Why Superman?

I am often asked about the “Superman” thing.  The basic assumptions are that I either think I’m Superman or that I’m a comic book nerd – neither of which are true.

The real story?

When I was in college, one of my jobs was to work the national finals for the Special Olympics. While there, I met a little boy named Eddie. He was wheelchair-bound from birth due to a multitude of illnesses. Although he was in a wheelchair and never able to walk, let alone run, he was a huge track and field fan. He was also an enormous fan of Superman. He always had something Superman-related on him or with him. Action figures, shirts, hats.  You name it, he had it.

We became close friends over the short period of time that I knew him. His family would come to see me run at track meets – always with him in tow. Whenever my races didn’t go as planned and my performance was in question, Eddie would hand me one of his Superman action figures and tell me that LSU for example, was my “kryptonite”.

One day after returning from a track meet I called Eddie’s dad to see how he was doing. By the end of the conversation I was told that Eddie didn’t have long to live and wouldn’t be traveling to see my run.

From that point on, I would wear a Superman t-shirt when getting in the blocks for a race, hoping my friend would see that I was thinking of him. Or, at least, that I was with him in spirit.

After he passed at the age of 11, I still had everything he had given me – hats, action figures, t-shirts etc. I would keep some of these items with me when I’d travel and if a child was crying on a plane, for example, I’d hand him an action figure and miraculously they’d stop crying and sport a big grin on their face.

My colleagues would often ask me why I carried these trinkets with me and I’d tell them all about my friend. Over the years, I had given away (or paid forward) every gift my friend had given me. The Superman story had become something bigger than I’ll ever be and to this day, my office and home are filled with the gifts of others who have heard the story of my friend.

Superman, to me, will always be a constant reminder of my friend.  He will also always serve as a reminder to me to strive to be better than I truly am.

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