December 10, 2018

I wait every year for my favorite show of the year — CNN Heroes.  I stand and clap as each one is featured and honored.  This year, filled as it is with more conflict than comfort in our world societies, I was somewhat desperate to feel awe and inspiration once again for these “ordinary people,”  who give of themselves  wholeheartedly to bring comfort, caring, and respect to so many.

Their causes are spread across an impressive array of countries and needs.  Their drive and dedication is not limited by money, age, or education.  But at the core of their motivation is something that seems to be endangered in our present human race — empathy.  It’s a small word really, but yet so complex to feel in depth.  It’s not easy to be truly empathetic.  And it takes more than creativity to turn empathy into action.  It takes courage that doesn’t quit.

The breadth and depth of the heroes was wide and deep — tiny home communities for homeless veterans, a shelter in Peru for children and their families who required long term medical treatment far from home,  access to expensive bionic equipment for those who had lost their mobility, a peaceful place to heal for women who had been through the hell of sex trafficking.  I felt a special connection to the 88 year old woman who had set up an online ESL program that enabled immigrants to earn U.S. citizenship.  One continuing thread was how the heroes were quick to  turn the attention away from their own hard work to that of the people they were helping.

One of my favorite parts is always the Young Wonders who have set up incredible programs at amazingly young ages.  There was a young boy who started making lunches for homeless people, brought together a group of kids to help make the sandwiches, and then carried them out to the streets and handed a bag of healthy food to anyone who looked needy.  Not only was there food and a friendly smiling face handing them out, but the bags were hand-decorated with happy sayings and cute pictures to add that something extra that showed caring.  Another child started a program that gives birthday parties with all the trimmings for children with disabilities.

There was a follow-up on what some of the previous Young Wonders are doing years after they received their awards.  They did not stray from their early desire to help and are now serving ever larger needy populations with a wider range of services.

I fell in love with Bali for the first time in 1989.  A local resident I got to know  foresaw that plastic bags were a potential danger to that beautiful, fragile place.  Many years later, two sisters in Bali saw the same danger  strewn in front of their eyes everywhere.  These Young Wonders started Bye Bye Plastic Bags and have found ways to encourage the local people not to use plastic bags.  They do constant clean up  wherever they find discarded plastic bags.  They also have devised a simple system to block mostly plastic refuse that clogs up the small rivers.  And, they have established a small community of women in one village to get paid for making bags from recycled materials.  They didn’t stop to worry “What’s the use of doing something on such a small scale?”

As someone who spent time as a social worker in difficult life situations, and lived in third world poverty, I feel a particularly strong admiration for the CNN heroes.

So, I say again with deep gratitude, Hooray for Do-Gooders.  May they forever find ways to sustain their kindness to others.


%d bloggers like this: