Note: This is one of several articles about Superheroes Anonymous 4, a gathering of Real Life Superheroes being held in Portland, Oregon. This series, written by Treesong, is a collaborative project of Heroes in the Night and Song of the Trees.
Today was the first full day of Superheroes Anonymous 4. In spite of the rain and various other logistical snafus, we had a fun and productive day and night, and we’re looking forward to meeting again tomorrow.
I started my day this morning at 5:35 am. After two days and eight hours on the Greyhound bus, sleeping on an actual bed was amazing. I slept like a baby for the precious few hours that I had available to me. After a shower and some basic morning yoga, I met up with Zetaman, and we all got together for an early breakfast.
Breakfast was good. We have a variety of backgrounds, personalities, tastes, and so on, but we always seem to have good conversations. Sometimes it’s serious talk about the work that we do; other times it’s completely ridiculous and hilarious banter that isn’t quite ready for prime time. Either way, it’s been good to eat and work and play alongside a group of interesting and genuinely good-willed people.
Our work for the day started at 9 a.m. with a two hour shift of volunteering at the Oregon Food Bank. I had vaguely assumed that this food bank would be bigger than anything I’d seen before, but I was deeply surprised and impressed at the scale and sophistication of it. It was literally an entire massive warehouse filled with donated food that was being received, processed, stored, and delivered to people in need. Some of the volunteers remained in a small area up front to bag food while the superheroes and another batch of volunteers walked to the other end of the warehouse to box some food.
As we headed to the back of the warehouse, we walked among isles of three or four storey tall shelves stacked with palettes full of food. There were several forklifts available to move and lift the palettes, and several different work areas and types of food on the shelves. Our tour didn’t include a detailed explanation of the entire process, but it was a very clean and efficient-looking facility, and they were clearly able to handle large amounts of food.
When we reached the back room, our volunteer coordinator explained to us that we would be boxing food that had been donated. Believe it or not, the food was actually loaded onto a conveyor belt, and it was our job to grab food as it went by and pack it into boxes. At first, it seemed like something from an I Love Lucy episode, with random cans and boxes of food cruising by in front of us as we tried to box them all. But soon, we got in the groove of the work, and it all went very smoothly. Our superhero team was spread out pretty evenly among the different volunteer positions. Skyman was taping together boxes and bringing them to the conveyor belt; Dreamer was one of the people checking for damaged or recalled items; the Irishman was doing some heavy lifting at the far end of the conveyor belt; Civitron was taping shut the filled boxes of food; Zetaman, Apocalypse Meow, White Baron, Victim, and I were on the conveyor belt itself. When Blue Blaze made it out there, he joined us at the conveyor belt too.
It was a simple process, but really quite impressive in its own way. If I remember correctly, we boxed about 12,000 pounds of food, which means that each of us individually helped in providing over 400 meals.
This was a great outcome. Everyone I talked to during and after the event seemed to be having a good time and glad to be able to help the community in such a direct and concrete way. The volunteer coordinator was very personable, helpful, and grateful for the help of all of today’s volunteers, whether they came as superheroes or simply came to help. We took the time to thank him and the Oregon Food Bank itself for the work that they do.
After lunch, it was time for the CPR and first aid certification course offered by Red Cross.
The course was very educational and empowering. Not everyone took it because a few people were already certified or about to be certified through some other means. But most of us took it, and it was quite an effective and informative class. The instructor was very down-to-earth and also seemed quite happy to see a group of superheroes taking the course simply because we want to be able to help others. It was a very good course, and I feel like I learned quite a bit in just a six hour course. I feel like Real Life Superheroes in particular should take this course, but so should just about anyone. Even if you don’t have a high risk job, or a job that puts you in contact with the public, training in first aid and CPR can mean the difference between life and death for someone in your life who is suffering from a medical emergency.
After the Red Cross training, we went over to an event in the park that was gathering winter coats for people in need. Their goal was 500 coats, and the donations we brought them were just enough to put them over their goal.
For a while during the coat drive and our dinner, the fate of our night patrol was uncertain. The rain had picked up again, and between the rain and the hectic conference schedule, we felt less than fully prepared for a night out on the streets. At first, we planned on going ahead with the patrol. Then, we decided that we should cancel it. Finally, at the last minute, we ended up going ahead with it.
On the whole, I feel like the patrol was a success. At first, we just came across various people of Portland who were out for a night on the town and not really in need of what we had to offer. We had a few conversations of varying quality with passers-by, ranging from occasional explanations of who we were to brief encounters with people who just found the spectacle of costumed people amusing. When we got to a certain area of town, though, we really started coming across people living on the street who could make good use of our food and toiletries and other supplies. Socks were a really popular item, and we only had a few pairs to go around. Water and chips were also popular, followed by the delicious brownies and cookies that were left over from our meet-and-greet dinner last night.
Since there was a big group of us, and a big group of people to serve in one area, we spontaneously decided to split up. This lead to some of us scurrying back and forth as we figured out who had the supplies that each person wanted. Some people were casual and nonchalant in their acceptance of our supplies, but others showed a mix of excitement and genuine gratitude. I had a few short but interesting conversations with people, and I saw other people in our group of superheroes doing the same.
People living on the streets are just statistics to some people, but I feel like it was important for us to talk with them, and interact with them as fellow human beings, and offer what help we did have to offer. It seemed like we were all touched by the seriousness of these people’s situation and the importance of outreach to people in need. Skyman in particular seemed taken aback by the whole experience – especially when Zetaman gave away his own jacket to someone in need!
This jacket was a very nice (and very new-looking) blue hoodie with a custome Zetaman logo. I already knew that he was a genuinely kind and generous guy, but I’ll admit that I too was moved when I saw him giving this jacket away. He explained that we were out of socks, and that the person he was giving the jacket to had no socks and no means to stay warm. He also said that when the night is over, he and the rest of us would be going back to a warm, dry place to sleep, whereas this person would not. But hopefully, they should be a little better off now that they have a brand new hoodie.
All of us have contributed in our own ways to making this conference a success. However, I feel like Zetaman deserves special recognition – both for this act of kindness and for working so hard with Apocalypse Meow and others to organize the event.
What impresses me the most, though, is that as I see it, all of this is only the beginning. All of us face a variety of problems back in our home communities and in society in general. All of us respond to these problems in different ways. But if more people of conscience would just decide to overcome their apathy and inertia and get more involved in their local community, then we could solve these problems together.
With that written, I need to go to bed! But I’ll have more news soon. In the meantime, thank you to everyone who made this conference (and my attendance here) possible. I’ll be writing a more detailed thank you in my final installment of this SA4 series, but in the meantime I just wanted to express my gratitude. This has been a good weekend – and hopefully we have many more good weekends, and weeks, and months, and years to come.