“Mommy, if you had a superpower, it would probably be a walrus superpower. Then you could break ice with your head!”
Two things here: First, what is it about me that suggests “walrus” to my four-year-old? (And please keep any inklings to yourself, because I really don’t want to know.) Second, as long as he’s doling out superpowers, why couldn’t he grant me a more practical one?
I began to mentally form a wish list of useful superpowers—none of which, you may notice, relate in any way to walruses.
- The “prepare for Christmas in the blink of an eye” superpower.
- The “beam laundry from the dryer to the closet” superpower.
- The “instantly purge the house of clutter” superpower.
- The “quell whining with one calmly spoken word” superpower.
- The “inject everyone in the house with gusto for whatever I cook” superpower.
- The “be astonishingly organized and never procrastinate” superpower.
Caught up in the very idea, I began to make frequent mention of my superpowers. I would use my superpowers to start the van! I would use my superpowers to make a spreadsheet! I would use my superpowers to prepare lunch! Finally Ace, drained of patience, sighed. “Mommy. Mommy. You don’t need superpowers to do those things. You just use your regular powers.”
Lunch-making would be a waste of a superpower, wouldn’t it? As would everything on my wish list (with the possible exception of that whining one). All they take is regular powers and some extra effort.
So, what superpower would I actually choose, given a chance?
- The ability to assuage the pain of grieving friends.
- The ability to ease the holidays for those whose hearts have been broken.
- The ability to console those whose outlook is bleak.
And so on.
It’s Advent, the season of spiritual preparation for Christmas, the time of waiting for the coming of Christ. This first week of Advent has focused on hope. Unlike the word wish, hope indicates possibility and expectation. As Kathleen Norris wrote, “Hope has an astonishing resilience and strength. Its very persistence in our hearts indicates that it is not a tonic for wishful thinkers but the ground on which realists stand ” (Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life).
We lack the superpower to magically exterminate others’ pain, but we can use our regular powers to chisel away at it until hope begins to glimmer and gives them ground on which to stand. We can use our regular powers to relay a memory of the loved one for whom they are grieving. To bring them a meal. To pat a shoulder. To send a note. To sit in silence with them. To babysit their kids. To invite them to our home. To send a comforting poem or passage or song. To take them on an outing.
Use your regular powers to clear their path for hope. When one has hope, one can go on.
May you have hope, and offer hope, this season.