The man in the suit wagged his finger between my white teenage son and the 30-something black man standing next to him in line at Jerry’s Subs.
“Hey!” he yelled, making us all jump, “Which one of you is the real Captain America?”
The two guys looked down at the stars on the t-shirts they were wearing with surprise, and at exactly the same time, they looked up and pointed at one another.
Everyone within a 10-foot radius got a good laugh out of that one.
And I got a glimpse of hope for this – Day One of my Month of Good News 2016.
Let’s back up for just a second and talk about who Captain America is. He’s a patriotic Marvel Comics superhero who first appeared in 1941 and often fought the Axis powers in World War II. As Wikipedia explains:
Captain America wears a costume that bears an American flag motif, and is armed with a nearly indestructible shield that he throws at foes. The character is usually depicted as the alter ego of Steve Rogers, a frail young man enhanced to the peak of human perfection by an experimental serum to aid the United States government’s efforts in World War II. Near the end of the war, he was trapped in ice and survived in suspended animation until he was revived in the present day. Although Captain America often struggles to maintain his ideals as a man out of his time with its modern realities, he remains a highly respected figure in his community….
I’d like to think that so many of us are ‘men and women out of our time’ living for ideals such as respect, dignity, equality, and freedom for people of all races, religions, genders, income, etc. Basically, Captain America could be any one of us, because we are all ‘Steve Rogers.’
And we have ample opportunities to be “Steve Rogers” (minus the experimental serum, thank goodness). Who hasn’t been in school, sat on a sports bench (or on a bleacher watching their kids), in a workplace, or in a community group within someone “different” from us by any one of the previously mentioned definitions?
I bet you can think of 5 people right now.
Now here’s the harder question – What did WE do to get to know them?
Are we all working for a nation that embraces our differences and cherishes what we have in common (which, I would submit, is so much more)?
Ask yourself – For every one of the people you just thought of – that you have in the past or do currently associate with – do you know…
Where they live?
Who they live with? (And some personal things about their family members? Those people’s names?)
Anything about their personal lives?
Let’s go further. Have you…
Invited them to your home in the last 6 months?
In the last month, eaten lunch or had coffee with them for a non-business reason?
Shared with them something personal about yourself? Allowed them to see you vulnerable?
These are tough questions. And they’re even tougher to act on if you’ve never stepped out of your comfort zone before.
But it takes intimacy to build trust – the kind of trust that tears down walls and replaces them with indestructible shields of love – tender hearts that are ready to help a neighbor in need at a moment’s notice.
The good news about two guys wearing Captain America t-shirts is that at our core we all believe in the values of American community because the human heart seeks Love and connection with others. Some of us are misled, and think we can forge our paths all alone, foregoing the brilliance and input of one another, but we know that’s wrong. The Truth of our inter-connectedness is always there, buried in the mess somewhere.
Let’s cling to that Truth. Let’s become Captain America. Each one of us. And cling to the Hope our forefathers had of a great nation. In God We Trust.