The Real Persons Of The Year
Wednesday - December 28, 2005
Time magazine has published its People of the Year for 2005. Now it’s my turn.
Time picked two billionaires and a rock star for their philanthropy: “Good Samaritans” Microsoft founder Bill Gates and wife Melinda and U2’s Bono. They now take their place with famous past picks from Winston Churchill to Joseph Stalin, Pope John Paul to Yasser Arafat, Martin Luther King to the Ayatullah Khomeini.
After reading of their accomplishments, I agree they deserve the honors. Given the criteria set forth by Time in choosing people who make an impact on the world - both good and bad - it could’ve selected any number of “bad guys.” Recognizing people who sincerely commit to affecting real and positive change can have lasting impact.
In the business world, the Gateses, with their Bill Gates Foundation, have set a standard for other megarich to follow, and the message is: Get personally involved in where donated money goes in a world of staggering need. And Bono, as the world’s top entertainer, garners the attention of both young and old challenging them to take responsibility for the planet they inhabit. And he seems to have an uncanny talent for bringing opposites together to solve universal problems.
My 2005 Persons of the Year make differences, too, but without the fanfare of Bono or the money of the Gateses. They represent sacrifice and courage, suffering and faith. All are equal picks. All heroes.
First, is Peggy Chun, artist, fighter, inspiration and the bravest person I know. She’s famous here in Hawaii for her excellent watercolors and, more recently, for having ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, for which there is no cure (Peggy would quickly add “yet”).
Physically there could be no greater contrast from the pre-ALS Peggy to the Peggy we see now. Before the progressively debilitating motor-neuron disease took its toll, she was a hurricane followed by a tsunami - in a good way. No one could match her pace. She’d drop in, then whisk out just as your spirits started to soar. She’d always leave you with a hilarious, sometimes slightly risque pronouncement that made you grin like a goon. Busy and productive, painting, teaching and giving were Peggy’s life - fun, her specialty. Amazingly, they still are.
Every year, for years, a mutual friend has thrown a lunch Christmas party at a local restaurant that lasts well into the evening. Peggy hasn’t been able to make it for the past three years, but before she always brought costumes and a skit for her table-mates to perform. Once it was giant lips, another time those deely boppers that bounce around from a headband. Another time it was a ‘50s Grease look.
This year, instead, she sent a Christmas letter for us to read, which wouldn’t be remarkable except that she can now only move her eyeballs. The letter said she was blessed to be alive so she can communicate with her retina, using ERICA (Eye-gaze Response Interface Computer Aid) and paint with it, too. Inside a failed body, lives the same fun, creative, slightly impish woman who’s always full of hope and ideas. “I have so much to be grateful for,” she says often. Peggy reminds us that God is interested in minds, hearts and souls - not bodies. Oh, and she’s writing her memoirs, too.
Next are Peg’s Legs, the volunteers who care for Peggy round-the-clock. These angels - friends and volunteers - perform medically critical tasks with tracheotomy tubes and other life sustaining (scary) devices, or simply rub feet, run errands or take down Peggy’s to-do lists.
Suzanne Maurer and Kimi Chun are the head “Legs.”
And finally, and not least, are the Marines, soldiers, corpsmen, reservists, and guardsmen of Hawaii who’ve been or are deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq. They are the “brave” we speak of when we sing the national anthem. They are honor, sacrifice and commitment. They are at the tip of freedom’s spear. They go so we don’t have to.
Give them all a standing ovation. And have a giving, loving 2006 sprinkled with fun and lots of gratitude.
You can make a donation to Peggy Chun at www.peggychun.com
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