Through work, I have been familiar with the former athlete Derek Redmond for some time now, but I must admit that I hadn’t got around to watching the video of his most renowned moment up until this week. Derek Redmond is the athlete who, in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, broke a hamstring in the final moments of his race, but persevered across the finish line despite being in immense physical – and no doubt emotional – pain. Watching the pure anguish on Derek’s face as he soldiers on, a burst of pain with every step, gave me chills – but what really hit me was when Derek’s father fought his way onto the track to help his son through the final steps. What an amazing display of determination and solidarity. I just loved watching that wonderful bond between father and son; nothing was going to stop the father helping his son finish what he had travelled to the Olympics to do. I must admit I felt slightly tearful at my desk (thank goodness I sit at the back of the office, hidden from plain sight!).
Despite that particular example having taken place when I was just 6 years old, we need people like Derek Redmond in our eyesight. People who take such pride in their work, who have such deep determination and courage that they will persevere until the bitter end. Fighters who, regardless of their goal and it’s outcome, show us what passion and strength really mean.
We hear so much these days about how Millennials are the lazy generation, the generation who expect their futures handed to them on a silver platter – but every day I hear stories to the contrary. How about Stephen Sutton, who raised millions of pounds for charity following his terminal diagnosis; who shared his smiling face with the world right up until his death at just 19, in order to raise awareness of the Teenage Cancer Trust and help so many others? Or the young women campaigning against Ireland’s 8th Amendment, fighting for women’s rights to decide the future of their own bodies? Or Saroo Brierley, upon whom the film Lion was based. He searched for years to find the family he was displaced from as a child, never giving up despite the seemingly impossible and momentous task (if you’re looking for a tearjerker, this is most certainly it. I sobbed like a baby!). Or even those YouTube sensations such as Zoe Sugg, or Zoella, who have made a fortune, developed an entirely new type of career from in front of a camera in their bedrooms? A quick Google of ‘inspirational millennials’ brings up scores of articles detailing the successes of this much-maligned cohort.
And it’s not just millennials, or those who have done amazing things for good causes that can be inspirational. Just seeing someone striving hard for success, seeking to constantly improve in order to achieve their goal inspires me. Even something as fluffy as BBC’s Masterchef! Watching the finals this week, I’m always amazed at how during the first rounds of the competition some of the contestants can barely cook a piece of chicken (and let’s be honest, some of them never move beyond that stage), but by the final rounds those remaining have elevated themselves to the standard of Michelin starred chefs.
And no matter what your politics are, I can’t help but admire the people who feel so strongly about the upcoming UK election that they are willing to get on the streets and shout about it. I admire how these people are so stoic in their beliefs; so able to counter a statement or provide a persuasive argument. I’m not saying that they’re right or wrong, and I’m not condoning or condemning the Facebook warriors out there campaigning for their causes. But I respect their passion.
In today’s throwaway fast food world, it’s easy to feel lethargic, to feel disconnected from reality and the world around us. News reports of daily atrocities across the globe blur into one depressing montage – and we can sometimes feel completely desensitised to what’s happening around us. Isn’t it sometimes easier to look down? To be drawn like a moth to the flame, towards that glowing, scrolling world of Snapchat filters and staged Instagram photos and right-swipes? Life feels so much simpler when it’s reduced down to a Like or a laughing face emoji. But we need to be inspired, we need to know (and we need the next generation to know) that there’s something somewhere that’s worth fighting for.
I struggled to think about what the title for this week’s blog should be – am I grateful for inspiration? Well the world always has and always will be full of inspiring people. Perhaps I’m grateful for the technology that enables me to access these stories. And I’m certainly grateful for the fighters who show me that it’s always worth trying. No matter how big or how small your goal, it’s important to feel that fire in your belly for something – anything; whether it’s to make a difference to somebody, to better yourself, or simply to make it out of bed and out of the house today, if that’s something you’re struggling with. As the famous quote says, ‘Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about’ – but battles are there to be won. I’m grateful for those who inspire me to fight those battles; to find strength on the hard days, to be unafraid in the face of uncertainty; to look up at the world and feel passion and determination and courage; to care.