So, today at the waterpark, there was a little boy didn’t want to go in the water for whatever reason, and so he just kind of chilled in one of the reclining pool chairs with his grandma, watching his friends or relatives or whatever playing around.
I thought it was kind of sad and adorable, but didn’t give it too much thought until I passed by him sometime later and saw him talking to a Captain America stuffed doll.
I paused, contained the squee threatening to come out of me, and leaned over to talk to him.
“I see you’re not playing in the water, is Cap being your buddy out here on the pool deck?”
The kid got all shy then, and just kind of shrugged his shoulders and looked down. Just as I figured it was no big deal, he said something really quietly, and I just barely heard him say, “My brother makes fun of me because I - because I’m scared to go swimming.”
Okay, so part of me died a little inside there, because, come on, that’s sad, but then I looked at the Captain America doll again and sat down on the pool chair. I was on my break, don’t judge me. Anyway, I looked at the doll, and then at the kid, and said, “You know, Captain America doesn’t like bullies. And that’s what your brother is being. Did you tell your grandma? Maybe she can talk to him.”
“She already did. He’s not going to say it anymore.”
“Well, that’s good. It’s not nice to make fun of people. Why don’t you go on in, then?”
And then this kid got even smaller, hugging Cap to his chest and saying in the quietest little voice I could barely hear in all the noise in the waterpark, “Because I’m scared.”
I wanted to hug this poor kid, only we’re not supposed to touch the patrons because people will think we’re pedophiles, so instead I just leaned in close and said, “You know what Captain America would say about that?”
“He’d say that being brave, and being a superhero, isn’t about not being afraid. It’s about facing your fear and becoming better than it.”
I think I blew this kid’s mind right then, because he just looked at me with the cutest big eyes and his mouth open in understanding. And then I was like, “If you’d like, we can get you a lifejacket - it will help you swim and keep you safe, just like Captain America’s shield keeps him safe!”
I could have died from the look of joy on this kid’s face. Ten minutes later, he was splashing and laughing and having fun with the rest of his group, and Cap was sitting pretty next to an amused and relieved Grandma, who couldn’t seem to thank me enough.
Whoever said comic book superheros have never made a difference in the real world doesn’t know what they are talking about.