I have a list of historical figures I admire and when asked to name a hero or an inspirational person I’ll list any one of them.
Ernest Shackleton was an Antarctic explorer who lead all of his men to safety after their ship was crushed in ice in 1915, leaving the entire crew stranded on the ice about 1000 miles from the nearest civilization. His leadership abilities and powers of optimism and endurance are virtually unparalleled in the world today.
Difficulties are just things to overcome, after all.
Nellie McClung fought for equal rights for women in Canada at a time when it was just starting to become acceptable for a woman to be a secretary, in the early 20th century. She organized a mock parliament where women debated whether or not men should get the vote (apparently it was a hilarious performance). Her wit and charisma as a public speaker are quite admirable as was her determination to create gender equality in politics.
Disturbers are never popular. No one every liked an alarm clock in action, no matter how thankful they may be afterwards for its kind services.
Joseph Howe was a journalist and politician from Nova Scotia throughout the early-mid 19th century. He fought for and won freedom of the press after he was accused of libel when he exposed true, but damning evidence that local politicians and police had been embezzling money. He organized his own defense for his trial and his 6 hour speech was so well written he was acquitted, making this case a landmark event that changed the definition of libel; something was now only libel if it was false. His eloquence and conviction are certainly without rival in Canada.
When I sit down in solitude to the labours of my profession, the only questions I ask myself are, What is right? What is just? What is for the public good?
All these people have qualities I very much admire and would like to posses. I love a good story and a pithy quote, and would jump at the opportunity to have coffee with any of these people to hear their stories first-hand (granted they are all dead but I’m talking in hypotheticals here). But I cannot honestly say I model my life after any of them. It is my mother whose example I have learned the most from.
A few years ago, once my brothers and I were a bit older and didn’t take up as much of her time, she became obsessed with triathlons. She’s now done 3 Ironman triathlons (the mother of triathlon consisting of a 3.8km swim, 180km bike, and then a 42km run). She also volunteers as the president of the Triathlon Club of Burlington where she basically does a lot of work for no money; she writes the newsletter, helps organize workouts and events, and motivates others to achieve their goals.
I am not a particularly athletic person nor do I have a desire to follow my Mom’s example there. But I have learned from her dedication and hard work ethic, both qualities I like to think I possess as well.
My mother is also a very kind person. I remember when we were moving in to a new house, when I was 8, she went and got subway sandwiches for all the movers, and since it was a hot day, lemonade and freezes as well. For the next 8 years in that house she organized a neighborhood wide Christmas party, for upwards of 80 people. She made crafts and games for the kids and organized mixer games for the adults as well. And of course she’d do most of the cleaning before and after.
She’s a great hostess and a strong woman (both physically and emotionally) but I think I admire her most for her compassion towards others and her earnest desire to help in whatever ways she can.
Last year, after taking a history class on woman (which focused a lot on how women were essentially trapped in the home) I began to wonder if my Mom had actually been happy as a stay-at-home Mom all those years. So I asked her if she would chose differently if she could go back in time. She said some people need to be successful in the workplace for them to feel their life is meaningful. But she got all the fulfillment she needed from her family. So unlike my other heros my mother won’t leave a legacy on the historical record. But she’s made her mark on our family and I love her for that.