While I'm a total snob about the books I read, the television shows I watch are a different story; they are embarrassingly awful. I easily get sucked in to the dumbest shows; the Real Housewives franchise is a favorite. Each January one of my goals for the upcoming year is not to waste time on shows that are the functional equivalent of a lobotomy. By around January 7th, I've failed. I often ask myself (and Steve certainly asks me!), how I can watch people with no redeeming qualities, who add nothing to the good of the world and arguably, add to the negativity of it. I'm not quite sure!
In the vain of bad TV, I began watching the Barbara Walters special the other night on the 10 most fascinating people of 2011. She started off with the Kardashians. For the record (and in an attempt to partially redeem myself), I draw the line at watching the Kardashian shows. The special got me thinking that a much better TV show would be to profile truly fascinating people--people who are inspirational and role models. Unfortunately, I don't think it would get as many viewers as a show that profiles someone famous for a sex tape and a 72 day marriage. So, I decided I would profile 10 inspirational people here.
1. People Fighting Serious Illnesses
When I think of the number of people I know who are battling, or have battled, everything from cancer to MS, I am deeply saddened. Yet, I am constantly inspired by the fight these people wage and the perseverance they show day after day. Many are working full time and raising families and yet they do what they must to fight whatever awful disease has been thrown their way. These people and the grace, dignity and strength they demonstrate are much more fascinating to me than housewives from Beverly Hills.
2. Individuals Caring for a Sick Loved One
Countless people in our country quietly care for a sick loved one day in and day out. There are no TV specials and no exorbitant salaries paid to those who care for an elderly parent or a sick child or spouse. Just people, like you and me, who simply do what they must. It is these people we should honor and celebrate.
3. Those Working to Bring About Social Change
Normal, everyday people throughout the world channel their passion and energy and bring about positive social change. From Jenny Kalmbach who works to clean up our oceans to Kristen Kavanaugh and Jasper Kump, the founders of MAP who work for the LGBT community in the military, people work hard to make the world a better place. Thank goodness for these people; I don't want to imagine a world without these types of people.
4. LGBT Teens
The teen years are tough for anyone. Imagine feeling different and/or ostracized because you are a gay teen. Those teens, particularly ones who are openly out, are truly inspirational to me. I can safely say that I would not have had the courage to be out when I was a teen had I been gay. Those who are deserve our utmost respect and admiration.
25% of Americans volunteer annually. Volunteer labor makes up a significant part of the nonprofit labor force; from the all volunteer Bridge of Books Foundation organization to the over 25,000 volunteers each year at the San Francisco Food Bank volunteers make a huge impact in our communities.
6. Teachers and Principals
While we pay a reality TV "star" millions of dollars to televise her wedding, we fail to pay our teachers and principals salaries that equal the importance of their profession. Having spent a lot of time in classrooms, particularly in underfunded schools with children from poor backgrounds, I can attest that teaching is one of the most difficult jobs one can choose. Being the leader of such a school is a close second.
7. The Working Poor
Almost 50% of the families we serve at the San Francisco Food Bank have at least one adult in the household working full-time. And yet, families simply can't make ends meet. The growing disparity in wages and wealth in this country is only compounding this problem. Imagine working all day, perhaps at two jobs, to support your family and still having to visit a food pantry. For millions in our country, that is precisely the circumstances. The continued drive and hard work of these families makes them truly inspirational.
8. Medical Researchers
In the last few decades we have made tremendous progress in fighting AIDS, cancer, MS and other diseases. Can you name a single medical researcher? I can't. Why is that? Why do we know the name of a "housewife" who hawks liquor but not the name of a medical research who invented the drug that kept a loved one alive?
9. People Who Sacrifice to Make Donations to the Needy
Years ago, I participated in the AIDS Ride--riding my bike from San Francisco to LA to raise money and awareness. Peddling through California's Central Valley, the migrant farm workers would often came out to the road and empty their pockets of change to make donations. It was incredibly moving to see people who had so little give proportionately so much. This occurs all the time in our country; the wealthy give proportionately less to charity than the poor.
10. Those Who Show Small Acts of Kindness Everyday
I often say that it doesn't matter if an act of giving is big or small--every gift makes an impact. From a smile and holding the elevator door for someone that extra second to donating spare change to your favorite nonprofit, it all makes a difference and makes the world a better place.
Who do you find inspirational in your own life? Why not take a sec and let them know they inspire you...send them an email, call them up...it would make their day!
Thank you for reading and be well!
- Tricia McCarthy
- San Francisco, California, United States
- Based on the belief that we all have the ability to make the world a better place, I write about nonprofit organizations, social issues and causes and people making a difference. I work with a variety of nonprofits in the Bay Area. I have a Masters in Nonprofit Administration and a law degree--though these days I only use the law degree for good. I generally update with new posts once a week or so.