Archive for June, 2020



(Originally published in June, 2008)

I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was about 10.

I lost my faith in the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy around the same time.

But I never stopped believing in Superman. How could I? He lived in my house.

The Superman under my roof didn’t wear a red cape and boots. On most days I’d spy him in a white shirt and a tie, carrying a briefcase out the door before anyone else in the house was even out of their slippers.

I always suspected he was Superman because he fit the description so well. He was the fastest person I knew. I raced him on countless occasions and never came close to catching him except for the times he let me win.

As for strength, he was liable to swoop me off the ground at any time and lift me high enough to touch my back to the ceiling.

And I know he had some kind of x-ray vision because he always knew when I was telling the truth – and when I wasn’t.

He could fix any break, kill any spider and win any game. He possessed enough smarts to teach me math and enough patience to teach me how to hit a baseball.

And within the thick, brown leather belt he wore on most days, he held the power of motivation. I can count on one hand the number of time he used it for anything besides securing his pants. But I never, ever forgot it was there.

He also held the power to take away my Big Wheel, my bike and later, my car keys.

As I began making friends, I discovered a secret. They lived with Superman, too. All of my friends swore they did.

My dad owns a grocery store. 

My dad’s a heart surgeon. 

My dad played football in college. 

The boasts were big and they were sincere. Superman lived in everyone’s house, apparently. Secretly, though, I knew the real Superman lived in mine.

I didn’t hold that conviction forever, of course. Neither did my friends. By the time we were adolescents, the hero of our stories had become us.

There is nothing maudlin here. Dads can’t be Superman forever. Children grow up and parents grow old. It has always been that way. It’s supposed to be that way.

But we suspend those rules on special occasions, don’t we?

I used to rail against Father’s Day for being artificial; it was probably the brainchild of some greeting card company marketing executive, right?

But Father’s Day isn’t really about the cards. It’s about putting the red cape back on Dad’s shoulders.

My dad is in his mid-60s now and so most of the Superman claims I used to make about him have ceased to be true.

He’s not the fastest guy on the block anymore; if we were to race again, I’d probably win nine out of 10. OK, maybe six out of 10.

He’s still strong, but not strong enough to lift me to the ceiling. That’s a treat now reserved for his grandkids – the smallest of them, anyway.

He’s not Superman in the way the comic books describe Superman. From the vantage of age and experience, I understand that he never was.

But the point is, I believed he was once. He knew it, too. So did your dad. Most dads do – and they accept that responsibility.

They try to live up to the impossible standard of Superman.

Forget the kryptonite of fatigue and financial responsibility. Forget the demanding boss and the need to hang out with the guys.

The best dads give it all up to play Superman as long as their children are willing to believe. Longer, actually.

Eventually, they all hang up their capes, but there’s a special strength to be found in that surrender, as well.

A father myself, I’m now the one trying to impersonate Superman. Like most dads, I fall on this side of Clark Kent most of the time.

But retired supermen make great advocates for weary fathers. “No dad is perfect,” they will tell you. “But children are able and eager to find the superhero behind the mask.”

There’s powerful encouragement in that advice. It’s more powerful than a locomotive.

I guess that’s a superpower dads keep for life.



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It is no secret that human beings determine value through limitation. Advertisers have utilized the principle for decades, luring consumers with “limited supplies” and “limited time offers.”

Economists live by this principle as well. The law of supply and demand means as much to the investor as the law of gravity does to the rocket scientist. We all experienced it this spring, when suddenly people were standing in line to pay double or triple for a few rolls of toilet paper.

We value that which is in limited supply. Or, rather, we value that which we recognize to be in limited supply. It can be confusing.

Time, for example, may be our most precious commodity. But it is abstract. We can’t put it in our pocket or deposit it into our bank account. We only acknowledge it as a commodity when it runs short.

When I was a boy, my dad told me that nothing is more valuable than time because it is limited and also (most importantly) because it is non-renewable. Bob Dylan, in one of his more playful songs, once sang, “Odds and ends, odds and ends. Lost time is not found again.” Dad and Dylan are right, of course. We all know this intuitively. But out here in the real world, we live as though we have forgotten.

Reminders come occasionally, and usually, they are carried on a tide of great loss.

Even as I write this, my wife is probably saying goodbye to her mother for the last time. She drove to northeastern Oklahoma two weeks ago because her 91-year-old mom is dying. When she got the call from her older sister that prompted the trip, it did not matter to my wife that she had seen her just months before, or that her mom might not even recognize her when she arrived.

She decided to drop everything and go because she knew that her mother’s time on this earth was running out. More to the point, the time she had left to spend with her mom – to say what she wanted to say and share what she wanted to share – was nearly gone.

Limitation teaches us what is valuable. The first cookie out of the bag is good, but we don’t savor it the way we savor the last one. As a child, I habitually lavished long stretches of summer days doing next to nothing, only to cram the final week leading up to school with as many trips to the mall and to the beach as I could.

There is a paradox in all of this, though.

We value what is limited: Money, time, even toilet paper. However, is this principle exclusively true, or just a trick of perspective and faulty measurement?

The principle of scarcity teaches us to chase after and safeguard that which we perceive to be limited – at least the tangible commodities. For intangible commodities like time, we can only lament their loss.

However, isn’t it true that the genuinely valuable things in life are both infinite and unlimited? Love, compassion, empathy, kindness, faithfulness, forgiveness. There are no limits to any of these. They are renewable. They are self-sustaining and even self-perpetuating. Loving people today actually makes it easier to love them tomorrow. And if that love is reciprocated, the capacity to love grows exponentially on both sides of the exchange. Show people kindness and empathy and more often than not your kindness and empathy are reflected, even multiplied.

If any limits are attached to these virtues, they are self-imposed; removing them is always a choice.

We are powerless to control the limitation placed on the commodities we universally value. All the planning and hoarding … all the scheming and saving are busywork we give ourselves as a paper shield against fear.

All the while, in the choice to exercise our most noble virtues, we hold within us a never-ending, exponentially multiplying trove of treasure. It is limitless in both volume and in its potential for good in this world.

To unleash this treasure, we need only to teach ourselves to think differently about what is valuable and why.

Diamonds are valuable because they are rare. Oxygen, on the other hand, is everywhere.

If you could only have one, which would you choose?

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