Dear Friends of Second Church,
Earlier this week, I caught a story on The Newshour, remembering Lenny Robinson, a man who died in a car accident on Sunday at age 51.
I didn’t know Lenny, who lived outside Baltimore and owned a successful cleaning business.
That success had not come easily to him — or, to put it somewhat differently, Lenny had only achieved it at a high cost: the end of a marriage, distance from his children, a reputation for anger that had started in his younger years, occasionally to the point of run-ins with the law back then, but which even as an adult, was still far too often uncomfortably loud and aggressive.
Yet despite all that, success had come, and it had provided him with the time and the resources to do pretty much whatever he wanted.
And one day, what he wanted to do came to him.
It just so happens that one of his young sons was a huge fan of Batman, and one Halloween, Lenny decided to dress up in costume as a surprise.
His son liked it. More to the point, Lenny was amazed to see how many kids were delighted—thrilled—to meet Batman.
Lenny saw this, and something new was born in him: he decided that what he wanted was to give that thrill to those who needed it most. He decided to help cheer up sick kids.
Spending thousands on a costume that was “more real than real,” Lenny became known as “The Route 29 Batman,” and a fixture at children’s hospitals in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. That he drove a black Lamborghini clearly added to the verisimilitude—because a Batman who gamely hops out of a minivan is probably just someone’s dad in a costume. But a cowled figure who roars up in a black Lamborghini? That’s the real thing.
In 2012, he was pulled over in a routine traffic stop, and the police dashcam video went viral — who pulls over Batman?! — but Lenny was delighted to tell the officers all about his work, and by the end of the traffic stop, they were asking to take their picture with him and offered him a formal police escort to the hospital (he said yes to the picture but no to the escort.)
In the hospitals he visited, children would go from listless to animated as he strode onto their ward. Parents would take him aside and thank him, saying that seeing him had been the first time in months their child had smiled.
When one girl told him she was being teased at school, and that nobody would ever believe that Batman was her friend—he arranged to visit the school, and gave an all school assembly on bullying. Then he thanked his friend in public for inviting him.
According to the Washington Post, Lenny had a theory about why kids love Batman more than so many other superheroes: “Batman is the only superhero that doesn’t have superpowers,” he said. “He’s naturally a superhero. Kids can relate to me a lot better.”
Lenny Robinson’s life is a reminder that, for all our flaws and mistakes, and for all our past history, however checkered it might be, we have the capacity to live for other people in truly remarkable ways.
So often, in seeking to heal others, we find that we are also healed—that God’s mercy touches us, even as we seek to give away all the goodness that is ours to give, to pour our lives out in love and service to others.
It’s true: Lenny Robinson had no superpowers. None of us do.
But his life embodied the spirit of Paul’s famous words: “So faith, hope, and love abide: these three. But the greatest of these is love.”
Our faith reminds us that love is the greatest power of all—and that as we extend our arms to embrace the world, love embraces us.
Well done, good and faithful servant.