Contagious Inspiration

I don’t read as much as I used to, which really is a shame. Reading is cheaper than a flight, heals better than therapy, and educates more than in a classroom – at least for me. Some books mesmerize you with a great fiction, others rekindle your creative imagination. The best of all though, are those that inspire you.

I just finished reading Mandela’s “Long Walk to Freedom”, and its inspiration is beyond just his fight for his country, or his love for the nation – its inspiration is in the simple things. In his ability to wake up at 5.30am, even at the age of 57 to perform “stationary running” in his cell for 45 minutes, followed by 100 fingertip push ups, 200 sittups, and 50 deep knee-bends. It’s inspiration is in his love and appreciation of  others – the book equally celebrates the efforts and ideas of those who shared his devotion, instead of monopolizing the achievements of his time. I find this specific point worthy of digging deeper into. This, for me, is particularly enjoyable because too often I’ve heard statements, or even made them myself, about others’ success, like “akeed wasta” or “it’s because they come from money” or some other spiteful comment – as if praising someone else is a personal insult to our own ability.

Social media sometimes exacerbates this issue – by giving the illusion of freedom: freedom of not being seen, freedom of not being face-to-face with someone. Due to that, a lot of the time, social media shows the worst of us – rude comments, superficial concerns, unkind wishes,  racist/judgemental ideas, and lots LOTS of petty gossip.  Then, every once in a while, there are stories that make your heart grow with love, fill your mind with nothing but ambitious thoughts and kind intentions – this post today, is to celebrate those stories.

People like Omni Athletes that have managed to break multiple records by running 7 marathons in 7 days, across 7 continents –  a feat so impressive on its own, as it really showcases the strength of the healthy mind first, and body second. But what is even more important, is that it was also done to help support the treatment of Hajar, a baby girl bravely fighting  stage 2 kidney cancer.

lina sioufi
Photo credit: Lina Sioufi – A survivor, with a great attitude, and an unconventional eye for beauty.

Personal stories of Sara Khatib and Mike Helal also come to mind. Two individuals, both to have lost their physical lives to cancer – but whose existence will inspire you to get up and try harder. Sara Khatib managed to graduate an honor student with a pharmacy degree from LAU, while undergoing chemotherapy and a missing right arm. In her name, an association is being established in Lebanon that will support the struggles of young cancer patients. Similarly, in another continent, Mike Helal completed his PhD as he struggled with cancer, only to have lost the 14-month battle a few days ago.  During his life, he and his wife started ASPIRE-LB, a scholarship fund meant to support students undergraduate tuition fees in Lebanon.I do not know these people personally, but I am left in awe of their ability to continue to work hard, to hope, and to achieve – inspite of debilitating pain.

Then there are people I know personally: extraordinary women like Zeina Saab founder of Nawaya Network who continues to fight the odds in a crippled country, for those who don’t have a voice of their own. She fights for the talented youth, who are often ignored, in a country so negligent of its own resources.

I am in awe every day, of the patients I see battling chronic diseases with unknown causes. I am in awe of the physical body and its capabilities, but more than I ever, I am in awe of people’s strength, compassion, and kindness. These stories should not be a bleep on a facebook homepage – they should be the center stories of our conversations, instead of petty gossip and 50 shades of immorality.

I am sure there that for every person I’ve mentioned here, there a dozen more I don’t know of – and that is our fault. Let  us make inspiration contagious.

I know this isn’t a particularly health/food related blog post, but in my defense, I’ve always found that people succeed when they have support. It’s easier to stick to a diet when everyone at home isn’t eating chocolates in front of you, its easier to go to the gym when there is a buddy waiting for you there.  From that reasoning, sharing stories of those with bigger or similar struggles, who have pushed through beyond what we think is achievable – will make you believe the cliche “nothing is impossible”.

Here’s hoping this post inspires the “Mandela” in you.


P.S: This post was completely spontaneous and written in real-time, so the choice of people mentioned is not a deliberate attempt to include or exclude anyone specific.

*Photo credit: Lina Sioufi – A survivor, with a great attitude, and an unconventional eye for beauty.

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