Look for the helpers

Last night I had the extraordinary privilege of being one of 61 people from Auckland to recieve a medal for the Kiwibank Local Hero awards. Basically, there were 750 people from all over NZ nominated to recieve the Local Hero award, 350 people got chosen as semifinalists, and were presented with medals all over the nation. Out of we 350 people, 10 will then be chosen as finalists at the end of December, and the winner will be announced at a grand affair in February.

I don’t expect to win, by the way. Because some of the people who are local heroes, have been so for a very very long time. And deserve more recognition than I, that’s for sure.

But there’s a rub. The people I stood on a stage with, last night, are all very unassuming, humble people. They don’t really like the limelight. When we were all up there, for a group photo, most of them were trying to stand at the back or to the sides. (Including me).

It’s not considered to polite or the done thing to make a fuss about your volunteer work, and most of the people there last night wouldn’t want to do it even if it were the done thing, it seems to me. There were people who saved lives, started charities and social enterprises at 17, had been working in their communities for upwards of 30 years. Good buggers, you know? The Bird Lady of Torbay, for heavens sake! She’s been an absolute legend for forever!

It’s a pretty uncomfortable thing, standing in a spotlight. But still, how is anyone ever going to know about your work – your really important work – unless you do from time to time?

That’s the bit none of us like, really. We need people to know about the work, but we really wish we didn’t have to make a song and a dance about it for it to be noticed.

So there we all were. Watching as one by one all these amazing people went up on the stage – 59 of them, there were – and it just blew me away. Not that there were so many kind people in the world, because I already knew that, but how absolutely dedicated and committed, how driven, they all were. And as I said, many had been doing their do for decades. And most had been doing it all by themselves. While holding down fulltime jobs. What.

And that’s why I felt like a fraud. Yes, I’ve had to push hard to do this work, but all the way along I’ve had the most incredible support. I couldn’t, literally, have even done the first thing I did without baby clothes and stuff for A. I couldn’t ever have done any of it without the people who turned up at my door with stuff, and other people who embraced the first givealittle we had. This is what the Aunties has always been about. People connecting with other people, and my work is separate to that, nowadays, in a way. You guys do the getting of stuff, and the giving of money, and I get to distribute all of that to the people I work with, which is the super easy bit,  and when I’m done doing that, the next part of my work begins. But, I couldn’t even do that bit without all of you. You see? So we’re all mixed up in this glorious sort of mess of humanity together.

So no, I don’t expect to be winning any grand prizes. And I don’t really care to be honest. Because my reward is getting to do this. It’s enough. It’s more than enough. It’s everything.



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