About once a week in this job, I meet someone who inspires me. Sometimes the person is a senior, like this year's Golden Girl Edna Husby, who makes a huge difference in a community by working quietly behind the scenes.
Sometimes the individual is a man like Larry Westlake, so consumed with bringing history to life he devotes huge blocks of time to the project. And sometimes the inspiration comes from a young person like Kai Nestman, who is just beginning to make his mark on the world.
What strikes me about all these people is their humility.
In Husby's case, she pooh-poohs her lifetime of volunteer work with St. Mary's Hospital Auxiliary and the Kiwanis Care Home as things anyone would do. And her amazement at being chosen Golden Girl is anything but feigned. She's a treat to talk to. With her never-ending curiosity about the world around her and positive slant to life, she brings a golden touch to many people's lives.
And the work of Westlake tells a similar story. After learning about the handliner boats folks used mainly up and down Georgia Strait from the turn of the century to WWII, Westlake decided to resurrect the boat. Because no actual plans of the boats existed anywhere, Westlake's first challenge was to make some. Working from one of the few boats left (a craft made by pioneer Hubert Evans), Westlake managed to construct a replica of historically correct materials. And although he credits much of the success of the project to others - the many builders who helped him construct the boat, the businesses and organizations that supplied the funds to complete the project and Bee Jackson of the Sunshine Coast Museum and Archives for her support - arguably without the fire and determination of Westlake, the boat would never have floated.
While Nestman hasn't lived enough years to have earned a 40-year pin for volunteering or to have achieved one of his lifelong dreams, he's surely on his way. He shares an important trait with the other two: a desire to leave the world a better place for his having been a part of it. Nestman has just returned from a year-long Rotary exchange visit to Thailand. While there he had the opportunity to experience a culture radically different from ours.
The respect Nestman feels for the Thai people resonates loudly in his conversations.
He marvels at the pride the Thais feel for their country. Each Monday, every working Thai shows up for their job in a spotless military-inspired uniform. And each Friday every Thai wears a bright yellow T-shirt adorned with a crest of the area the person lives in. Although Nestman doesn't say so, it's hard not to draw a comparison to Canada. It's hard to imagine (maple leafs on Canada Day aside) Canadians flaunting their pride of country on their clothing.
Nestman is amazed more young people don't avail themselves of the opportunity to spend a year abroad as he did. Unlike the United States, where there are about 300 applicants for every spot the Rotary organization has to offer, less than a dozen Canadian youth apply for each spot available. Nestman sees his $4,000 investment in the exchange as priceless. He says the experience opened him to other cultures and other people. He sees himself as more easygoing now. And although he says he's less intense, that's before he talks about his new job working for the Liberal contestant in the next federal election. Practice saying Prime Minister Nestman. Someday, I predict, we'll be saying it a lot.