This is a poster I created for my son as a Christmas gift. 2020 was a year where, at least in the public sphere, kind words were in very short supply, and I know the world at-large isn’t always predisposed to remind him of the qualities that make him a wonderful human being. He loved it and it’s hanging on the wall in his room.

2020 reminded me to always act local when it comes to kindness, and that words matter, especially those I speak to my son.

I’m fortunate because my son and I share a love of science fiction and all things Marvel. We especially love the movie Thor: Ragnarok, which features one of the most poignant and powerful examples of a father reminding his son of who he really is. Thor has always struggled with imposter syndrome, and when his hammer Mjolnir returns to his hand, he believes it means he is worthy.

Thor’s evil sister Hela, played by a delightfully sinister Cate Blanchet, has just effortlessly tossed him around the throne room and strikes him in the face with her sword, slicing one of his eyes right out of his head.  She’s in the process of finishing him off, and sarcastically asks him, “Tell me brother, what were you the god of again?”

“Tell me brother, what were you the god of again?”

Thor then has a vision in which his father Odin appears and listens to his son lament that he is not strong enough and that without his hammer—which Hela vaporized in the first fifteen minutes of the film— he can’t stop her from destroying their homeworld of Asgard.

“She’s too strong. Without my hammer I can’t…”

Odin, played by Anthony Hopkins, interrupts him to ask “Are you Thor, the God of Hammers? That hammer was to help you control your power, to focus it. It was never your source of strength.” 

“Are you Thor, the God of Hammers?”

Thor’s father reminds him of who he is, and without spoiling things, let’s just say this truth does not bode well for Hela and her forces of darkness. Even if you don’t care for Marvel films, this is a scene worth watching.

When we feel powerless in the face of COVID, economic instability, and systems that seem hopelessly broken, we can act local by offering words of kindness and truth to our loved ones and communities. In doing so, we remind one-another of who we are as a people at the local level, and this acts as a powerful antidote to the loud, hostile, but ultimately impotent forces that want us to forget our true sources of strength.

Kindness requires real courage, and right now we need both.

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