December 13, 2011

I love watching the annual CNN Heroes of the Year show that started five years ago.  It takes a whole year to get nominations of innovative do-gooders from people all over the world, have on-line voting to select just ten of them, then select one of the ten to be the top winner, and prepare a Hollywood extravaganza to honor them.  Modeled after the award ceremony for the Oscars,  it has all the drama, glitz, tension, and tears of the Oscars.

Yes, there are stars there too, but they are secondary to the wondrous assortment of inspirational people the stars introduce who saw a need and became passionate to fill it.  The range of the good deeds of the heroes is very impressive, not only geographically but in every other way.   They overwhelmingly come from the 99% who are not wealthy.  They are “ordinary” people in overdrive.

Some are motivated by personal tragedies, such as a father and son who help non-professional football players who suffer devastating lifelong injuries that confine them to wheelchairs.  One energetic Italian chef in the U.S. prepares spaghetti with gusto and lots of nutritional marinara sauce for children who would otherwise go hungry.  A young widow mourning for her soldier husband created a sisterhood of young widows to keep each other alive and vital.  One grandmother opens her arms and her doors to gang members and street kids who think guns are their friends.   By offering them alternatives, these street kids decide to follow paths out of gunshot range.

Some help at home, wherever in the world that may be.  Others make dreams come true in faraway places.  The Hero of the Year went to Bali, Indonesia, to set up midwives and clinics for childbirth so new mothers and their babies don’t have to die for lack of proper care.   One very poignant Young Wonder named Rachel has brought fresh, healthy drinking water to Ethiopian children.  Rachel was 9 when she went online with Rachel’s wish to do something helpful for her fellow humans.  Tragically, she died in a car crash and contributions soared until she had received hundreds of thousands of dollars to do good things.  How proud she would have been to know all the good her wish has been able to do.

One African man visiting the U.S. saw the waste of thousands of small bars of soap being thrown out by hotels and motels every day.   He developed ways to collect the unused bars of soap before they are discarded, re-makes them into new bars of soap and, with wide smiles and  boundless energy, distributes them to African villages and teaches the children that using soap helps them stay healthy.

There were many barriers and hurdles, including finances, that these heroes overcame with their high motivation to make the world a better place, and can-do optimism.   We can’t all do what they do on a large enough scale to be a CNN hero, but I felt particularly proud of all the volunteering I have done, and still do, in my own life.  One of the reporters said he had investigated how many volunteer jobs it was possible to do with organizations within a five mile radius in Los Angeles and he came up with over 700!

Thank you CNN Heroes for giving us an evening to celebrate pure goodness of the heart.

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