There are so many exquisite parts of having a small child in your home. One of them is that for a lot of their early childhood, children are incredibly imaginative and can spend hours of the day living in this imaginary world. Another is that, for the most part, they like to include their parents/caregivers in their world. Which means that I get to hear a lot about superheroes, being the proud and somewhat exhausted mom of a 4-year-old son (and his three boisterous older brothers).
My son’s absolute favorites are Batman (whom he insists has rocks in his tummy: I have given up trying to explain muscles), Superman, Spiderman, and The Flash. When he gets a new pair of superhero pajamas, he insists on putting them on immediately, no matter what time of day and cavorts around frantically, taking on the persona of the superhero pictured on the PJs. When I need him to walk to the car after a long and tiring day of preschool, I know that no matter how hot it outside and no matter how tired he is, he will turn into a mini dynamo and race to the car if I ask him the following: “Who is faster, you or The Flash?” When his grandmother bought him a big Superman action figure, he fell asleep each night clutching the box. He dreams of owning a shirt with a cape (which he calls a cave) attached to it so that he can continue to rush about, living out this fantasy of being a superhero, who, when chaos reigns supreme and there is no way out, swoops in, seemingly out of nowhere, and saves the day.
This past Tuesday, against a backdrop of the magnificent ocean, sun and beach, 35-year-old Rabbi Reuven Bauman was watching his students, during a camping trip on the Sandbridge area of Virginia Beach. He noticed some of his students struggling in the turbulent waters. Without a second’s hesitation, he dashed to the rescue. Tragically, he was caught in a riptide, a deadly sea current so strong that despite rescue crews being nearby and on the scene immediately, he did not emerge from the water. The students were rescued by an unidentified bystander.
As an adult, I no longer glory in the thought of some heroic costume-bedecked force that will appear and magic away all of my problems and worries. Because real life just doesn’t work that way. In reality, superheroes exist in fantasy alone, in a man-made smoke and mirrors Hollywood world complete with gorgeous lighting, intricate costumes and fantastic sets. By all accounts, Rabbi Bauman was a beloved seventh- and eighth-grade teacher. When I hear about a seemingly regular person who walked among us, and who, when he was faced with an impossible choice, sprang into action to perform an uber selfless and incredibly brave act, hope stirs in my heart. Plain-clothed heroes really do walk among us. When I hear of cape-less heroes like Rabbi Bauman, my faith in the goodness and kindness of people is strengthened and the world seems to glow a little brighter.