Lots of little kids pretend to be superheroes. But a little boy in Birmingham, Alabama is taking his cape-wearing to a new level. Four-year old Austin Perine has been turning heads by wearing a blue superhero outfit and hitting the streets to feed the homeless. And he takes his superhero gig very seriously.
Every good superhero has an origin story and Austin’s is pretty great. Per CNN, He was watching a television program about pandas with his dad. The mother Panda left one of her cubs alone, and Austin’s dad told the little boy that the panda cub was now homeless. Even though Austin didn’t know what homeless meant per se, according to his dad, he was clearly and immediately concerned about the concept. To show his son the meaning of homelessness, the two took a trip to the local shelter, eventually leading to Austin asking his dad, “can we feed them?”
“I didn’t expect to feed homeless people that day. But when a 4-year-old asks you, what can you say?” his dad told CNN.
Afterwards, the two went and picked up some chicken sandwiches from a local Burger King and Austin began to hand them out and, from that moment on, wanted every dollar that his parents would give him to go towards feeding the homeless. Word of his good deeds began to spread and before he knew it, Burger King was giving him $1,000 a month for his mission. Not long after Austin started a GoFundMe page for the project and has since collected almost the entire $70,000 he needs to meet his goal.
As he hands out food Austin is dressed head to toe in blue, and wears a bright red cape. Across his chest read the words #ShowLove, something he reminds people to do every time he gives away a piece of food.
“Show love means, you care about someone no matter what they look like,” Austin told CNN.
The fact that Austin is using a superhero identity to feed the homeless might not just be linked to him being four-years-old. A study in the journal Child Development suggests that kids are more likely to focus in school and put up with monotonous yet vital tasks when they assume the point of view of another person.
“Imagining that they’re Batman or another competent, hardworking person could lead children to work harder because they take on the qualities of that character,” said Rachel White, the study’s co-author.
White suspects that what she calls the “Batman Effect,” is actually a way for kids to distract themselves and mirror what they see to be aspirational qualities. Austin has his own alter ego though. When he hits the streets he’s President Austin, the kind of guy who can “chase the bad guys out of school and feed the homeless.”
Both Austin and his dad hope to eventually open up their own facility that tackles problems like drug addiction and severe mental illness, all things that can lead to people having to live on the street. For now, it’s still just capes and feeding the homeless, but an amazing start nonetheless.