Christine HarveyWe Can All Be Superheroes A simple act can make all the difference in someone else’s life My friend Tania Tetlow recently spoke to her daughter Lucy Stewart’s pre-kindergarten class at the Louise S. McGehee School about being community helpers. She talked about working together to make New Orleans a better city and gave specific examples of how even the youngest can be part of this effort. All of the little girls listened carefully and concluded that when they grew up, they all wanted to be superheroes. From the back of the classroom, a pensive young girl raised her hand and said, “I really want to be a superhero, too, but no one at this school knows how to fly!” Oh, darn, if only we could fly, the world would be a better place. Not. I can’t think of a city that has witnessed more real live superheroes than New Orleans. Think of the first responders who descended on this city after Katrina or the hundreds of thousands of volunteers who came for a decade to help us rebuild. Everyday folks like you and me, college kids, National Guardsmen… They all came. I’ve tried to teach my own children and grandchildren that being a volunteer can be the best and most rewarding work of all, and I think they’ve gotten the message. If you look around, superheroes are everywhere. At St. George’s Episcopal School – where my grandchildren are happy fourth and second graders – older students built a Buddy Bench for the lower school playground. Any kid who doesn’t have a friend to play with can sit on the Buddy Bench, and someone will come get him or her to play. This simple idea teaches little ones about inclusiveness and compassion in a simple, brilliant way. The kid who invites another to play is a superhero in my mind. On the first Saturday of every month volunteers descend on New Orleans City Park for a “Super Saturday” of work. These special people come from neighborhood associations, school service groups, civic organizations or on their own. They rake and mulch, pick up trash, and weed the immense gardens. These simple tasks help the park stay beautiful, despite zero funding from the city. My daughter-in-law’s parents are educators in New Jersey. When their third grandchild was diagnosed with autism, they created a basketball tournament to raise awareness of autism, and funds for autism research and support. Schools from throughout the area compete in the tournament. Adults and children sport “Hoops for Autism” T-shirts, and cheer on their home teams. This simple idea has raised thousands of dollars for autism and educated many. These grandparents are my superheroes. I’ve watched the seeds of superhero-ism sprout in the young children who collect pennies for Lymphoma and Leukemia research because a classmate is ill or sell candy so their schools can pay for new playground equipment. I was dumbstruck by the Junior League of New Orleans’s efforts to send nearly half a million baby diapers to Denham Springs after the summer flood. I’ve watched Hogs for the Cause grow from a group of buddies hosting a bar-b-que to help a single friend pay for his child’s medical bills into one of the top food festivals in the country, raising millions of dollars for pediatric brain cancer patients. I’ve watched superheroes in this city work every day in myriad creative, generous, heart-melting ways. And I have seen us all grow better and stronger because of these incredible acts of love and charity. So, think about how you, your children and grandchildren can be superheroes in your own community. Then go out and do it. Never mind that you can’t fly. Because in these simple, everyday acts, you will soar to heights you could never imagine. Laura Claverie is a grandmother to two wonderful grandchildren, Rylan and Amelia. She lives in the Garden District.