Understanding that Green Bank Elementary-Middle School has had a rough few years – with the loss of students Braelynn Peteete and Kaiden Stull – West Virginia’s very own Batman visited the school February 23 to lift the spirits of the students and teachers, as well as share life lessons of dealing with grief and loss.
Batman began by sharing his condolences with the students and teachers for their losses and asked students to share their favorite memories of their classmates.
“It’s sad this happened, but I’m going to make you a promise,” he said. “Your friends have a front row seat to the rest of your life. What that means is, they’re able to sit back and watch everything that happens from this point forward. It’s actually a beautiful thing because now they can see more of your life. Just because they’re gone physically and you don’t see them, doesn’t mean that they’re not still there and they’re not still with you.”
Batman explained that he is not the Batman from the movies, but is in fact one of many Batmen around the world who have taken it upon themselves to be heroes to the people of their communities. For nearly 11 years, West Virginia Batman has served his state and has spread hope to students around the state, country and world.
He shared the history of how Batman was created and how he suffered losses, which made him stronger and helped him realize he wanted to help others.
“What have we learned from Batman?” he asked. “Let me sum it up so you can fully understand it. When we go through tough things, the tough things are designed to make us stronger. When we lose special people in our lives – we can’t get them back unfortunately – but we can live our lives in their honor, serving others, and that’s the way we keep them alive, too.”
Batman said it is easy to let sadness and anger from loss take control and make you do bad things and take your emotions out on people, but it can also help you become a better person. You can take that sadness and anger, and turn it into hope and greatness.
“I learned the secret,” he said. “I figured out the secret is to take your pain and use it as a fuel to turn it into something powerful. I will teach you how to do it.”
Batman has four life lessons that he shared.
First – Never Give Up.
“No matter how tough it gets, no matter how tough it is and no matter how tough it was, never give up,” he said. “Treat your life like riding a bicycle. When we were learning to ride that bicycle, we learned the most when we fell. We didn’t quit.
“We go through the tough things to get to the great things so we can do good things.”
Second – Always Do The Right Thing.
“You want to make sure you don’t allow anger to cause you to make bad choices,” he said. “You want to make your life about good choices. You want to make sure that even though you’re going through tough things and you lose friends or you lose family members along the way, you still make good choices.
“However, when you make bad choices – which does happen – you want to turn the bad stuff into good stuff.”
Batman said it is a lot like baking a cake. Not all cake ingredients taste good on their own. Flour, for example, is not good alone, but mixed with the rest of the ingredients, it makes a tasty cake. He added that if the flour is left out of the cake, then the cake would be different and not be as good. So in a way, life needs the bad and the good to make a balanced outcome.
“When it comes to the grand scheme of life, the final outcome is the most important product,” he said. “The ingredients aren’t meant to be tasted by themselves. All of them have some sort of purpose to the final product.”
Third – Help Other People.
“You all are like soldiers,” he said. “Soldiers go through the toughest training, the hardest obstacles, so that they can be inserted into the worst situations and get people out. I am here to rally you like troops. I know it’s been tough. I know it hurts to lose your friends. I know that the past few years have been tough and I know that more tough things are going to come into our lives, but here’s the other thing I know. These tough times are preparing you to do more good things for others.”
Fourth – Never Be A Bully.
“Sometimes when kids go through tough times, sometimes if they don’t talk about their feelings, they might start taking it out on other people,” he said. “It’s not because they’re bad kids. It’s just because they’re allowing sadness and anger to take over. We have to learn to take the bad stuff in our lives and put it to work to get good.
“We’ve got to treat people well,” he continued. “We’ve got to treat each other well.”
Batman said if the students and teachers both follow these four life lessons, it will help them take their tough times and turn them into good for others.
“I will make you a promise,” he said. “If you will do these four things every day, you can be as great as you want to be and you can push through the toughest time in life, but we have to do all four of these.”
During his presentation, Batman noticed that there were tears as students and teachers thought about Braelynn and Kaiden. He shared his sympathy again for the loss of the two students, but reminded everyone that it is important to take that sadness and find a way to turn it into good to honor Braelynn and Kaiden.
“What they want more than anything is for your life to be full of happiness and joy and purpose,” he said. “The last thing that they want is to look down and see your life wrecked because of something that happened to them. It’s about purpose now.”
To close the assembly, Batman had everyone repeat after him, “Fly high, Kaiden” and “Fly high, Braelynn.”