As we approach the close of the year, it is a time of remembrance. The media undoubtedly helps us in this regard with the popular countdowns and recap lists of 2012 — most beautiful people, coolest innovations, best sports achievements, biggest scandals, etc. I must admit I tend to follow most of these countdowns with anticipation and excitement. But there are also the important events and figures that may not be so commonly highlighted in popular news.
Along with the devastating Hurricane Sandy that continues to affect millions in the Caribbean and Northeast United States, there were the realities of other tragic natural disasters, such as floods in North Korea and a severe drought in West Africa, not to mention the lingering effects of tragedies still being felt since tragedies that occurred in 2011 in places like the Philippines and Japan. There were man-made disasters as well, including the persistent conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan and Syria, where thousands of innocents have paid the ultimate price — their lives.
In 2012, we saw incredible courage and leadership in individuals such as Malala Yousafzai, the teenage student who fought for girls’ education in Pakistan and was shot and critically wounded because of it. We also witnessed Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate who was under house arrest in Myanmar for over 15 years because of her peaceful pursuit of democracy. Courage also exists so strongly in the countless underprivileged boys and girls who go to school everyday defying great odds and the parents who put family above their own well-being. And it is present in the passionate and brave citizen activists fighting corruption in India, standing up for cherished and true democracy in Egypt or striving for freedoms for Native Canadians who have been discriminated against closer to home.
For sports fans, 2012 was the year of the London Olympics, which were renowned for the spectacular triumphs of Usain Bolt, Gabby Douglas and Lebron James. They were not just historic because of athletic achievement; Bahya Mansour Al Hamad, Nada Mohammad WS Arakji, Maziah Mahusin, Dalma Rusdi Malhas, Wojdan Shaherkani and Sarah Attar became the first female Olympians from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Brunei to ever represent their countries in any Olympics and, in turn, inspire generations in the process.
Beyond the news — mainstream or not — there are also always stories that are close to our own lives. Our families, our friends and people we know have either achieved their dreams or undergone setbacks, persevered or sacrificed or are simply the unsung heroes working day in and day out, doing everything they can to make a difference for their family and for the world.
These unmentioned stories all depict moments and people that give us personal perspective, wisdom and tough lessons and inspire us to be the best people we can be in the future. So as the clock ticks down on 2012, let’s enjoy the lists that CNN, People Magazine and others have to offer and remember what they don’t.
Shamir Tanna is a contributing columnist. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.