Early in the morning. Working at my home office. My youngest son called a few minutes after leaving for school.
My son said: There’s a woman stuck a few blocks from the house. His car battery died. She waved me down and asked me to help her, but I’m late for school. I told him that I would call my father.
And he went to school.
I sat there for a while, looking at my pile of work, thinking that I hadn’t promised to help her. She doesn’t know me. I do not know her. I look at my shorts and my bare feet. I’m not dressed to help her.
I notice the big red S on my T-shirt.
The Superman S
Of all the t-shirts, this had to be the Superman t-shirt.
Yeah, I think so, but Superman has nothing better to do than help people. I have a diary to do… oh, yeah, Superman is Clark Kent. … Awesome.
I wear the S. I have to go.
I sigh, groan, stand up. This is work for jumper cables.
There’s a reason I don’t wear Superman’s shirt outside the house.
And it’s not because a man nearing 60 can look ridiculous wearing a Superman shirt. Looking silly is none of my business.
No, wearing the S comes with a responsibility.
If you’re gonna wear the Superman S, or the cross, or drive a truck with the American flag waving in the back, you better be prepared to be larger than life, bigger than little things, better than our worst natures.
You can’t just cut someone in traffic, run someone over, yell at people, be mean, or petty, or self-righteous, or turn a blind eye to someone in need.
These symbols are bigger than us.
If we wear or display them, we do them no honor unless we do everything in our power to respect them, be it the Christian cross, the American flag or the Superman S.
So, I’m careful not to wear the Superman S in public, because even if I want to, I don’t always live up to Superman’s ideals, or my ideals. And if I can’t do that, well, I don’t deserve to wear the S.
If we don’t try to live up to the principles they represent, do we deserve to wear such symbols?
They bear a responsibility. And if you can’t live up to the responsibility, don’t wear them and don’t wear them.
This morning, I am wearing the Superman S. Yes, I was at home but the call for help came. You can’t wear the S and not answer the call.
I drove down the road. The woman was stuck at the end of the street. I stopped, I talked to her, I turned around, I stopped again, I plugged in the jumper cables. His car started.
I did not know her. She didn’t know me.
But his parting words said it all.
“Thank you Superman.”
She knows what that S stands for.
Dean Poling is editor of the Valdosta Daily Times and editor of The Tifton Gazette.