Originally posted: http://www.sccougar.com/features/superheroes-anonymous-1.1595742
How Costumed, Creative Altruism is Sweeping the Nation
Published: Monday, September 13, 2010
Updated: Monday, September 13, 2010 19:09
By Matthew Weitkamp
It’s late in New York City. Darkness has fallen and roaming the streets are the downtrodden and forgotten: Homeless men and women, starving and alone, cry out for hope. Their cries are being answered in the form of a masked man who stalks the streets with food and water, swooping in to help save these poor souls from a horrible fate. It’s late in New York City, and a superhero is saving the day.
A new wave of charity is sweeping across the landscape of our Nation. Costumed, creative altruism has set its roots. There is no ‘Justice League’ or ‘Avengers’ group, however. There is no centralized organization where the heroes meet to plan their war on crime. Across the country there are as many as 300 costumed heroes, all unconnected with one another. But individually they are still pushing past a skeptical society; one that is wary of their intentions.
New York is home to one such hero, “Life”, who walks the streets with determination to make the world better, and leave it better than how he found it. Born into a Hasidic Jewish family, Chaim (which is Hebrew for Life) took the teachings of his father, a Rabbi, to heart. When a person has something to give, regardless of how little, you must give to those who need it more than you.
“My family taught me that charity and helping other people isn’t optional. There are horrible, horrible injustices in the world and if you can do something, even a little, to make things better then you should.” Chaim has taken a piece of his Jewish faith, that charity is compulsory, and turned that into one of the code of ethics for Real Life Superheroes.
Life, a co-founding member of the Not-For-Profit organization, Superheroes Anonymous, is not the same kind of hero you’ll find in the pages of Batman or Spider-man. He doesn’t beat up thugs or commit vigilante justice. Instead, Life uses his time to help the homeless and inspire others through his actions. “I’m a realist. I’m a grounded person, as much as a man who wears a mask is a realist.”
Every night Life takes a backpack filled with necessity items with him out onto the streets. He gives bottled water, candy bars, tooth brushes, and a listening ear to all the homeless he meets. Everything Life gives he buys himself; a personal investment financially in his own desire to change the world. An expensive proposition, when you think about it. But for Life, that investment is worth it.
Life says he’s often asked why he wears a costume. Plenty of people can perform charity without dressing up or wearing a mask – so why does he? “Like a police officer, firemen […] even a business man: It’s a uniform … [you] feel like you stand for something. You wear the costume and you feel like a superhero”
“A costume draws attention to yourself,” explains Life, on why the costume is necessary, “and gets people to notice you.”
People can be inspired to do charity, Life says, when they see a mask or a cape. “You don’t have to be Batman and take down huge criminals or stop a war.” He says it’s all about what each of us can do, today, to make a difference.
“Start small, start realistically. What do you have the time and resources to do? … I get (emails for advice) all the time. They always have big goals. ‘I want to do this and that – I want to clean up my city of crime’. And I go ‘ok, but you don’t have the power to do that right now? What can you do, now, that’s small?’ You have to start small and be realistic.”
And how long will Life continue to be a Superhero? He admits that, while he won’t hang up his mask anytime soon, his role as a superhero might change over time. “I see Superheroes Anonymous becoming a Not-For-Profit organization that supports real life superheroes […] I won’t ever stop doing charity work. If it means being behind a desk instead of on the street, then charities will need that too.”
His outfit, like his attitude, shows just how adult Life is. Chaim doesn’t wear a cape or a cowl – he wears a tie and a Fedora. He’s a professional, working on the streets of New York City, presenting himself as a man who takes that one step further. Should Life ever need to take on a new role of heroism, like that of an executive for his organization, he feels all he would have to do is take the mask off. The rest of his outfit is professional.
The choice to become a superhero is not exclusive to Life in this country, but his is an example of creative altruism at its finest. Like-minded citizens all across the country are doing their part, too. Heroes like Citizen Prime, from Florida, who works to establish more homes for orphaned youths, stand as beacons for men and women looking to take on a new role in the protection of American’s from social injustice. These superheroes are real, walking the streets as an Iconic symbol for a better world. Life stresses that even though they might look odd or different, they’re a necessity.
“As long as you find people in need, you’ll have a need for superheroes.”