Heart of a Hero
One of the most compelling aspects of working in grief and bereavement is the opportunity to witness the amazing transformations people undergo in their journeys. They become advocates, champions, educators . . . the most difficult experiences of their lives lead them to do things they never would have considered before. While the pain that inspires this change is something I wouldn't wish on anyone, it creates lives of stunning beauty and clarity.
At a memorial celebration for a four-year-old girl, Ellie, I had the honor of seeing the man behind Heart of a Hero in action. Heart of a Hero is a nonprofit organization that inspires, motivates, and empowers children who need it most. Ricky Mena, who dresses as Spider-Man and visits children in hospitals, told the story of the dream he had of his deceased grandmother showing him visiting children in hospitals as Spider-Man.
So he made that happen. He has visited more than 8,300 children since October 2014.
Heart of a Hero audience
He was raw and unscripted. He spoke from his heart. It was plain to see that this wasn't work for him - it was a calling and an honor.
He talked about one of the most frequent questions he receives about his work: How can any good come from the suffering or death of a child? How is that possible?
It comes back to this: we are all here to teach one another and learn from one another. Some of those ways are painful, some are joyful. The things we learn from children who live in hospitals, have had umpteen surgeries, and undergo chemotherapy are important because they show us how to live. They silently challenge us to reevaluate what is important and why. They push us to make changes to honor those most important parts of life and decline or minimize the competition for our time.
What could be more important than connecting with someone else? Giving and receiving love? Finding joy in small things?
Yes, we need to pay bills and meet our other adult responsibilities. There is more to life than work. There is more than collecting possessions and buying a bigger house to hold them. There is more than having scads of followers on social media.
There is the opportunity to really be with someone. There is the opportunity to love, to show compassion and empathy, to offer support. We are here to connect. We are built for it, in fact. How are you embracing that?
Keywords: Heart of a Hero, Ricky Mena, Spider-Man, children, compassion, empathy, family, grief, hospital, inspire, kids, love, memorial, nonprofit, pediatric cancer
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