I love watching superhero movies. From X-Men to Spiderman, you name it, I've seen it. Multiple times. (Ok, maybe not Spiderman 2. I think we can agree we could have done without that one...) The action, the drama, the comedy, the romance - they literally have it all - but I think the main reason I love them so much is because I love watching people help people. It's so hopeful. And I get sad sometimes, so hope is nice.
I especially love it when the superheroes really aren't that super. Green Arrow, Batman, and my all-time favorite - Star Lord - they don't really have any special abilities. They just see a need and choose to fill it, not because it was fun or necessarily rewarding...it just had to be done.
The world is so full of need. I see movies like Dangerous Minds, Freedom Writers, and Precious, movies I also love, and I realize that not all heroes wear capes (or expanding vacuform helmets...). Some of our everyday heroes have day jobs that aren't so every day. We know them as teachers and social workers. I know one as a very dear friend.
I met Allison my (first) senior year of college. I needed a place to live after my Study Abroad semester, and most of my friends were graduating that year. My friend Kelly introduced me to Allison over the phone, and I was set to move in with her before I even met her in person. Kelly was sure we would hit it off, and she was right. Of course, what sealed the deal was the day I came home and offered her food. Nothing binds a friendship quite like the words, "Can I make you a sandwich?" Am I right?
It’s hard not to be friends with Allison though. She never meets a stranger. Her smile is contagious, she never forgets your birthday, and you better believe her when she says, “I’ll see you later.” Because she will. Allison is probably the only person I know that says, “We should get together soon!” and actually means it. She won’t let much time go by before asking how you are. If she is in town, she will make a point to see you. She is one of the most genuinely caring people I have ever met, and if you are lucky enough to be her friend, then you are blessed to call her a friend for life.
I lived with Allison for a year in college, and during that year we led a small group together. Every week we would meet with a group of young ladies and lead a discussion about faith and life and love and doing the right thing. We talked about the hard stuff too, the stuff that most girls (unfortunately) have to deal with at some point in their lives (#metoo), as well as the obvious things, things that are easy to say. “Love thy neighbor” and “Do unto others,” etc.
It’s the easy stuff that really gets us though, isn’t it? Because we hear them all the time and we internalize them as truth, but how many of us actually follow through? We know we are to love and make good choices, but how many people do you really love day-to-day?
I’m not sure I’ve ever known anyone to actively love the way Allison loves. She doesn’t just tell you, she shows you. She literally tries to love you however you need to be loved - whether it's a kind word or a hug or a gift - she will figure out how you like to be loved best and then she will just love the hell out of you. Like, hello poster child for the Five Love Languages.
So it wasn’t surprising when Allison chose Social Work as her major in college. Her pursuit of loving people combined with her interest in social justice made it a pretty obvious choice for her. Of course, there is a gamut of career choices when it comes to being a Social Worker, but superhero that she is, she saw a need and she chose to fill it - so she spent the next nine years after college working with childhood trauma and neglect cases, first in Birmingham, then in Nashville.
I can’t imagine the things she saw and heard. Obviously, for confidentiality reasons she could never really go into much detail about her work, but I know she saw a lot of evil out in the world. On top of that, it wan’t just a 9-5 kind of evil. In that field, you are battling it constantly. She recently wrote a blog post about the people in helping professions and how they work outrageous hours because they are the ones that help people in crisis, and crisis knows no time frame. She points out, "We are the ones who answer the phone when you are crying because your boyfriend just broke your arm, who hear the terrified four year old crying hysterically when they tell you they are hiding under the table and their dad is drunk again and beating their mom, we are the ones your children look into their eyes while they tell you that they have been raped again by (insert family name here) and no one believes them- will you?...We answer those calls, all day, all night. We go to the hospitals and sit beside you- for comfort or for suicide watch. We do it because we think that people are worth it. That people are worth fighting for and loving, and that all persons deserve to be comforted…”
But It can be debilitating to be in a helping profession when you aren’t always able to help. The system is flawed, and we end up losing the very people we need the most, due to burn-out, being under-appreciated, or being vastly underpaid. Allison writes, "I don’t know if the only thing that I feel that I am called to and that I feel I am good at is ever going to allow me to take care of myself or be able to afford a home and food. I don’t know if that is okay.“
Well, it's not okay. While Allison's mantra has always seemed to be, "If I don't do it, who will?" she also recognizes the importance of being healthy enough to help others. You know, it's like the thing they tell you in the airplane before you take off - you have to put on your mask before you can help others put theirs on. Well, as Allison puts it, "When you are constantly putting out fires, you don’t have time to take a breath of clean air for yourself.” But everybody needs air.
So after nine years, Allison decided to take a sort of sabbatical and nanny for a couple of precious babes. Now, y'all know that if caring after two newborns is a "sabbatical" we are talking about something serious. But really, it is amazing to see the sort of strength it takes for someone to step away from their calling just to make sure they stay strong enough to fulfill that calling. What she is learning, after giving herself that much needed time to breathe, is that just by being who she is, she can help people, and she can love people. “I went into social work because I love people and I want to see families succeed, and whether in a direct field as a case worker, as a nanny, or even working in a coffee shop I can do that. I can be creative in and out of a ‘work’ setting. I can love people every time I encounter someone. I am ALREADY DOING IT. I am already living the life that I crave! How can I not find gratitude in that?”
I think what I love most about Allison is that she is a lover and a fighter. There aren't many people you can say that about in equal measure. Just like the ocean she loves so much, she has both a calming and empowering effect on people, and I see her shaping the lives around her in important ways. I mean not that she’s perfect - she did once get a cell phone antenna stuck in her nose ring - but as humans go, she’s pretty amazing. And whether she chooses to keep nannying, or go back into social work, or become a painter (yet another one of her many talents), she will be using her powers for good, encouraging others and fighting for their right to be fought for. And sure, it sucks that there are villains out there to begin with, but how would we know heroism otherwise?
Just because of who Allison is, the world is a better place. I hope she recognizes that no matter where she ends up, she can say "I am me," and that is pretty damn special. And I hope you know that I see you, Allison, and I am so proud of you.
As the "I Am Me" tradition goes, please leave Allison some words of encouragement below! If she gets 20+ comments I will gift her with a free 8x10 print. Show the love, people!
Have a great week everyone!