Ruth Anne Mak
What is an unsung hero? I have thought about this a lot lately, and I think there are many among us. I knew a woman online for several years until she pretty much left the board and moved on. She had several painful illnesses and personal issues, but she remained passionate about feeding hungry people and helping those in need find the resources that would keep them going, helping abandoned animals, and trying to save the planet. The ironic part was that she didn’t have much for herself and she had a very hard time finding medical help for herself while passionately protesting and generally standing up for others in her situation.
She was so passionate in her beliefs that sometimes we clashed, since I’m not inclined to insist that things are done the way I think they should be done and she was. The world needs people like her, though, and I’m glad she never changed that aspect of herself. She would have climbed a fence or stood in snow all night if she thought it would help someone, even though she was in pain every day. She moved on from the message board and I only saw her on there occasionally over the last couple of years, but apparently she found a job helping people, had a place to live, and had three grandchildren she loved dearly. So it seemed all was better and she had found the world, but I found out today that she took her life recently.
I have the feeling that she reached a point where the pain around her was unbearable, and I think she couldn’t stand the thought of being in a world that seemed full of pain she couldn’t ease. I can’t prove my theory since no one really knows what she was thinking at the end of her life, but she was a warrior, and when I look back at her life I see an unsung hero. She worked to ease others’ suffering no matter how much she hurt, who wouldn’t help her, how hard her life was, or how insurmountable her own personal challenges were. It wasn’t a chore to her, but instead it was who she was inside and she couldn’t deny it.
I’ve seen that passion in others as well, and although not every unsung hero can save a whole country or feed millions of starving children, or find a cure for a disease, I see mothers holding their children through grave illnesses, fathers working several jobs to put food on the table, and children working hard to make a difference for their families and communities. I see teenagers who come home to ill parents, empty homes due to parents’ work schedules, addictions, or lifestyle choices, and to abusive homes where they try to protect younger siblings and perhaps even a parent from the abuser. I see so many people who quietly go about their lives helping others in the ways that the People of Distinction Awards honor, but on a smaller scale and with no recognition. Most would tell you that what they do isn’t a big deal and that they wouldn’t make any other choice, and when I think of the awards that will be presented I think not only of the actual award recipients who make a big difference in the lives of those around them, but also of the warrior I knew on the message board and all the others I have known or known of along the way.
These awards are for them all in a way in my view, since heroes come in many varieties and we can be inspired by all who work hard to help others without a thought of awards or rewards. As I cheer on the People of Distinction Awards winners, I will also be cheering for all the unsung heroes who make a difference every day. I won’t be able to make it to the actual ceremony, but I definitely will be cheering and clapping along!