With all the recent hysteria around superhero movies, I cannot help but wonder what the fascination is with this genre. What draws us to relate to these characters? American Mythologist Joseph Campbell would point us to what he calls the “monomyth” or “the hero’s journey”— a universal pattern he finds in all narratives from around the world. The definitive story is this: a hero goes on an adventure and, in a decisive crisis, wins a victory and comes home changed or transformed. As revealed in mankind’s myths and fables, it seems the human psyche inherently knows that each of us is on our own adventure and will inevitably be faced with a decisive crisis that will either ruin or shape us, and that we will come home from our journey transformed—for better or for worse.
At Westhab, many of our clients have either grown up or spent years in a decisive crisis—to the point where victory seems lost. The closest thing to a hero in their lives may truly be found only on the movie screen in the form of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, or the Avengers. It is estimated that on any given night in 2017, 89,503 New Yorkers were experiencing homelessness, including 16,297 families, 1,244 veterans, 6,578 chronically homeless, and 2,829 young adults.* Consider that for a moment: there are 89,503 individuals who experience a state of homelessness every night in New York State. At Westhab, we work to provide permanent housing and supportive services to people experiencing homelessness throughout Westchester County and in New York City.
As a housing retention specialist at Westhab, sometimes I feel a little bit like a superhero. (And not just because I’ve been told that I look like Clark Kent.) But the truth is that I can’t leap tall buildings in a single bound, and I can’t change my clients’ lives. Because I am not the hero in my clients’ journey—they are. But I do have the privilege almost every day to be a supporting character, and to help ensure that, whatever crisis my clients’ may be facing, that they have a fighting chance to win the victory.
This is why I look forward to coming to work each morning—because Westhab’s impact is meaningful and lasting. I cannot tell you how many of my clients have reinvigorated my zeal by sharing that my influence on their lives was not in vain. And I know that I am not the only one to receive such appreciation. The reality is that our enchantment with heroism is due to an innate desire within each of us to create a positive impact. I assure you that this is indeed a possibility for all of us.
Whatever your journey, know that you have the power to influence someone today. We might not wear capes, but heroism is not defined by capes or masks, but rather by courage, humility, love, perseverance, and sacrifice. As Superman himself Christopher Reeve said, “A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.”
So, will you be a hero today?
*Source: State and Data Contacts Map