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Hayden on his third birthday with his grandad, John “Jack” Henderson

Over the past couple of years I’ve written about many inspirational people from history and famous individuals who are still alive, but I’m unlikely to ever meet.

But today, I want to focus on someone I’ve been very close to who has been an inspiration to me personally.

John “Jack” Henderson was born in Glasgow, Scotland during the second World War.  The youngest of 10 children, his father passed away when he was just 3 weeks old.  As a result, his mother was forced to work to provide for the family, leaving his older sisters to raise him from a very young age.

After leaving school in his early teens, he worked as a television repairman.  It was a strange role for Jack as he was probably the least handy man I’ve ever met, although it did start a lifetime love of television.

At the age of 17, Jack left Scotland for London to enrol in the Salvation Army Training College for Officers.  He struggled to read or write, making college a challenge.  Out of hundreds of cadets, Jack was one of three in the literacy remedial class.  However, he didn’t let it stop him from completing his training and starting his career with the Salvation Army in their Social Work area.  Remarkably, Jack went on to complete his Masters Degree in Social Work and later became a university lecturer back in Scotland. Not bad for an illiterate TV repairman.

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Tim Harris – Special Olympian, restaurant owner, hugger

The London Olympics are now over and there have been many inspirational stories of athletes who have overcome odds or broken world records or achieved remarkable deeds.

But I recently came across the story of an amazing young man who has genuinely inspired me.

Tim Harris is a Special Olympian who was born with Down Syndrome.

He has competed in a wide variety of events and claims to have won more medals than Michael Phelps.

But as impressive as that may be, that’s not the most inspirational thing about Tim.

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John Stephen Akhwari

As a big sports fan, I enjoyed watching the 2012 London Olympics.

I love the superstars of the Olympics and have fond memories of watching the original Dream Team, Cathy Freeman, Carl Lewis and other greats strut their stuff on the big stage and to see a new generation of stars was exciting and inspiring.

I also love the stories behind the scenes of those who never won a medal, but competed with pride, courage and to the best of their abilities, giving us all someone not only to cheer for, but to be inspired by.

One of those people is John Stephen Akhwari.

He was a Tanzanian marathon runner competing in the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games.

Not used to running at such a high altitude, Akhwari soon started to cramp, but things really went wrong at the 19km mark of the 42km race, when he collided with another runner and fell, injuring himself badly.

He badly cut and dislocated his knee and also hurt his shoulder when he hit the ground.

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Gac Filipaj is a 52 year-old refugee from the former Yugoslavia who works as a janitor at Columbia University.

He’s not the usual success story, but he is a true inspiration.

An ethnic Albanian, Gac was about to be drafted into the Yugoslav army.  He feared that he would be forced to fight against other Albanians, so he escaped and emigrated to America, living with an uncle in the Bronx.

He didn’t speak a word of English, so he learned the language while working as a restaurant busboy.

He found a job as a janitor at Columbia University, after learning from his uncle that it was the best learning institution in the New York area.

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Jeremy Lin

I admit it.  I’m a sucker for a great sports story and in my opinion, New York Knicks basketball player Jeremy Lin is the sports story of 2012.

In just his second season, he’s set the NBA alight, recently winning the Eastern Conference player of the week and breaking Shaquille O’Neal’s NBA record for points scored in his first 5 games as a starter.  He topped off his meteoric rise with the game winning three pointer this week against Toronto with 0.5 seconds left on the clock.

So who is Jeremy Lin and why is he so inspirational?

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I recently came across the story of a lady named Irena Sendler who worked in the ghettos of Warsaw as a social worker during World War II.

This extraordinary woman smuggled Jewish children to safety using a range of innovative techniques, including ambulances and underground passages.  She carried infants in the bottom of tool boxes or even coffins and older children in a sack that she placed in the back of her truck.

She also had a dog that sat in the truck that was trained to bark when the Nazi soldiers approached the truck as she entered and exited the ghetto.  The soldiers wanted nothing to do with the dog, so they’d stay clear.  The barking would also cover the sounds of the frightened children and infants.

Over the course of her endeavours, she and her team of helpers were responsible for saving 2,500 children from almost certain torture and death.

Irene was eventually caught, was severely tortured and sentenced to death. Read the rest of this entry »

English: Oscar Pistorius during 2011 World cha...

English: Oscar Pistorius during 2011 World championships Athletics in Daegu (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the 2011 Track and Field World Championships, there was a runner from South Africa who qualified for the semi-finals of the 400 metres by finishing third in his heat.

He then went on to qualify for the semi-finals of the 2012 London Olympics.

This doesn’t seem like such a great achievement until you learn that Oscar Pistorius had both of his legs amputated below the knee when he was a baby.

As a result, he runs with prosthetic “blades” that are attached to his legs, enabling him to run.  His training and dedication has given him the capacity to compete with the best able-bodied athletes in the world.

When I first heard about this, I couldn’t help but be inspired.

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Steve Jobs

Image by acaben via Flickr

Steve Jobs, the iconic CEO of Apple has sadly passed away after recently announcing that he was stepping down from his role.

During his time at the helm of Apple, he turned them into an incredibly successful brand with ubiquitous products like the iPod, iPhone, iPad and the range of Mac computers.  Apple is now synonymous with cool and this is largely due to Steve’s leadership and vision.

How can Steve Jobs’ story inspire us today:

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In the 2011 NBA Draft, Marquette’s Jimmy Butler was selected with pick 30 by the Chicago Bulls.

Whilst that’s the starting point for what will hopefully become a successful professional career, it all could have turned out very differently.

Without a father from an early age, Jimmy was kicked out of home by his own mother at the age of 13.  Her last words to him were, “I don’t like the look of you.  You gotta go.”

After moving from house to house, with no money, no parents and no support structure, he was eventually taken in by the Leslie family who already had 7 children of their own, but generously opened their home and hearts to Jimmy in his senior year of high school.

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Photo via Flickr

In 2011, India won the Cricket World Cup, a tremendous achievement that was celebrated ecstatically by a country that treats the game like a religion.

At the fore-front of their win was the “Little Master,” Sachin Tendulkar.  One of the greatest batsmen in history, this was Sachin’s sixth World Cup and his first win, adding to his already long list of cricketing accomplishments.

He is the leading run scorer in both Test Cricket and One-Day Internationals, and even in the twilight of his career is still one of the most feared batsmen going around. 

What can we learn from Sachin Tendulkar?

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