I am Iron Man. At least that’s the fictional character I relate to in the big screen box office blockbuster called “The Avengers.” And, least you think I ventured to the movie theater this past weekend to bathe myself in fantasy to escape the realities of my life, you’d be right. Partially.
I connect most to Iron Man, versus other heroes in the movie (at least the ones I’m familiar with), because he is basically a man in a mechanical metal suit. It’s an amazing suit but a suit nonetheless. The other superheroes, like Captain America and the Incredible Hulk, have special chemical elixirs or gamma radiation that give them their powers. In the case of Thor, he’s from some other planet or something.
What helps me identify with Iron Man is that he’s flawed as a person. That makes him more human – and therefore more real. Yeah, he does amazing things (like save the world) but he also is burdened with less than flattering ways of thinking and being. Captain America seems too perfect; the Hulk is out of control; and Thor, well he’s just out of this world.
In addition to escapism, my affinity to the Iron Man character relates to my social justice work in the community. See, like Iron Man’s alter ego, I think of myself as a philanthropist – just not in the million-dollar check-writing sense of the word. I liken the work I do as a calling, much as adventure heroes are called to fight the forces of evil.
Of course, I’m no billionaire business industrialist or high tech engineering genius. Nor do I have movie star looks (though like Iron Man, I do sport a Van Dyke, possess somewhat of a boyish charm and claim a reasonable wit). The main thing I share in common with Iron Man, versus the other Avengers, is that I am a person with flaws. And, like movie heroes, I consider myself one who makes an active effort to promote the human welfare of others.
We all have personal gifts; special powers that have been bestowed on us. Some are natural; others are learned. My power? I don’t wear an iron suit that lets me do cool things like fly and blast bad guys. However, I do carry a smart phone and sport special glasses that emit a benevolent ‘Empathy Ray.’ When I use it on folks, it helps them see and sometimes accept differing points of view. It doesn’t always work but when it does, it can enable people to work together who might not otherwise.
In the course of my community volunteer work, I run with a numerous folks I consider superheroes, except they’re ordinary people. They care about others – enough to get up off the sofa and do something about injustice they see going on around the community. Each one possesses special powers – skills they bring to the ‘fight’.
Like the Avengers, the folks I’m partnered with come from all walks of life. Rich, poor, young, old, and they come in all shapes, sizes and colors. If they were in the movies, they’d have hero names. Moving forward, I think I’ll call myself Empathy Man and wear a green and white suit. But I won’t wear a mask. I invite you to join the team. Just identify your special powers and start using them. A superhero name and suit is optional; the desire for social justice is not.