If you wish to succeed in life, make perseverance your bosom friend, experience your wise counselor, caution your elder brother, and hope your guardian genius.
Six years. I’ve been doing this for over six years now: feeding and clothing people without homes, walking the streets on the weekends to help others get home safely, picking up garbage and used needles, teaching free self-defense and emergency prep classes, and a myriad of other deeds that those in their right minds would eschew for more practical purposes.
And not a day goes by that I haven’t considered quitting.
Logically, I’m either very stubborn, a glutton for punishment, or just batshit crazy. I’d like to think that it’s the former, but realistically, it’s probably closer to the latter. A little from column A, a little from column B … Whatever the reasons, I’m still here, and to quote Sir Paul McCartney, “It’s getting better all the time.”
This Real-Life Superhero life that I try to lead is not a glamour gig, and that’s the important thing for new RLSH to remember and ponder every freaking day. This ain’t the Marvel Universe, kids. You don’t get to hang out with Spidey and Cap, and no one’s gonna show up at your door with funds for your supersuit. Moreover, like I said in my *book, if you get into this hoping that you can save someone’s life and therefore be the hero, you are actually hoping for someone to have, quite possibly, the worst day of their life just so you can show up at the right time and “rescue” them.
Read that again. And get your head right.
I won’t go into the pros and cons of patrolling the streets in a costume; I’m saving the subject of patrolling for another article (or you can just read my book). I will say that there’s nothing wrong with wanting to help others make it home safely at night, and wearing the costume works for some groups (like the XJL). I will also say that, as someone who patrols on both foot and motorcycle, for affecting a larger number of people in a shorter amount of time, the big score is always gonna be the homeless outreach event. Never think of an outreach event as a lesser service than a foot patrol. Believe it or not, there are those who do.
But distributing survival essentials to the homeless … that’s not what you pictured yourself doing, right?
I know, I know. Like those who watch too many superhero movies are wont to do, you see yourself in a super-cool, super-protective getup, walking slow-mo, or moving ninja-like through the darkness, being someone’s Dark Knight, at just the right time and place. Then posing for the media as they swarm you for a photo and an origin story.
Like I said, “glamour gig.”
Well, I’m here to tell you to WAKE THE —- UP! Look at the first two letters of that “RLSH” that you’ve added to your Facebook name. That’s right, they stand for “Real Life,” and real life means work. If all you’ve seen in your search for other RLSH is a bunch of photos of people shooting selfies in bathrooms and basements, you’re looking to the wrong people as examples.
Instead, when considering your RLSH examples/mentors/heroes, ask yourself if they are:
- consistent – how often are they OUT THERE ACTUALLY SERVING THE COMMUNITY?
- drama-free – do they spread negativity, talk shit about others, spend more time trash-talking than working? You’re smart. Do the math.
- encouraging and positive – do they uplift others? Celebrate other’s accomplishments?
- willing to learn – do they look to work with others, or do they think they know enough?
There are hundreds of RLSH, but only a dozen or two that fit the descriptives above. Find them and listen, listen, listen. Ask questions, and then become your own hero.
But since the topic of this post is perseverance, consider this –
You’ll probably be alone for a while. When you finally do get fellow teammates, they may not stay. The Facebook community will eventually piss you off. You might go broke. You may not find time to live your life, much less hit the streets to assist others. All your good deeds will probably go unnoticed. That doesn’t sound very appealing, does it?
But life isn’t easy and if you truly wish to become more than you are right now, you’d better start regarding life as a classroom – SHOW UP, listen, learn, and do your own homework. Then come back tomorrow and do it all again. Trust me, this is how you’ll get to that point where this RLSHing does become its own reward. You’ll have your own pattern down because you’ll know your strengths and your limitations, you’ll know where to turn to for advice, you’ll have your “regulars” in town who know and appreciate your service, and you may even get noticed by the media. Then your story can get shared with a greater audience who’ll look to you as inspiration to start down their own RLSH path.
All of these wonderful things may or may not happen, but how will you know if you throw in the towel every time the going gets rough? Think about why you’re doing this in the first place and then decide if you’re one of the “tough” ones. If you’re reading this, you probably are.
Just keep walking the walk; you’ll see that the trash-talk is for those who don’t have much to show for anything.
And if you’re a “seasoned” RLSH (meaning that you’ve been around the RLSH community for over a year) and you’re already feeling the desire to toss in the cape, please reconsider. Living the RLSH life doesn’t require ALL your free time, or even a great part of it. In our Superheroines Initiative group, all that’s required is the desire to be a good and decent person and to devote three hours to community service each month. Have you picked up garbage around your neighborhood? That’s community service. Read a book to a child? Helped a neighbor carry groceries? Also community service.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, sure, step back, reassess. Remember what I said about knowing your limitations? This is what I speak of. Self care should come before superheroing. Who’s your superhero? Burned-out RLSH aren’t as effective as those who’ve balanced their time, energy, and health. Think marathon, not sprint.
Speaking of glamour gigs, I’ve gotta go. We’ve got our third annual Valentine’s Weekend outreach today and I’ve got 200 burritos to make, a wagon to load, a kid to gear up, and breakfast to prepare. I know! Glamorous, right? Eh, whatever. As long as someone’s getting some hope back in their day, it feels pretty glamorous to me.
Plus, I get to wear a cape. That alone is worth all the trouble.
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