Updated: Jun 7, 2020
Being the new kid in town is never easy for anyone, and Neel was very keen to make a good impression on his peers and teachers with his little speaking assignment he had due the next day. A very generic topic for a primary level – What do you want to be when you grow up. Neel was always a huge fan of superheroes, much like most kids of his age.
He goes up to his father with his gleaming eyes and asks him, “Dada, what does it mean to be a superhero?”
“Superheroes are characters in movies go around saving people with their superpowers, you know like flying and that sort of stuff,” replies his father.
“But I can’t fly or anything. I don’t think I have any superpowers. Does that mean I can’t be a superhero?”
Not having the ability to disappoint his son’s naïve yet pure heart, he replies “You know what their biggest superpower is though? It’s their good heart. They help people because they want to, not because they can. And that’s the sole difference between a hero and a villain. We admire heroes because of what they do, and their good hearts. Superman could be earning millions with his superhuman strength and not care about people at all. But he uses his strength for the good of people. He inspires people, that’s what makes him unbeatable. You know about the ‘S’ symbol, right? It signifies hope in his planet. What makes him a hero is that people want to be like him.”
“Does that mean I can still be a hero?”
“You have a big heart son. That’s all you need to be someone’s hero.”
With these words, Neel’s eyes lit up. He couldn’t wait to tell his class how badly he wanted to be a hero. He scribbled a few sentences for his assignment and rehearsed with much passion.
There was quite a variety of career options discussed on the day of the presentation. Neel couldn’t wait for his turn. As soon as Neel announced his decision, the entire class, including the teacher burst into laughter. He heard comments about how unrealistic and naïve was. His teacher told him to come up with something else for the next day, with a more realistic idea. Disheartened, Neel went back to his seat, seemingly blowing his only shot at making a good impression in front of his peers. He was so hurt by what happened that he did not eat his lunch.
He was walking back home, thinking about how he failed miserably that day, and was coming to terms with the fact that he is, perhaps, truly incapable of helping people. He was on his way to a public trash bin to throw his lunch in there; his mother would be furious for not having his lunch. On his way there, a child about his age, who seemed to be deprived of food for days, approached him asking for alms. He did not have any money with him, so he walked past the boy. He felt bad that he was powerless to help the boy.
That’s when it occurred to him that he had his lunch with him. He rushes back to the boy, who happily accepts it, with eyes that resembled those of a lost child who found his mother in a crowd. Once he was done, he couldn’t help but ask Neel, “Why do you look so sad?”
“I embarrassed myself in school today. I don’t think anyone would want to be my friend after this.”
“Why not? I would love to be a friend of someone like you. I wish I could be like you!”
“What do you mean? I am not anything special.”
“I haven’t eaten in days. I had to fend for myself. Hundreds of people walk past me every day. Yet only you chose to help me. There are a lot of kids just like me. I wish I could be like you someday, being able to change someone else’s life even for a moment. When a hundred people walk past me, trying me that isn’t possible, you come and give me hope that it is, just like a hero.”
Those were the words that changed Neel’s life forever. He realized that he had what most people also have, the power to choose. That’s what made him special, that’s what made him a hero.
In these unfortunate times, it is disheartening to see how badly the poor are suffering. We should consider ourselves extremely privileged to be fighting only one battle. A large part of the society fights two battles, and for them it’s just a matter of what will kill them first- hunger, or a deadly virus. It is times like these that keep reminding us how rules of society only apply to what we have defined as a society, and nature is unbiased and fair to all.
The pandemic we are facing is a war against humanity, not against the rich, the poor, the Hindus or the Muslims. A loss for the poor is a loss for humanity. To fight something of this magnitude, out only option is to fight it together, as one, just as the disease sees us.
Being stuck at home might make you feel powerless and incapable of doing anything to help ourselves, or anyone else for that matter. But all we need to help out save humanity in this pandemic is want to help. We can all be heroes in our own ways. The people who build our homes, our roads, keep our homes clean are all in desperate need of a small act of kindness from anyone. By donating for a cause and helping out those in need, we are winning small battles against this deadly virus. Before we know it, we would have won the war. All of us have the power to save someone’s life and instill hope. It’s our choice to make.