Who inspires you?
Of all the great personalities in history and of all the people you have met in your life, who has inspired you the most? Whose words and actions, style and manner have influenced you in the most positive way?
When I was growing up, I spent many hours reading comic books and fantasized about being a superhero, like Superman, Batman and Spider-man. I imagined having super powers, having a secret identity and using my powers to overcome adversity (bad guys), rescue those in need and save the world.
I also read the World Book encyclopedia – cover to cover – from A to Z, and the stories of the great men in history and the Greek and Roman Gods filled my daydreams and imagination. The biographies of the saints and martyrs were inspiring in some ways but the ways they ended their promising careers (and lives) held me back from following their examples.
I looked up to my brother. He was 4 1/2 years older – which seemed like a long stretch of time in elementary school. He was a top student, star athlete and all-round popular guy. I used to admire his trophies (when he wasn’t at home).
One time, I noticed that a bronze palm leaf mounted on a wood block was off center. When I tried to twist it back into place, it snapped off. I spent a whole afternoon feeling bad, trying to glue it back together and worrying about how I would confess. That evening, when I told my brother what happened, he smiled and said, “It’s only a trophy!”
I discovered my own sports, did well in school and amassed my own pile of hardware. And when I think back, the trajectory of my overachieving high school years was set not by my parents but by my brother. He showed me what was possible and what was within my reach.
When I reflect upon who has been my greatest inspiration – and who still sets my standards for morality and compassion, my mother comes first.
She was literate, outgoing and kind. She was the best cook. Even now, with every Thanksgiving and Christmas, I long for the turkey, gravy and stuffing she prepared for us. She was the most thoughtful person I have ever known. She not only considered our every need but she would worry about every other person she knew . . . and she knew a lot of people.
She was the most empathic person I knew. She could easily get caught up in the suffering of other people.
She was the most honest person I have ever met. She would walk a mile back to the grocery store if she was given extra change.
She would always do what she knew to be right.
My mom taught me the importance of family. When she was 9 years old, she and her siblings were orphaned. With both parents dead – and without other relatives to support them, the children decided to work hard to keep the younger ones fed and clothed until they all finished school. With better luck, I’m sure my mom could have gone to university and become a teacher or a nurse.
The courage and love shared by my mom with my aunts and uncles remains an inspiration. Without their shared efforts, the family would have been separated, and I would never have known all my cousins. We still meet each year for a big Boxing Day dinner.
My mom filled our home with books. She taught me to read with Dr. Seuss. She encouraged me in art, music and writing.
My mom came to the hospital every day when I was 10 years old and hospitalized with rheumatoid arthritis. She’d bring my favourite foods and stay the whole day. She was the one to take me to all the doctor’s appointments and all the blood tests. And she was the one who would lose sleep watching over me when I was feverish or in pain.
My mother had faith in me when I did not. She believed I could do great things if I worked at it. She gave me freedom to discover my own talents and supported me in nurturing them.
My mom inspires me still with the selfless, unconditional love she gave me. It remains her legacy to me, and I aspire to give that same love forward to my own children and to every other human being I can touch.