My hero couldn't move buildings, but his superpower was his smile

Published 4:10 pm Wednesday, October 2, 2002

Heroes. It seems as if there has been a lot of talk lately about them: What makes a hero? Who are your heroes? And the list goes on and on.
We all have heroes in some form or another. I'm not talking about superheroes like some man in tights and a cape or a woman who can win wars single handedly. The heroes I'm talking about are everyday heroes. I'm talking about those people who touch you deeply, so deeply in fact, that you can never be the same after having met them.
I have a hero. He's not what most people would think of as a hero. In fact, he's not really what first comes to my mind when I think hero, yet that is what he is.
My hero is a twelve-year-old boy. This boy was no ordinary little boy. No, this boy was a superhero of the highest degree. He wasn't big and strong. He didn't move buildings or have x-ray vision. He couldn't fly or disappear. He didn't even wear a cape or drive a special car. So what did he have? A sweet personality, a beautiful smile, and the biggest heart you will ever find.
He also had a fatal disease.
This little boy was probably one of the most joyful people I have ever known. Even when he was so, so sick he still had his smile. And he had such a gift for masking other people smile. I remember watching him try to carry his younger sister who was almost as big as he was and asking "what are you doing to your little sister?" He'd grinned then, that smile that lit up his whole face, and said, "She's not my little sister, she's my BIG sister!"
I don't think I have ever seen a church so full in my life as that church was the day of his funeral. I also don't think I've ever cried so hard. I remember the older man who gave the service breaking down even as he tried to give some comfort to the boy's family. He told us all how the boy had him a few days before he died that he didn't want us to be sad because he was going where he would be well again and that we'd see him again someday. I remember hearing someone remark that it was only right for the boy to be in heaven because even on earth he had always been an angle. I miss that little angel.
That is to me the definition of a real hero: someone who can impact so many people simply by doing and being what they are. I'd like to think that I could be someone's hero, even if it's only in a small way.
As to your definition of a hero, well, you can keep you superman and Hercules. I'll stick with my twelve year old anyway.
Lindsey Sherrill is a columnist for The Atmore Advance.

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