Gary Stallard

Gary Stallard

Batman had Robin and Alfred. Spider-Man had Andy Maguire and Ned Leeds (and Uncle Ben before he kept dying in every new version). Captain America had Bucky Barnes. Iron Man had Rhodey Rhodes. Superman had Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane.

Supergirl had ... well, she never had a real sidekick. She must be a bad, bad dudette.

All our favorite superheroes had sidekicks — or at least a pretty solid support group. I mean, every time Batman took a bat-butt-whipping, he headed straight back to Alfred in the Batcave. The old butler was pretty good at guiding the bat dude through every crisis.

That’s the thing about even the best heroes: At some point, they’ve needed a little help.

Way back in the spring, back when people were first starting to Google the definition of “pandemic,” we were in the process of discovering real superheroes right in the midst of real life. Essential workers showed up every day to make sure our lives were easier.

First responders — including firefighters, paramedics and police officers — kept wading into the firestorms to keep us safe. Medical workers, God bless them all, fought as hard as any warrior —mythical or real — to save lives.

And there were the teachers.

When semesters ended around spring break, educators everywhere suddenly had to make drastic changes in the way they delivered instruction to students, from the tiniest of children all the way up to the university levels.

As if what they were already doing wasn’t challenging enough, educators found themselves jumping through endless chains of hoops. Teaching from home sounds great until one experiences the realities of frustrated kids, exasperated parents and a world flipped upside down and inside out.

Somehow, those teachers transformed into superheroes. They were Peter Parker after the first spider bite, or Wonder Woman after the clay used to mold her dried.

The teachers were everywhere, man. They created virtual classrooms, but they also personally delivered materials to students (and the newly anointed parent/teachers) in an effort to give the kids at least a fighting chance to learn — and to experience some semblance of normalcy.

The teachers recognized the importance of stability in a child’s life, and if it meant driving through neighborhoods to show those kids things were still going to be fine, those men and women were willing to fly through walls to do so.

Yeah, buddy. They were the definition of “superhero.” I don’t know many who didn’t think of them as such.

Now, here we are in August, and it’s back-to-school time. In any year but 2020, this would be when kids would start bugging the crap out of parents for new school outfits, parents would be looking for the sales and teachers would be setting up their classrooms — all done with the excitement every new school year brings.

Not this year. When schools shut down in March, there were fewer than 100 cases of COVID-19 reported in Texas. Now? There are more than 400,000 reported cases, with more than 9,000 new cases reported daily. We’ve all had several months to digest just how serious the situation is, and we’ve all witnessed the climbing numbers smacking us with the reminder things aren’t getting any better.

Nevertheless, here our educators go, once more into the breach.

My wife isn’t a teacher, but she’s a school nurse. On a normal day, she might see as many as 100 kids with various ailments from sore throats to belly aches. I highly doubt she and her teammates are going to see many normal days over the coming months. They’re going to be in the thick of every concern, and they, too, will handle it all like the rest of the superheroes.

Am I a little scared for her and the rest? Heck, yes, I am. You can’t spell “scared” without “care,” right?

I have no doubt my pride for everyone involved in educating and taking care of kids will continue to rise, right along with my admiration.

But I also know how some people can get, so I’d like to remind everyone:

Even superheroes need support. Maybe we can’t serve as sidekicks (my big butt ain’t fitting in no Batmobile), but we can still be there to lend our hands when needed. We can try to understand when things aren’t going as smoothly as we’d like.

We can do our part at home, if we choose to keep our kids there, by doing what teachers are asking. We can be proactive when it comes to ensuring we’re not sending our kids out when they’re sick. We can remember that our little Bubbas and Bubbajeans aren’t the only kids in those classrooms, nor are they the teachers’ and nurses’ only worries.

Mostly, though, I feel the best thing we can do for those superheroes is not to act as villains.

When frustration kicks in, we need to remember whatever we’re feeling at the time is hammering educators and school nurses at least a hundredfold.

Basically, if we can’t make things better, we can at least avoid making things worse. You mad, bro? Turn yourself into the Hulk and go smash some rocks. They’ve got about as much to do (as in, nothing) with the current hardships as those poor educators.

Smash some rocks. Spin a web.

Just don’t take it out on the people who are trying so hard to help. Be a light and not a dose of Kryptonite.

Every superhero out there needs our help.

Gary Stallard is a regular contributor to the Opinion page of The Lufkin Daily News. His email address is garylstallard@yahoo.com.