It’s not what life brings, but what we bring to life. That’s where ‘heroic’ is really defined.
“Hero” doesn’t mean the same thing to me these days.
The trouble is that I have nothing in common with Superman: impervious to everything, cool under pressure, bending stuff that’s real hard and rescuing us who are real soft.
George Reeves, now, the human who played him? That’s a different story.
He was born George Keefer Brewer in Woolstock, IA to Helen and Don Brewer, whose marriage didn’t last. Divorced, Mrs. Brewer met and married Frank Bessolo and they moved to California, where Frank adopted the adolescent George. That marriage never lasted, either.
George attended Pasadena Junior College, also taking acting at the city’s Community Playhouse. He got several leading roles, finally being cast as Tarlton in Gone With The Wind. In 1939, Bessolo’s name was changed to Reeves to satisfy movie tastes.
He met and married Ellanora Needles in 1940. Joining the Army Air Corps in 1941, his next acting didn’t come until 1947–and then only in small parts. Frustration and stress led to Reeves’ own divorce after 9 years.
Things didn’t get better. Alcoholism, affairs, liaisons with known mobsters and substance abuse kept Superman in a downward spiral. Even meeting and falling in love with Lenore Lemmon in 1959 didn’t stop his descent. Days before the wedding, he, Lemmon and friends were heavily drinking. Taking perscription painkillers, George went upstairs to bed.
Shortly thereafter a shot was heard.
Superman never dodged that final bullet.
You know where this is going, don’t you?
Naw, I don’t identify with Superman–but George Reeves? Okay. That kind of life experience, those ups and downs, that imperfectional and emotional swamp I understand. So do you. That phrase, “There, but for God’s grace, go I” is a whole lot more than a cute cliche. Isn’t it?
Things happen in all our lives. It’s not what happens. It’s what we do with what happens.
Here’s the point. We certainly look up to the Superman type of hero. But none of us live there. The real heroes and heroines of my life have the following in common:
- Life traumas.
- Mortality. . .
And the list goes on.
As terrific and sensational as is Superman, he doesn’t thrill me like the real, live men and women around me who’ve overcome and/or punched through all the stuff just listed, and more: persons who have persevered right in the middle of such trials.
These are people who have overcome TREMENDOUS and DAUNTING challenges–problems with a capital P–in order to be able to pass on to the rest of us some of the deep wisdom and many canny shortcuts that long experience has taught them.
I’ll only mention two of my superheroes: Roscoe and Ida Jane. They were my parents.
Nothing in life ever gave either of them the notion that it would be kind to them, or promise them anything. They were okay with that. They recognized those challenges for what they were, met them and usually busted them up. I can identify with Daddy and Mother. They taught me what being a hero was all about. In every sense of the word, they were super!
Neither of them would have laid claim to being a superhero. They didn’t think that way. Their notion was that anything available to them in this life was there for the taking but it would not be handed to them. Roscoe and Ida Jane were solid, hard-working, faith-full people who made the term ‘friend’ synonymous with royalty. They passed those same values on to me.
You have superheroes just like them in your life, too. Real, honest individuals who have overcome through rotten, rough, challenging stuff that had the potential to destroy them but couldn’t get it done. They are persons of strong, worthy character whose lives are worth emulating.
Just now it is difficult to look around and find people like that. Far too many have been convinced they’re owed this or that and have stopped being productive men and women. That’s all the more reason for you to do two things.
- Tell the story of YOUR superheroes. This generation needs to know who and what they were.
- Follow their example and be superheroes to those following you.
Show what you’re made of. Let them see what an authentic Superhero looks, acts and sounds like. Be for your young what your heroes were for you.
© D. Dean Boone, March 2014