Wow! What a difference a week makes. I just returned from my first cruise ever. More amazing than that, my husband and I survived 15+ hours of plane travel with three young children. One of those children being a 20-month-old with a cold. It’s one of those experiences that you would put on your Mom resume if such a thing existed: Kept a cheerful disposition and patience under physical and emotional duress including, but not limited to, incessant screaming, clawing at the face, smacking, kicking, tears, and general tantrums.
It was all worth it though for the wonderful memories that were had with my husband’s family. With family all over the United States, it’s a rarity to all be together at the same place and time. Heck, it was a rarity for us to all be in the same place and the same time on the ship. They keep you so busy with activities. One of my favorite portions of the cruise though were the nightly shows.
On our second night on the boat, they had this live show called Villain’s Tonight! featuring Disney villains in a comedic revue-style performance. It wasn’t my favorite of the stage performances we saw, but it had this line that struck me as poignant.
“Every story needs a villain or else the hero has nothing to do.”
Through my understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I have always understood that there must needs be opposition in all things. This understanding has helped me to cope with bad things happening to good people. Certainly, I am not wishing the worst of “villains” into anyone’s life. I am more focused on the latter part of the line. Opposition gives us something to do. It gives us the opportunity to shine.
I didn’t feel like a hero at the end of our travels yesterday. I felt completely depleted and defeated. The flight on the way to our cruise was no different. One of my son’s fits on that journey literally left me in tears. But I survived both of these days of travel with little regrets on my own behavior. I actually was laughing at the end of the final flight where my son screamed from the depths of his bowels for the final 35 minutes of a two hour flight on a puddle jumper sized plane. I actually felt that I handled it as gracefully as I could considering the circumstances. I don’t consider my son a villain, but rather the situation as being the villain. And while I may have felt physically and emotionally spent, I was in fact a hero in that situation and my husband my trusty side-kick.
For years, I have been my own villain. There was a hero within me hoping to do something beyond the mundane. The problem though is that I let my internal villain convince the internal hero that there was nothing to do. That’s a pretty convincing villain. The worst thing you could feel is apathy. Even anger can have a more positive impact than apathy in some cases. While I have no concept of what pains African Americans have suffered throughout history, I imagine anger might have been one of the emotions Rosa Parks felt that day she refused to give up her seat on a bus in 1955. Being fed up with the unequal treatment and taking action is what led her to become an icon in the civil rights movement. The villain in her story was prejudices and she did something to become the hero.
The Villains Tonight! quote made me want to share the insight I had on looking at opposition as an opportunity to do something good, to be something better, to bring more light into the world.
As I type this post, I’m reminded of another hero; my nephew, Johnny. He is a hero to me and so many others. He is the unfailing hero in his own story. He was born with Down Syndrome. One of the biggest obstacles he has faced as a result of this genetic disorder is poor muscle tone. Typical physical milestones were not met at the customary age for an infant and toddler. But you know what? My precious nephew has officially seen the rewards of his heroic efforts. He took his first unassisted steps last week during the same week that he celebrated his second birthday. Such an example to us all of what we can accomplish when we do something and push ourselves forward. He endured countless hours of physical therapy and worked his way up to this milestone with the undying love and support of his parents, nanny, and so many others. His parents, my brother and his wife, are also heroes to me. They felt, what I am told is, the common mourning process of realizing that their child will not be typical only to find that the joy of being a parent to a child with Down Syndrome is a blessing beyond words. They have given so much of themselves physically and emotionally into my sweet little nephew. They are reaping all the rewards that come from being selfless; from being a hero. They have this happy little face enriching their lives daily.
The villains in our lives do not take the form of a monstrous lady octopus or a crazed witch offering us an apple in a dark forest. Our villains are the daily opposition we face in its most tumultuous and simplest forms. Real life villains come in the form of illnesses needing to be fought, bills needing to be paid, addictions needing to be broken, hearts needing to be mended, responsibilities needing to be met, dreams needing to be obtained, children needing our patience and countless more. We have the opportunity to be the hero and to do something good rather than nothing. I am choosing to be the hero in my own story just as my nephew has chosen to do so in his.
As a footnote, this month is Down Syndrome Awareness Month. If you have the means to do so, I invite you to visit the National Down Syndrome Society’s website and donate to the cause.