Heroes – In my eyes

This latest post in the Heroes series is by the wonderful Queen of UK HR blogging, Alison Chisnell. I just gave her that title, hope she doesn’t mind. As many of you know Alison started blogging after attending the inaugural ConnectingHR unconference and she’s inspired many people with her writing since. This guest post is very touching, take it away Alison:

“When Doug first tweeted about guest bloggers to write about their heroes, I thought carefully about it and drew a bit of a blank. Not because I haven’t been inspired by people, more that it’s often those that are closest to me who influence me most. Then a trip to the optician with my children prompted me to think some more about someone who is a bit of hero to me – my Grandad.

Sight is something we’ve never taken for granted in my family. My great grandmother was born blind and several of my Grandad’s seven siblings were blind from birth or had serious sight problems. Growing up in a Peabody slum, as the youngest of eight children, life can’t have been easy and my Grandad left school to start work at 14. He married at 20, with my 18 year old Nanny defying her mother’s prophetic warning that she would end up married to a blind man. Two daughters followed in the next two years and my Nan always said that she grew up with her children, rather than before having them. The third child was born some eight years later. The family shared my Nan’s Aunt’s council house for many years, until the eldest two children were grown up.

Always short-sighted, my Grandad’s eyesight started to fail him in his late twenties. A detached retina compounded his poor sight and in his thirties we he developed Best’s disease, which clouded his vision still further. He cycled to work every day, until the time in his early thirties that he knocked a little girl over, because he simply hadn’t seen her. He never rode his bike again. In later life, he had cataracts and for most of my living memory he was, to all intents and purposes, completely blind.

And yet, somehow his sight was the last thing you ever noticed about my Grandad. An alert, intelligent and engaging conversationalist, he would never reveal that he could not see and he made a huge effort to look directly at whoever was speaking to him. Intelligent, driven, proud and resourceful he was enormously inspiring in his refusal to be cowed or defined by his lack of sight. After he was made redundant in his early forties, my Grandad set up his own successful business that he ran with my Nan acting as his eyes until they finally sold it when they were in their mid-seventies. It was this business that enabled them finally to move out of the area of London where they had grown up and buy their own bungalow in the countryside. Most remarkably, when my Nan died, at the age of 80 my Grandad managed to live on his own in the bungalow for nearly a year, before he moved to a home because of his worsening Alzheimers.

My Grandad was hugely proud of his children and his grandchildren. In his early seventies he underwent an operation on his cataracts, which temporarily restored his sight. His delight at seeing our faces, his incredulity at seeing his own face in the mirror, was a truly special moment. During his lifetime, he saw one of his grandchildren suffer a detached retina and medical advances ensure that it did not ruin his sight. As the most short-sighted of his grandchildren, he was thrilled that I was able to see enough with contact lenses and an additional pair of glasses to pass my driving test. That he died before any of us knew that my cousin, his grandson, has been diagnosed with Best’s disease in his late thirties and is rapidly losing his sight, is a blessing.

So, to me, my Grandad is a hero. For overcoming a difficulty that he never considered a handicap, for refusing to be limited by other people’s expectations of him, for his sheer determination, drive and ambition. His qualities of putting people at their ease, excellent conversation and his unfailing interest in others made him very special indeed.

This post was prompted by a trip to the opticians with my children. That they have near-perfect sight and can recite the entire set of letters, that I would struggle to read many steps closer and with my contact lenses, amazes and delights me. My Grandad would have been chuffed too.”

Thanks Alison – a lovely story, it rocketed me back to my childhood playing football with my blind grandfather in our back garden. He would go in goal and we would try, with little success, to score against him. His hearing was phenomenal and he could hear where the ball was, stopping all but our very best placed shots. The fact that I’ve gone on to do interesting work with sight loss charities helps give me purpose and I think would make my Grandad chuffed too.

And that’s it. For now at least. I have no more Heroes any more (see what I did there?). I hesitate to say the book is closed because I’m always open to guest bloggers, whether it be Heroes they want to write about or anything else for that matter. This is a fun experiment, I’ve edited nothing and aside from the Heroes tag made no suggestions as to what folks should send in. I’ve published every single contribution received in chronological order, and from the feedback that’s come in I know this series has motivated and touched many people.

I’m truly grateful to every guest blogger and every commenter and every reader for helping make this so successful.

Heroes – Emily’s Brother

Emily Stevenson got in touch with a lovely post for our Heroes series. Around this time of year we choose to remember those who have fallen. For those in direct contact with the armed forces, remembrance day can be, and all too often is, every day. Take it away Emily.

When somebody asks me who my hero is, the answer is easy. My big brother, Tom, is a Surgeon Lieutenant in the Navy and has just returned from a 6 month tour in Afghanistan, following a 6 month tour of the Arabian Gulf last year. When I think about how brave he is, how many lives he’s saved and how much he risked, I can’t describe how proud and happy I am to be his sister. But I also think about the things he’s seen, how scared he’s been and how many people he’s seen that he couldn’t save.

And this asks a much bigger question. I think about the soldiers who are still out there, the families who are still waiting and the people who will be forever waiting for those who won’t come home. I’m one of the lucky ones who had their hero return home to them – and I know, there are many who aren’t so lucky.

So, I say to all the soldiers, medics and animals fighting for their country, you are my heroes. To all the wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, girlfriends, boyfriends and friends– the ones who support these people through everything and are there to help put them back together at the end of it, as my family will do with my brother, you are my heroes.  To all who have lost someone and still have the strength to carry on, proud of everything their loved one accomplished, you are my heroes.

To everybody fighting out there to save lives, everybody fighting at home to save the lives of those returning and everybody fighting to carry on with their lives, you are all my heroes. But as this is my story, I have to say to a big brother who kept his promise and came back safely, you are and always will be my hero.


Heroes – that lady is my hero

Today’s superb guest post is by my good Twitter buddy Chris Fields. Chris is an HR professional, with a Master’s from The Ohio State University. He consults and blogs at Cost of Work and you can reach him on Twitter and LinkedIn too. Chris – it’s a pleasure to have you here all the way from the US of A – the floor is yours:

That Lady Is My Hero

While online, I saw bits of a conversation from my friend Doug Shaw, he mentioned something about an open invitation to guest post on his blog and the subject matter is heroes. I’m always down to contribute to a blog, especially if I like the person and the blog. Doug has been swell to me for a long time. Now it was just a matter of doing something interesting.

I like to stir the pot a bit but this time the only hero that I could think of was a relative. That’s been done to death. Relatives are easy targets because you learn from them since you’re around them and so on and so forth.  But my mind would not shake this one and here’s why.

Not only is one of my biggest heroes a blood relative, she’s an inspiration of growth and sustainability. She dropped out of school in the 6th grade to work and help her mom & dad. Then she became a teenage parent. Her parents didn’t approve at all. She didn’t give up though. Turns out she was a really good cook. She would cook and clean the homes of the rich and wealthy. She made a decent living. One day someone she worked for asked her to cook for a dinner party. She did, and they loved it.

She continued to cook for families, parties and events and that blossomed into a small catering company. Armed with a 6th grade education, she began to carve out a nice little niche for herself but she knew in order to get better and be competitive she had to learn how to cook and bake more sophisticated dishes. So she went to cooking school. Her expertise spread throughout the city of Memphis. At her busiest time, the holiday season, she’d have 2-3 events a day; she’d cook anything from a full Kosher menu to a simple Christmas cake. As young kids and teens, we would help her prepare food, load the car and clean.

I remember looking out the window all night waiting for the headlights of her car to pull up in the driveway. And when she finally arrived well after midnight, she would be dog tired. Her white serving dress would be strained with sauces, drinks and other foods. We’d unload the car, look for any good left overs and do it all again. She worked hard for the money and she did well. She would always tell me “You have to work harder for yourself than you do when for someone else.” This from a lady that didn’t make it to high school. I keep mentioning that because I have 2 degrees (B.S. &Master’s) and she is still smarter than I am and more business savvy. The things she did instinctively, I had to learn in a university.

Did I mention she was my grandmother?  She passed away Oct. 2004. She’s always been my hero not ONLY because she’s was an awesome granny but the example of leadership, and wisdom she gave me. She taught me how to be a professional. That’s why that lady’s my hero.