There are few times that an entire city comes together. When asked to think of a city or country uniting, it usually brings up images of facing adversity. 9/11. The Boston Marathon bombings. Hurricane Katrina. Superstorm Sandy. These tragedies brought us together as people in ways that stick in our minds forever.
Traumatic events force us to look at our own lives, appreciate what we have, and want to help those touched by what has happened. Is this sense of community only created by negative events?
I witnessed such a gathering this past Friday. Not as a result of tragedy, but of triumph and celebration.
My city transformed from San Francisco into Gotham City for a 5 year old boy named Miles Scott. If you’re reading this and haven’t heard his story, you probably live under a rock…but here’s a recap anyway!
Miles has been battling leukemia for most of his little life. 3 years, to be exact. He’s now in remission…and hopefully he stays that way! During his treatment, he told the Make-A-Wish foundation that he wanted to be Batman. Looking forward to being Batman helped give him hope for the future and fight off the cancer.
You see, for a kid who can only remember feeling sick, fighting, and struggling, the idea of something to look forward to can mean everything. To look forward and believe you have a future worth fighting for can give you an energy boost. And this boy’s boost was Batman.
Research has shown that mental imagery has a huge impact on the health of those who are fighting chronic disease. Imagining that you’re strong, in charge, and a survivor (all qualities of a superhero) can cause you to actually be those things. I mean, look at Miles in the photo above. He could take anything on, couldn’t he?
…Even a crowd of thousands upon thousands of people, cheering for him.
Unfortunately, I was unable to make it to any of the Batkid events, due to previous appointments…but I am kicking myself for not cancelling and going to see this outpouring of support.
From what I’ve heard, Miles was shy and a bit overwhelmed at the start of the day. Who wouldn’t, if they had never seen what 10,000 people look like and all of a sudden you’re surrounded…and they all know your name…and are looking at you?
By the end of the day though, he had gotten somewhat used to it and was taking on villains like the Riddler and the Penguin. Two major villains in one day! He saved Gotham, rescued a damsel in distress, stopped a bank robbery, and save the SF Giants mascot, Lou the Seal. And at the end of it all, he had a huge smile on his face.
This is a day this boy will never forget. And if someday he has to fight off bullies, or stress, or (god forbid) cancer again, he will have this memory to pull strength from and believe that he is Batman. That is something no one can take away from him.
In fact, the entire city of San Francisco (hell, the entire SF Bay Area and beyond) were there to help create this memory for him. Rather than coming together in tragedy, we came together in support and hope that Miles will never have to face something like this again. In celebration of his remission, and to help him keep fighting to keep his immune system strong.
It was incredibly moving to see my city do what it did for one boy. He was our hero for a day. I’d gladly see it done for any other child in need of some hope. Patricia Wilson, an executive at Make-A-Wish has said that as far as she’s concerned, every child facing a life-threatening condition is a superhero to her.
I hope that more children get the chance to feel like a hero.
I’d love to be out there for Thorkid or Captain Amerikid.