When I was a little kid growing up in the early 1980’s, I remember being fascinated with the fictional superheroes on television and in comic books who possessed extraordinary magical powers.
For me there was Batman, whom I first discovered while watching re-runs of Adam West prancing around in tights in the 1960’s action/adventure show.
As cheesy as the program might have seemed, there was something alluring about “The Bat Cave” and “The Bat Mobile” – not to mention the neat tricks he had hiding up his sleeves. I even remember one Halloween, excitedly dressing up as my favorite caped crusader – one of the few Halloweens when I actually wanted to keep my costume on!
But my allegiance to the superhero community didn’t stop with Batman. Other favorites included Spider-Man, He-Man and even The Incredible Hulk to name a few.
I’d spend hours and hours in my basement or backyard, re-enacting scenes with my tiny action figures or pretending I was the superhero – jumping and running around as though I possessed super-human abilities.
I guess for a shy, sensitive and overweight young boy who was often teased in school, the life of a superhero was something I envied and held close to my heart. They were always there in my mind, like an old friend, giving me much needed courage and strength when the bullies on the playground needed someone to taunt.
But it’s been a long time since I’ve sat down and thought about my superhero friends from the past. It wasn’t until I came across the following headline on a popular news site that I began to see why I held them in such high regard in the first place.
A real-life superhero
The headline read simply “Fireman dresses as Spider-Man to rescue boy.” The story occurred in Bangkok, and focused on a young 11-year-old boy who suffered from autism.
His disorder made it difficult for him to deal with change, so when it came time for the beginning of a new school year, the young boy grew anxious. In an effort to run away from the unknown, he climbed out onto a third-floor balcony – dangling his feet over the edge, unaware of the danger he had put himself into.
Both his teachers and his frantic mother tried to coax the young boy back inside to no avail. This prompted a call to local firefighter, Somchai Yoosabai.
“He was nervous about the first day at school, and he was asking for his mother,” Somchai said. “He cried and refused to let any of us get close to him.”
Thankfully Somchai overheard a conversation between the boy’s mother and his teachers speaking about his love of superheroes, especially Spider-Man. It was at that moment when he remembered he kept a Spider-Man costume back at the station, which he used to hold youngster’s attention when visiting schools.
After a quick costume change, Somchai reappeared in the superhero’s attire. “I told him Spider-Man is here to save you. No monster will hurt you now. Then I told him to walk slowly toward me. I was very nervous that he might have slipped if he got too excited and ran.”
But to everyone’s delight, the young boy, whose eyes were still filled with tears, smiled and started slowly making his way towards his favorite superhero before jumping safely into his arms.
I never thought I’d see the day when Spider-Man, without the help of super powers, would stand proudly atop a building and come to someone’s rescue. But that’s exactly what happened that day. I’m sure it was a moment Somchai and that little boy will not soon forget.
I guess no matter our age, we all want to feel safe – to take solace in the fact that someone’s looking out for us. To give us courage and strength when we feel defeated – to show us compassion and understanding when we feel discriminated against.
Superheroes come in all shapes and sizes. For that little boy on the balcony, he looked a lot like Spider-Man. But chances are for many of us, they look just like the people we have the great pleasure of knowing each and every day.