I discovered most of my friends’ hidden talents by accident. I walked into a café and found a dear friend’s photographs hanging proudly on the walls, a label in the right hand corner of each frame alerting me her work was for sale. One friend stood up to sing karaoke during a summer evening out, and we sat wide-eyed when she blew us away with her singular voice. Another wrote and published a novel before I even realized she was a writer. There are other surprises too—he ran four marathons, she holds the title CEO, he signed with an agent for book no one knew he was writing, and she has a degree in Dance.
When I look at some of my friends and their extraordinary gifts, I wonder if they don’t also wear super-hero capes in secret. One summer, while waiting in endless lines for slides at the water-park, we (my kids and our family friends) decided to amuse one another by answering the question, “If you could have one super power, what would it be?”
We tossed around powers like x-ray vision, teleportation, mind-reading, and super-human strength. Someone mentioned the ability to live forever, although on a scorching day in a crowded amusement park, I can assure you it wasn’t me. We debated the merits and drawbacks of each secret power, and when no one could agree, we gave up trying to decide which power was best. I thought any power that would miraculously transport us to the front of each line sounded like a good one.
At some point, we gave each other super-hero nicknames. Given my previous career as a nurse and my penchant for always keeping a bottle of antibacterial gel at the ready, I earned the name “Anti-bacterial Girl”. It felt exactly as anti-climactic as it sounds. I prefer to be recognized for something other than my germ-fighting abilities, although this requires the stomach of a super-hero while raising small children.
The more I think about those much debated super-powers, the more I realize most people I know don’t need any. They possess special gifts of their own—gifts of perseverance, beauty, honor, art, strength, and faith. They go about their business, being awesome, and wait for the rest of us to notice. I want to be the kind of friend who recognizes another friend’s gifts. I want to sit up and take notice.
After years of summers together, at water parks and lakes and back yard parties, I know many of our dearest friends very well. When I run my hand over the surface of their lives I feel all the smooth spots, all the cracks, all the places they feel worn thin. I know their fake super-hero names, but I also know where the gems lie buried. I know what qualities make them unique. After so many delightful discoveries in my friendships, I always leave room for the people I love to slip out of their everyday skin, revealing the hero beneath.
Kimberly is a writer, mother, and gypsy at heart. She tells stories of everyday life while raising a family and her faith at her blog, kimberlyanncoyle.com. She writes from the suburbs of New Jersey, where she is learning how to put down roots that stretch further than the nearest airport.