What is it to be a hero?
Do you need to be like Superman, who has for 75 years, been “faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound”?
For most people, Superman became the measuring stick on what a hero is and was.
Again, to be a hero, do you need to be “faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound”?
I believe that throughout history, the world has seen many heroes, some of which remain anonymous and some have chosen to live their life in the spotlight.
Many people have played Superman in all forms of media throughout the years, but I would strongly argue that the most famous of them is Christopher Reeve. Sorry Henry Cavill, you’re just not on the same level. It has been nearly 40 years since Christopher Reeve has squeezed into the Red and Blue tights. I mean, I wasn’t even on this planet when the first movie debut.
Unlike now, where superhero movies are a dime a dozen, Christopher Reeve played Superman when the last thing that people wanted was to see a man parade around in a skin-tight outfit, in an attempt to:
- Not be arrested for a little too much cuppage around his groin
- Thwart criminals wherever they roamed
- Convince us he was flying
- Show us that he was physically superior to you and I while being no bigger than a normal man
His story is fairly well-known at this point.
He was a young actor, who at the age of 26 auditioned for the part of Superman. Throughout his auditioning, he was denied the role 3 times. While the producers felt that he was tall enough and had more than enough handsome features, it was his build that they couldn’t get over. You see, he and I are plagued by the same thing. We are both good looking guys, stuck in a broomstick body.
He spent 2 months putting on muscle and as they say, “The rest is history.”
This article doesn’t aim to talk about his performance as Superman, nor does it aim to glorify him as the best Superman that audiences have seen. It does not talk about his time with terminally ill children through the Make-A-Wish Foundation or his time as an Ambassador for the Special Olympics (although I feel like I just did). While all great moments in life, what I want to focus on is what he did after he played Superman.
It is well-known that Christopher Reeve, in the prime of his career, was out riding a horse, when he was thrown off. When he landed, he landed head first, shattering the first and second vertebrae in his neck. This accident left his skull and neck in a state of disconnect.
He was paralyzed from the neck down.
He would spend the next while fighting for his life and at one point, he looked over at his wife and uttered the words “Maybe we should let me go.”
He would eventually undergo a “successful” surgery and be cleared to go home, but not before an old friend of his decided to play a prank on him. Robin Williams, determined to bring up the mood in the room, would dress as a surgeon, talk in a Russian accent and proclaim that he was here to give a rectal exam. At that exact moment, Reeve knew that everything would be all right.
Upon clearance, Reeve would be confined to a wheelchair and have to be on a ventilator for the rest of his life.
To most, this would be crushing.
Reeve understood this differently. He turned his negative situation into a positive situation and became something bigger. He would be elected Chairman of the American Paralysis Association and Vice Chairman of the National Organization on Disability.
He then co-founded the Reeve-Irvine Research Center, which has become one of the leading spinal cord centers on the planet. He would create the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation to quicken the required research through various forms of funding as well as use grants to improve the life of people living with disabilities.
The Foundation has been involved with a new technology known as “Locomotor Training”. Locomotor Training is a type of rehabilitation that utilizes treadmills to mimic the movement of walking, thus helping to develop neural connections within the patient’s body. Simply said, it reteaches the spinal cords how to send signals to the legs so that they may move again. This technology has aided many once disabled people in walking again.
In 2002, another center was opened in his name. This time, New Jersey would house the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Resource Center, which would teach paralyzed people to once again live independently.
Reeve would spend the better part of his after Superman life as an advocate for Spinal Research and those with Disabilities.
He would continue to fight until October 2004 when he would succumb to his own battle.
If we can learn anything from Christopher Reeve, it is that we don’t need to be Superman to be a hero. We don’t need to be “faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound” What we need to do is to have a mission in life. We need to take that mission and keep it at the forefront of our thoughts and do whatever it takes to make it come true.
Like Christopher Reeve, we all have the power to create monumental change in the world and it does not take being a larger than life hero to make it happen.
Whatever thought you are thinking or however you plan to make a change, do it and do it with everything you have.
“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.”
Christopher Reeve (1952-2004)