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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Like word puzzles?

Neither do I... but this one is simple and it makes a point:

What English language word starts out masculine, then when you add a letter, it is feminine, then when you add another letter, it is masculine again, then when you add three more, it ends up feminine?

Good one, huh?

Well, the word is HE (masculine) R (feminine) O (masculine) INE (feminine)... HEROINE, get it?

CNN just revealed its Heros for 2009 (here).... 10 individuals nominated and voted on by viewers over the course of the year. It featured these top vote-getters in a recent television special. Watching was a richly rewarding experience... something that can't readily be said for many TV shows.

What set this show apart, however, is that these were people we could relate to... not movie stars or philanthropists, but people who have embraced a need or cause from a humanitarian perspective and did something about it. People like us... except they set themselves apart by their unselfish drive to help when and where help was needed. Here are CNN's top ten this year:

There was 20-year-old Jordan Thomas who lost both of his legs in a boating accident four years ago. When he observed many young people didn't have the help or means that he had, he clearly saw his cause. He created the Jordan Thomas Foundation which has raised more than $400,000 to date to provide prosthetics for children in need.This is now his life's mission.

Andrea Ivory, a breast cancer survivor, saw her passion in bringing early detection to the doorsteps of uninsured women. With mobile mammography vans, her group has provided more than 500 free screenings in Miami, Florida.

Doc Hendley was a bartender who discovered one day that there are billions of people of the world without access to clean water. Stunned by that revelation and through creative fundraising, his nonprofit Wine to Water has brought sustainable water systems to 25,000 people in five countries and says his work is just beginning.

Army veteran Roy Foster started Stand Down House to help veterans struggling with addiction and homelessness in Florida. Since 2000, his program has provided life-changing services to nearly 900 veterans.

Jorge Munoz is a school bus driver in Queens who couldn't help but notice the many in need on his route. He is helping hungry New Yorkers make it through tough times. Since 2004, he has handed out more than 70,000 meals...with dedicated help from family and friends and donations from wherever he can find them... from his mobile soup kitchen in Queens, seven nights a week, 365 days a year-- for free.

Efren PeƱaflorida gives Filipino youth an alternative to gang membership through education. His Dynamic Teen Company's 10,000 members have taught basic reading and writing to 1,500 kids living in the slums.

Brad Blauser is providing hope and mobility to disabled children and their families in Iraq. Since 2005, his Wheelchairs for Iraqi Kids program has distributed nearly 650 free pediatric wheelchairs to children in need.

Derrick Tabb started The Roots of Music to give young people an alternative to New Orleans' streets. His music education program provides free tutoring, instruments and music instruction to more than 100 students.

Budi Soehardi founded a children's home in one of the poorest areas of Indonesia. Today, Roslin Orphanage in West Timor provides food, shelter and education to more than 45 children. 

Zimbabwe native Betty Makoni founded the Girl Child Network to provide a haven for young victims of sexual abuse. The organization has rescued more than 35,000 girls since 2001.

The CNN program showed video of the heros in action and defined their cause and path. It was remarkable to observe how many lives these people have touched and how their passion pushed them forward. And these 10 were only the best representation of the thousands of hero nominees CNN received.

The thing that struck me most though, was the acceptance speech of each of these 10 as they stepped up to receive their award and a $25,000 prize given by CNN. To an individual, they were modest, humble... and even shy. They were selfless and sharing, sincere in the needs of those helped, and incredibly heroic in ways we would all like to see ourselves. They didn't seek this attention nor did they relish in the spotlight of personal glory... that's not what it was about to them. 

They are, in the truest sense, heros... and perhaps our finest contemporary example of the golden rule. It is at times like this that man's humanity is felt at the highest level. They make us proud because they represent something special in us all.

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