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Italian dad working in the subway shows what being a superhero is all about

pio3|Shutterstock
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Men and women with noble hearts, who love and sacrifice for others, are the real superheroes in this world.

You never know when it’s going to be your turn to take off your everyday clothes and uncover the superhero within.

Perhaps you didn’t even realize you had that hero inside you. Perhaps you don’t want to be a hero because it’s too much responsibility and too many autographs to sign. But one day it may be your turn. You may be the only one who can do something—you, the “normal” person who woke up today with bills to pay and kids to raise.

You have to put bread on the table today, like every other day. But today you’re called to make a difference in the life of a complete stranger. Maybe that’s why superheroes are (almost) always incognito. They remind us that all of us, whoever we are, are called to be superheroes sometimes.

Last December 16, a public transportation technician played the role of superhero to one person. The technician, Andrea from Milan, barely had time to realize that a girl had crossed the “no access” barrier to get down onto the tracks of the train station.

It was a matter of seconds, and at first, confusion prevailed: Jumping into the role of superhero is a lot to process. But like Spider-Man, who emerges in the nick of time to take control of a situation, Andrea rose to the occasion.

Andrea saw the lights of the coming train still stopped to let passengers get off at the previous station, which was luckily very close by. He made a split-second decision, as he told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera:

“The train was at the end of the tunnel and she was on the tracks. I kept looking at one and the other to calculate how much time I had left … I thought it wasn’t safe to cut the power while the train was running: what if the vehicle kept moving by inertia? The stop before, Amendola, is nearby. From the tunnel I could see that the train was still stopped to pick up the passengers.”

He seized his moment: He yelled at the girl not to move, broke the glass, and activated the emergency switch. Then, having avoided the worst, he got down on the tracks and took the teenager to safety on the platform.

Just like in the best Marvel movies, Andrea didn’t stop for applause and honors from the crowd. He simply took the young woman to a nearby café to talk to her and give her his phone number in case of problems. He took off his metaphorical Spider-Man uniform and put on his hat as a dad: the role of a real superhero who takes off his mask.

“She must have been 17,” Andrea told the newspaper. “She could have been one of my twins.”

Knowing how to be a father, to be one all the time, to look at others with a protective gaze that goes beyond the bond of blood, knowing that everyone is someone’s child, wishing we could always be there to be a superhero—being this kind of father is a vocation touched with the supernatural.

Let’s be careful not to back out when it’s our turn. We spend our lives telling each other “how great it would be if …” and then, when the moment comes when we could make a difference, we’re afraid or not ready. “Me? Right now?” we ask. Maybe we think we aren’t up to it, with our normal lives, our days all the same, our reflexes (especially those of the heart) clouded by routine.

And yet, seeing the needs of others, taking the trouble to get down onto the rails at their level to help them climb up, is the greatest superpower we are endowed with. We don’t have to be biological fathers to understand how to do it. But it may be necessary for us to recognize ourselves as children who have experienced the love of a Father who is always there for us, even (and especially) in dark moments.

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