Our society is inundated with talk of superheroes these days. They are projected on the big screen in all their glory, embellished by amazing effects and computer graphics. They grace our TV screens daily. They possess powers far beyond the scope of mere mortal men. Their images are depicted on clothing, backpacks and even jewelry. Aisle after aisle of any toy department is dedicated to those possessing superhuman powers, to those capable of saving universes from destruction at the hands of evil villains. All very entertaining and profitable, but a tad misleading.

In my humble opinion, we are surrounded by superheroes each and every day. We have no need to pick up a comic book or go to a movie or open our kids’ toy boxes. My definition of “superhero” is based not on fiction, but on the ability of everyday people to make herculean impacts on the lives of others in need. And in many cases, they are unaware that they are doing anything special. The man who stops to help an elderly woman cross the street in heavy traffic; the lady who chips in a few dollars to pay for the groceries of the woman in line in front of her at the store because she just cannot afford to pay for the necessities she has chosen; the kind soul who helps rescue a family of ducklings who have fallen down a hole.

In these days of political madness and bad news streaming at us daily from the media, it is imperative that we choose to be the superheroes in our own worlds. You and I can make a difference, just by taking that extra minute to show concern for those with whom we come in contact. Smile more. Greet people. Ask how they are. You may just be the only person who has even acknowledged their presence today.

It takes so little to impact so positively. I once had someone tell me I was the answer to her prayer that day, just because I took the time to chat for five minutes. For me? It was five minutes. For her? An answer to prayer. It’s all in your point of view.

While it is indeed true that anyone can act as a superhero, I want to express gratitude for those who are at the ready to jump into harm’s way to protect each and every one of us in the general public. For these wonderful individuals, superheroism is their job. It is what they have dedicated their lives to do. Police officers, ambulance drivers, EMTs, firemen, the military — the list goes on. I have been on the other side of that 911 call on various occasions and have always felt safe and grateful knowing help was just a few minutes away.

Superheroes are not always human. Service animals perform amazing and near-miraculous functions for the sick and injured. Seeing eye dogs, service animals, rescue dogs, all the results of dedicated and compassionate trainers, offer new possibilities to many who were despondent and suffering. Recently, the last remaining 9/11 search dog, a beautiful golden retriever named Bretagne, passed away. She was 16 years old and was honored by a team of rescue workers. 9/11 was her first deployment . After trying in vain to find survivors, she comforted the wounded and the traumatized on that horrible day. She was every bit the hero and an inspiration to us all.

Superheroes come in all shapes and sizes. To borrow a line from the great singer David Bowie, “We can be heroes, just for one night.”

So be a hero. Change a life. Make a difference.

Terry Alburger is the resident services director at Brittany Pointe Estates, an ACTS Retirement-Life Community in Upper Gwynedd. Email thoughts to talburger@actslife.org.