Today, Thanksgiving of 2015, my friend Scott Cranford released his Superman children’s book, Superman’s Book of Morals. It was my honor to edit the book for him. For those not up on Superman culture, Scott is a big name for us Supes fans. He’s been an extra and a double in superhero films. He was considered for the leading role in Lois and Clark. And served as the official Superman of Metropolis Illinois for eight years. Scott writes that he, “always thought Superman was the greatest character for teaching values to young children.” That’s exactly what Superman does in the Book of Morals book. In my opinion, the lessons of the book can be summed up in one overreaching value, gratitude. It’s fitting, then, that today the book meets the public.
Gratitude is the current vogue of self-help and religious texts. At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, I believe many adults have to learn gratitude because it’s not taught to them as children. Today’s culture pushes a sense of entitlement instead. Depending on the issue, entitlement doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Self-love and safety are important with the negativity in the world. But entitlement is a slippery slope that can replace gratitude in a heart before you know it.
Why is gratitude so important? Because all worthwhile values flow from being thankful. It results in happiness and a sense of responsibility, leading people to help others, instilling them with gratitude in turn. I constantly look for ways to teach my daughter the principle. I want her to recognize her amazing abilities and advantages and then her responsibility to use them to make the world a better place. I would never want her to settle into self-pity over her autism. I support education and awareness of special needs, but no one should simply feel entitled. While I want my daughter to advocate for herself, I want her to realize she’s been given an amazing opportunity. Her unique gifts allow her to teach others how to relate with more than just a narrow, neuro-typical world view. Gratitude is the key to this balance.
It’s one of the traits I admire most in Superman. He is grateful to his birth parents for the chance they gave him to survive his planet’s destruction. He is grateful for the wisdom, knowledge, and guidance they sent along with him. And as he grows and discovers his differences, he is grateful for his unique abilities and opportunities to help others (obviously we’re talking about the traditional, iconic Superman). Most of all, though, he is grateful for Jonathan and Martha Kent, who took the orphaned child into their family and raised and imbued him with their love and values.
Clark celebrated many Thanksgivings on the Kent farm. He learned the meaning of hard work and to be thankful for a good harvest. He learned those lessons on the metaphorical level too. Jonathan Kent tells him that he was sent here for a reason, and that reason is bigger than satisfying a desire for acceptance and recognition. Clark is thankful for the lesson. He dedicates his life to helping people and leading them by the example Jonathan and Martha set for him. As a result an entire city and world honors him with their gratitude in return.
If any of this resonates with you, then read Superman’s Book of Morals here. Share it with a child in your life or enjoy for yourself the simplicity of super-life tenets. Recognize your own gifts. Be thankful for what you have. And pass on the gratitude!