When driving on the road between 7 and 9 am, as I often do, I make a point to listen to one of my favorite programs – “Today” on the car radio. There were three unrelated items which particularly struck me today and they all related to heroism and featured inspirational heroes. In a day when there is a lot to bring us down, there is much to uplift us too. These could include acts of heroism, sometimes by unlikely, unheard of persons. Today’s three “heroes” were Francis Foley, Iva Barr, and Prince William (only William I had heard of).
According to Wikipedia: “Major Francis Edward Foley CMG, Order of St. Olaf (Norway), (24 November 1884, Highbridge, Somerset – 8 May 1958, Stourbridge) was a British Secret Intelligence Service officer. As a passport control officer for the British embassy in Berlin, Foley “bent the rules” and helped thousands of Jewish families escape from Nazi Germany after Kristallnacht and before the outbreak of the Second World War, officially recognized as a British Hero of the Holocaust”. It became evident reading the article that Foley had a distinguish career, but it is that short period when he helped thousands of Jews escape Germany, who might have otherwise been killed, by cunning, stealth and at risk to his own life, which was the focus of Today’s item on the man, interviewing one of those whose life was saved because of his audacity.
While just one of 40000 runners in this Sundays London Marathon, Iva Barr is likely the oldest at 88. According to one report: “Iva Barr first ran the 26.2-mile course in 1982 and the former nursery nurse describes it as ‘like being at the centre of a big street party’. Iva Barr first ran the 26.2-mile course in 1982 and the former nursery nurse describes it as ‘like being at the centre of a big street party’. .. A pensioner will be the oldest runner in this year’s London Marathon when she crosses the start line at the tender age of 88. Iva Barr first ran the 26.2-mile course in 1982 and this year’s race will mark the 20th time she has completed the course… She said: “I just love doing the London Marathon. It’s like being at the centre of a big street party.”” Listening to her being interviewed was inspirational. She clearly enjoyed a simple lifestyle and lived life to the full, giving back to society e.g. by her charitable fund raising.
My third inspirational figure is perhaps a less likely one; it is Prince William. During the course of today’s interview with him he paid tribute to his grandmother, the Queen (whose 90th birthday it is today), who few would argue is a true hero and example to us all by her lifelong devotion to duty, her service to her people and leading by example. The Prime Minister’s tribute to her was spot on. But regarding William, who has recently attracted criticism for shirking his royal duties, he gave a creditable account of his resolve to be a loving father and husband and maintain normality, mindful of his privileges and the effect his position as in line for the crown does have on his family. He also wanted to do his job as an Air Ambulance pilot well, realizing the way this touches on the lives of ordinary people, and yet resolved to take a more active role in carrying out royal duties when the time is ripe. While unlike my two previous subjects, he does not appear to have done much that could be regarded as extraordinary, I still see him as an inspirational hero.
The lesson for me is threefold. Firstly, there are many people, past and present, who have done or do heroic and inspirational things, sometimes flying in the face of great odds, but only a tiny few of which are known to us. Secondly, while all sorts of bad things go on all around us, we can still take heart from our inspirational heroes. Thirdly, there is no reason why any one of us can’t be inspirational heroes also, not by doing great acts of heroism the public sees but simply by keeping on doing what needs doing as best we can.