Q: The world doesn’t seem to have any heroes anymore. Who inspires you?
A: I know it may seem like there aren’t any heroes anymore, but I’ve come up with a list for you.
Again, I point out that this is my list, and before I name them, I offer you the following challenge: start thinking of your own list, as that is where the importance lies—discovering what’s important to you, and who’s important to you.
You may also want to look at the similarities between your heroes/heroines; you may come up with a surprising reflection of qualities and attributes you didn’t know you had (or aspired to).
For example, in compiling this list, I saw that every person lived a life of service to others, a priority in my own life. I’ve also included website links where applicable, or book references, if you want to look further into the lives of these extraordinary people.
Local heroes: I start with my family—husband Steve, and children Kari, Erik and Bill. Although they are all unique, they share some things in common. They are all very smart, loving, creative and funny. Steve is my hero because he is the most forgiving and patient person I know (he’d have to be, living with me!).
Kari is empathetic and hard-working and dedicated to helping the world, Erik is intuitive and so sweet, and Bill? He’s my little Buddha—helping me understand enlightenment one comment at a time. I add my mom and dad to my family list. They are the most generous, loving, supportive, and inspirational people I have ever known—they embody the concept of unconditional love.
John Strand: he works ceaselessly for the good of the people, helping especially underdogs, taking on Herculean tasks because he believes in fighting for what he thinks is right. He is courageous, brave, and very smart.
Linda Coates: she is smart, funny, and did I say smart? The best thing Fargo had going for it while she was a commissioner. She makes a difference in this world, and I am honored to call her my friend.
Best friends: Melissa, Maggie, and Chitra (to name just a few). They are loyal, supportive, kind, and loving; their highest goal is to help others as much as possible.
Kelly Schmidt: North Dakota’s State Treasurer. Her ceaseless dedication to the citizens of North Dakota, and endless bag of Tootsie Rolls earns her my lifelong dedication to her good work. Always ready with a smile and a word of encouragement, she exemplifies everything that is good about politics.
National Heroes: Thich Nhat Hanh—Vietnamese Buddhist monk who has worked tirelessly to pro mote peace. A beautiful poet and writer, Thay leaves me feeling peaceful just reading his words. His book “Being Peace” continues to touch me with its simple prose and deep message of where real change begins—with us. It is one of my lifelong goals to walk with Thich. This is a video of him speaking about how “peace is every step”:
Dick Hoyt: The father who has taken his son, Rick, with him on countless iron man marathons, road races and triathalons. This father/son relationship has singlehandedly renewed my faith in humankind. I believe in the goodness of people because of their story. Look at Rick’s amazing eyes, the look on his face. Check out this video—it tells it all (and try not to cry—I dare you…) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cS596VsNEOE&feature=related
Randy Pausch: I have followed this Carnegie-Mellon professor’s story of pancreatic cancer, and his famous “Last Lecture,” and just how he has changed the whole world’s vision of how they can live their lives. Interestingly enough, he came into my mind two weeks ago, and then I found out he had died that very morning. He left behind a wife and three young children, but he has left the rest of us so much more—here is the link to a video of his famous Last Lecture:
The Dalai Lama: after fleeing his homeland Tibet, in 1960, he has worked for the last 48 years to bring peace and freedom to his country, and to promote peace wherever he goes. He visited Minneapolis a few years ago, and a congressman criticized his upcoming visit, questioning why should we welcome him? A reporter asked the Dali Lama what he thought about the congressman, and the Dali Lama smiled his famous smile and answered, “He’s free to say whatever he wants to say.” Nothing mean back to the politician, which I’m afraid would’ve been my first response. He says his greatest fear is that he will lose his compassion for the Chinese. Unbelievable.
Mary Oliver: it’s weak to say that she’s just a writer, because in my mind she’s more of a mystic. Listen to these words from my favorite poem in the whole world, West Wind #2:
You are young. So you know everything. You leap into the boat and begin rowing. But listen to me. Without fanfare, without embarrassment, without any doubt, I talk directly to your soul. Listen to me. Lift the oars from the water, let your arms rest, and your heart, and heart’s little intelligence, and listen to me. There is life without love. It is not worth a bent penny, or a scuffed shoe. It is not worth the body of a dead dog nine days unburied. When you hear, a mile away and still out of sight, the churn of the water as it begins to swirl and roil, fretting around the sharp rocks - when you hear that unmistakable pounding - when you feel the mist on your mouth and sense ahead the embattlement, the long falls plunging and steaming—then row, row for your life toward it.
Anne Lamott: again, not just another writer—she is a visionary, an honest being, flawed and powerful. One of my favorite lines is when she was wondering if her 11 year old should be allowed to go parasailing. She was going to ask some of the people that were attending the conference with her, then she said, “What was I thinking? They’re writers!” She helps me to understand that it’ s not only important to be wholly yourself, it’s imperative. Here is a link to an archive of some of her works: http://www.salon.com/archives/1997/mwt_lamo.html
There are so many more, but these are the first ones that drift up to my consciousness as I sit here. There are several more, but that’s a story for another day. Now go ahead and start on your own list. Think of who’s on the list, and what put them there, then think about how they influence the way you live your life.
Then wonder—are you on anybody’s list?
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