When I was little, I loved to watch Popeye the Sailor Man. There was something so good about the one-eyed spinach-eating sailor. He was gruff and marbled his raspy words. His body was disproportionate with massive forearms, and legs that bowed out in curvy clumps. He had a tattoo on his arm, a pipe in his twisted mouth, and Olive Oyl, his waif of a love interest, on his arm.
Wearing a white Navy outfit, he embodied the everyday hero. Maybe that was the draw to him. He wasn’t polished and refined like a prince. He wasn’t movie-star handsome. He didn’t speak eloquently. He ate food from a can. He was mostly bald. Occasionally, he even sported a bit of stubble as if he couldn’t bother with the vanity of beard-grooming. After all, he had bullies like Brutus to fight. In every episode, Popeye ensured that good triumphed over evil.
I grew up believing that people were good. Bad guys were just television entertainment to enforce the seemingly universal truth that we all want the same thing – for the good guy to win, order to exist, and happy endings to prevail. We certainly couldn’t accept the havoc brought by bullies such as Brutus.
Life is a lot like those Popeye cartoons I watched as a kid only without the catchy tune that bookended each episode. After all, there are a lot of everyday heroes. They may not look as obvious to us as the beloved sailor with the bulging arms. Sometimes they look like teachers diligently opening the minds and hearts of young people who will undoubtedly write the world’s future, or harried mothers sacrificing, scurrying, and surrendering to do what is the hardest and most important job they could ever have the honor of doing. Heroes are fathers brave enough to lead despite not knowing the direction to go. They are grandmothers and grandfathers whose unconditional love heals boo-boos and broken hearts. They are the truth-tellers. They are the faithful servants who show up for their neighbors. They are those who are willing to risk their lives for others. Heroes are our scout leaders, coaches, and social workers who guide, lead, counsel, and encourage. It’s anyone willing to stand up and speak out.
Even more courageous than Popeye, these heroes don’t have magical spinach or a guaranteed win. Still, they pursue goodness. Every day they show up to fight some kind of battle over the evils of apathy, ignorance, and selfishness because they know that serving others isn’t just for warriors or royalty or storybook rescuers. They know that true heroism has nothing to do with good hair and everything to do with the simple willingness to love, serve, and not count the costs.
The world is full of mean, scary bullies like Brutus. But just like I did when I was a kid, I believe good will ultimately triumph. In real life, the battle isn’t won by spinach-eating sailors, but everyday heroes.
“I yam what I yam. And that’s all that I yam,” said Popeye. And to that I would add, that’s more than enough. Be that. Be you. Be a hero.
Yesterday, I had the honor of writing letters to two young people letting them know how special they were and how much I look forward to all the light they will bring into the world. It didn’t require bulging muscles or canned spinach but it did make my heart happy to do this for them. What kindness makes you feel like a hero?
Read last week’s post here.