The 2016 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded, a Friday or two ago, to Juan Manuel Santos. Santos is the president of Colombia. He negotiated an uncertain end to 50-plus-years of civil war.
I attended the funeral of another Nobel Peace Prize winner last week, right here in Wellington. Dan McDonald, the co-proprietor of the “It’s Wickedly Sweet” bakery, worked two tours of duty as a UN peacekeeper, in Israel, in 1985, and Iran, in 1988. In that latter year, UN peacekeepers, collectively, received the Nobel Peace Prize. Had his health not deteriorated, Dan would no doubt have marched in our Pumpkinfest parade, sporting his blue beret and wearing a proud smile.
I came to know Dan through his bakery. He would tell me how his culinary studies, at Loyalist College, were proceeding and show me the latest picture of his granddaughter. Things hit a bit of a bump for him when he was trying to do get his practical experience: he couldn’t handle the pressure of kitchen deadlines.
Dan explained that it was because of his post-traumatic stress disorder. I asked how that happened. Oh, he said, it goes back to my peacekeeping days.
Then he mentioned, in passing, that UN peacekeepers had won the peace prize. He understood that it wasn’t for his own personal accomplishments, but made it clear that he was an ordinary fellow serving his country and the Nobel people had just decided to honour the role of the peacekeeper that year.
Dan was much more comfortable when the topic changed to his wife Laurie’s apple pies. “Why didn’t I take one or two home?” He spoke in a low growl that imitated the sound of a man who had discovered a culinary masterpiece that he knew was going to satiate him.
Dan could have dined out on that Nobel award for years or made it the first item on his ‘Hi, how are you’ agenda. He didn’t. I practically had to drag the information out of him.
That’s why I admired him, not because he was among the group that won the Nobel, but despite it. He was clearly a fellow that made a major personal sacrifice for the benefit of others and was humble about it. I added Dan to a list of names I keep, which I call my ‘everyday heroes.’ I’ll briefly mention a couple of others.
Another everyday hero is Peter. His spouse ran a shop. A daughter, of one of the employees, had received a kidney transplant that was failing her; she needed another transplant. Peter unhesitatingly offered his own kidney; it turned out to be a good match.
That was the easy part. Peter then had to fight with the health care bureaucracy to get the point where he could undergo an operation to remove and then transplant the kidney in the recipient. Both operations were successful. I ask Peter about his generosity from time to time and he shrugs it off as if it were no big deal.
A third everyday hero is John. He and Thora were married for 66 years; Thora died this past summer. She endured crippling osteoporosis and for the past five years or so was essentially a housebound invalid. John attended on her for all those years without, until the very end, professional assistance and without a peep of complaint. John obviously saw living up to his wedding vows by his actions as his duty, and his example to his family. He too has shrugged off his task, as just what anyone would to do in the circumstances.
I am sure you can come up with many such examples of your own.
The point I want to make is straightforward. Although it is good how Alfred Nobel established the peace prize in his name and, although Mr. Santos is undoubtedly a worthy recipient, the world could manage if there were no Nobel Peace Prize winner. The world certainly would not manage without our everyday heroes; the women and men that quietly go about making sacrifices for others. Fortunately, everyday heroes are all around us; they are our neighbours, family and friends. Let us celebrate them. What better time to do so than is this 'count your blessings' time of year.
Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose, not infrequently laced with savage humour. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Mike Barnacle, the late Jimmy Breslin and Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington, Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.
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