The kids and I are on a packed commuter train at 8:27 a.m.
We’re standing, of course, because it’s a Monday morning and everyone has to get to work on time on a Monday. By Friday they won’t care as much and the train will be less crowded.
I’m wearing my son’s backpack because 2nd grade homework is HEAVY and holding my own backpack with my left hand. With my right hand I’m holding onto one of the vertical bars to keep my balance as the train stops and starts.
The kids are clustered next to me attempting whatever movement they can get away with in a packed train car without getting the death glare from yours truly.
You might not know this, but packed trains get hot. Hot trains mean people start sweating. Sweaty people mean the train car is going to smell. Smelly train cars mean one of my children is going to loudly mention the train car STINKS while demonstrating its stinkiness by plugging their nose and gesturing wildly.
Despite all the people, the train is pretty quiet. No one talks to the strangers they see every day. Earbuds are in. Newspapers are read. Social media is given its likes, loves and shares. There’s a middle-aged man playing Pokémon Go on his phone. The young guy in a suit is eating his second apple. I know it’s his second because I saw him put the core of the first one in his pocket.
Without an inkling of warning, my 7-year-old stops poking his sister on the sleeve, looks up at me and says, “Mom, I think every person has a superpower. They just might not know it yet because it’s way deep down inside them.” He points to his belly as he says this. Then he continues,“They need to believe in themselves so it can come out, you know?”
Kids always pick the best moments for a deep conversation, don’t they?
My son, with the innocence of youth, was initially talking about comic book superhero-type powers. I didn’t want to crush his dreams because I too think it would solve a lot of problems if we could teleport and this world needs people who dream big.
However, he had voiced a truth so profound that I wanted to connect his insight to something tangible in the here and now.
So we talked about what everyday superpowers might look like: generosity, kindness, perseverance, listening, teaching, empathy, standing up to bullies.
We talked about his best friend in Georgia who can run really fast. That’s a pretty cool superpower, but it’s what he does with his superpower that makes it special. He encourages others on his track team to run fast too. To not give up. To finish the race even when they are tired. This friend is using his superpower for good when he could just as easily use it for evil with arrogance and conceit.
Then just like that it was 8:32 a.m. and the train pulled up to our station. Happy to have arrived at our destination, we fought our way out against the tide of people rushing in.
Then my 7-year-old, gesturing in general to the outdoors, said the second most profound thing of the morning.
“It sure smells better out here.”
P.S. If there is someone out there that doesn’t believe they have a superpower – that they can shine in some way in their lives – I’d be happy to introduce them to my 7-year-old. He’ll remind them that way down deep they certainly do.