleetFoot, Inferno, Ultra Boy, Invisible Girl and even Glasses Man (That was my name.  I found an old pair of plastic glasses with no lenses and figured they were good for laser beams. I was short on creativity that day, okay? That personal lasted for one week before I threw it away in disgust.) My dad supplied a set of old capes from a defunct high school band drum major corps, and we were set. Every day – and I do mean every day – we were running the lawns of the little town, defying imaginary hoodlums who all wore pork-pie hats and masks. I never could figure out why they would stereotype themselves that way, but that was their business, not mine.

But back to the convention.

I wanted to take it step further. I knew the world had superheroes lurking around, just waiting to get organized. They just needed a leader. And I, a knowledgeable second grader, would be the one to band them together…and the International Headquarters would be in Dallastown, Pennsylvania… and I was absolutely serious about all this.

I truly believed that I could call the great heroes of the universe together and organize an ad-hoc Justice league of my own. Think of it! We could protect the world from all of the ills of the 60’s… if we could just get organized. And I, a second grader from Dallastown Elementary, would be the one to bring them together.

Why I believed that the titans of the world would gather and obey my instructions, I cannot tell you. I just figured that they, being fair and kind much like they were in the comic books, would allow me to be President-Elect or Headquarters guy or something. How I was supposed to know where the immediate crimes were? I hadn’t figured that out either – the first thing was to get organized, for crying out loud.

So I took that crayon-covered hunk of cardboard that was about 3 feet square and walked downtown. It said this:

ATTENTION SUPER HEROS

                                              of any powers. All are welcome.

TIME TO ORGANIZE.

Meet at Dallastown Park

at home plate today at 3 p.m.

ALL SUPER HEROS WELCOME.

I walked down to Glatfelter’s Furniture and was going to ask them to put it in their window, but when I got in the store, heard their in-store elevator-type music and saw the finery, I realized that they might not understand my quest.  I got cold feet and backed out of the door, a bit unnerved.  I went outside and stood on the downtown sidewalk, figuring out my plan.

A superhero wouldn’t care if the poster was on the inside of a store or on the street, would he?  Of course not!  They all have an inner-distress signal anyway, telling them someone needed them;  they just had to tune in to their personal distress frequency  and they’d be directed to this sign.  I propped the brown cardboard sign in front of the store on the sidewalk and took off running. Nobody should know it was me who put the sign there. All things must be secret, you understand.

I went to the park and hung back throughout the afternoon – not wanting to give away my secret identity. That, plus the risk of getting yelled at by the old guy sitting near the monkey bars.    I waited.  2:45 p.m. came and I was in a sweat.   This was going to be good.

2:55.

2:59.

They’ll all fly in, at the last minute.

3 p.m.

Man, these guys aren’t very punctual. Still, they have floods and fires to take care of…

Ten minutes went by and nobody showed up.

Ten more minutes…

… at 3:30 p.m. I walked back to Charles Street and went to my room, deeply disappointed and yet a bit relieved as well. During my wait I realize that I wasn’t sure what to do if a whole mob of heroes with assorted powers showed up.

I sit here and type this and I still must laugh out loud.  What a strange kid I was.  I would have liked to have seen the reaction of the employee who found the sign in front of their store later that evening at closing time.

But, truth to tell, I still have heroes:

Don Stevens, my old Scout master, a faithful and caring man who gave his heart to Troop 65 of Hershey PA and was a walking testimony of Jesus Christ.  He’s since gone to be with the Lord, but his impact will live for generations.

Greg Wilson, a fellow teacher who arrives here early and stays late, in order that he can assist students with their many algebra problems and challenges.  He never says a word of complaint or of ego.  He looks.  He sees.  He conquers.  He serves.

My father-in-law Robert Livesay, who has been a steady and caring influence in our extended family, often there to counsel me and help in the most unpredictable moments.  This man doesn’t know the word retirement.

Bobby McCoy, our assistant pastor who is a quadriplegic bound to a wheelchair for life.  This man simply effuses joy in Christ and is a radiant example of a Godly Christian no matter what the situation.

Deidre Randles, who is a caring, devoted and dedicated German teacher who loves her students like they were her own family.  She is in a niche subject yet treats every class moment with the dedication of a true professional.

Jerry Thacker, my old Radio/TV professor, who is battling cancer and yet is as vibrant and joyful in Christ as anyone could ever be.  He’s a picture of a man who sees Heaven’s promise every day.

Peni Hirt, a Science professor and fellow teacher whose intellect is stunning and whose devotion to her students reaches levels that amaze me.  She is unbending in her dedication, and she is an uncomplaining servant of God who also cares for a husband who was stricken physically and needed her support.  She would be here at the school serving and race back to her home serving.  What an amazing lady.

Rick Cross, a good college buddy and faithful pastor in Longmont, Colorado, whose heart for his people is an inspiration to me.

Oh, there are others, and in future times I will share them… but of course, the most amazing hero to me is Jesus the Messiah.

He didn’t have to do what He did.  But He did it.

He could have lost His temper and thrown the whole Plan away.  But He didn’t.

He never lost patience.  He’s stuck to His goals.  He’s made a promise and will not break it.  He sacrificed.  He reached out.

My friends, we call Him Savior, Redeemer, Anointed One, God Himself.

Let’s add Hero.

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