Superheroes and Simplepowers

Superhero heart sticker

We live in an age fascinated by the notion of superheroes and super heroines. It seems as if half of the movies and TV shows are based on comic book characters. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, after all, we like to see people use their special powers to prevent disaster and save the world. Even I am excited about the release of the Black Panther movie this weekend, enthralled with the representation of black and brown characters who display superior intellectual and physical prowess that they use for good.

What is your superpower? What is the skill you possess that can change the world for the better, or the attribute you tap into to get ahead? This is a question I often see in social media, where people refer to their gift as their “superpower.”

I am less interested in the idea of a superpower—I’d rather tap into my simplepower. What do I mean by that? A simplepower is your unique skill, which can be used at will, makes you better simply because you share it with others, and can be harnessed in circumstances calling for compassion and bravery. Even better, unlike the heroes in the movies and comics, you don’t have to hide it. Quite often people know you have this power and seek you out for it. A simplepower doesn’t require a costume change, a life-threatening situation, or a villain. A simplepower can be an act of kindness when someone needs it, good advice for the searching, or a quirky sense of humor that helps a sad person laugh.

Everyone has a simplepower.

My simplepower is encouragement—I like to encourage people, to help them see the magnificent possibilities in their lives. Decades ago, after I knew I was an encourager, I came across a verse in the bible, I Thessalonians 5:11—Encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

After I read this, something in my spirit said, “Yes. That is who I am and who I want to be.” I wrote it down, tucked it away in my brown leather planner, and although the days of paper planners have been replaced by smartphone calendars, I still refer to it from time to time when I need a reminder of one reason why I am on this planet.

I love a snazzy outfit and admit that clothing and the right boots can alter my mood. But I don’t want to depend on a cape or a superpower when a quiet reminder will do. We all have a unique gift, some of us are blessed with multiple gifts, that we can share to uplift, encourage, or help another person.

What is your simplepower?



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When I was in college, there was a girl in my dorm who loved pigs. I don’t think she was from a farming family, but she just found them to be adorable little beings. She had posters of them in her room, maybe even a few other pig-themed items. Aside from Wilbur in the book Charlotte’s Web, I thought of pigs as messy creatures, ones that lolled about in muck, ate and snorted at the same time, fleshy pink blobs with mottled brown spots. The three little pigs, with their homes made of straw, sticks and bricks were more industrious, but a wolf ended up eating two of them anyway. It was hard to fall in love with a pig.

I am from Cincinnati, home of the Flying Pig Marathon. This race winds through the city, its hills and neighborhoods, it even crosses the Ohio River into Kentucky for part of the race. It is a major attraction; over 30,000 get involved by running the marathon or one of the shorter races. The name Flying Pig sets a hopeful tone for runners, but it is also a nod to Cincinnati’s past. Cincinnati was at one time nicknamed Porkopolis, because it was the home of stockyards, slaughterhouses and the railroad system that carried meat to the cities of the Midwest. In the 1800s, the pigs were herded though the streets. The Flying Pig name evokes this history.

Any consideration of my running this race is quelled by the reality of what it would take to complete it – time spent away from goals about which I am more passionate, focused training, regardless of seasons, and the commitment to start and finish no matter the weather on race day. So I pursue other goals; a marathon is not in my future, although I did a half marathon many years ago. I have already decided I will run a race this long when pigs fly.

I dream of trips I want to take, books I will write, time spent with those I love, people that I want to meet. I visualize how I will feel when I choose the fruit over the chips, master the rollover in Pilates, or decorate the small cottage where I can go to restore my spirit. I imagine hikes I will take, strolls around botanical gardens, new cities I will explore, a girls’ trip with my daughter and granddaughter when the little one is older. And while I dream, visualize and imagine, I also plan. I write these ideas down in notebooks, jot them on my smartphone, or give them a home in my mind. At times, I share them with a friend, so we can dream out loud together, or give each other the support and accountability that a dream needs.

Sometimes I ask myself, what does the wish represent? Why is it important, are you sure that is what you really want, or is it a stand-in for something deeper? Then I sit with the thought, turning it over, volleying it back and forth as if in a tennis match, until I understand myself better or decide I can let it go.

I need to make sure that the dreaming and planning does not descend into grasping, craving, and yearning. If it seems like I am heading in that direction, I ask the why question again, and remind myself that where I am right now is a blessing, that I do not always have to be setting up the next thing.

Yet I love the idea of possibility – that there is more in this life if I open myself up, if I am less afraid, take a chance, work, ask for help and guidance, and yes, plan. Last month I was in a bookstore back home, and I came across this quirky statue of a fleshy pink pig, sitting on its haunches, snout lifted upwards, wings on its back as if it is getting ready for takeoff. The statue is ceramic, and if you look closely you can see the cracks in the glaze trailing off in a million different directions, each line leaving traces of its journey. I like that despite the apparent cracks in the piece, it is whole, entire, it has not fallen apart. Like me. A pig can fly.