The days leading up to the new year are always my favorite. They give me the opportunity to reflect upon the last year and to prepare for the coming one. I always enjoy the television shows about the most influential people of the year, and I always get misty-eyed when I see all the faces of those who passed away.
I didn't want this year to come to a close without weighing in on my own Most Admired List of People in 2013. Though I am not Catholic or Methodist or Jewish, there are people of those faiths on this list. Some people you have no doubt heard about, and others who you probably haven't. But all have influenced the world in a positive way in 2013.
#1 : Pope Francis
I've never been to the Vatican and will never be privy to the inner workings of the inner-most circle. But it has to be nothing short of miraculous for a Pope to lead followers in new directions, modernizing the church and banishing the old order. I admire Pope Francis for leading his people into a path of brightness. He will no doubt be recognized as one of the greatest popes who ever lived.
#2 : Nelson Mandela
It's easy to focus on those who have done us wrong in one way or another, and many of us stubbornly hold onto old prejudices and beliefs. Imagine how difficult it must have been for a man who was not treated as a man but as something less, to be imprisoned, forced into hard labor, beaten down both physically and mentally... To emerge victorious. Mandela showed the world what it is to forgive. His life was an example of a beacon that refused to be extinguished, and of a light that I hope will last far into the future.
#3 : Neelley Hicks
Neelley Hicks works for United Methodist Communications. In the past, she has worked toward eradicating malaria in third world countries and on improving the life of the poor throughout the world. She is now working on Information and Communications Technologies for Development (ICT4D), a project that can revolutionize the world as it brings the Internet, cell phone technology and computer technology to the poorest of the poor in the least advanced countries. She works tirelessly, giving of herself, her energy and her time, to improving mankind.
#4 : Michael Feinstein
Michael Feinstein is the CEO of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington (Washington, DC). I've known him for about twenty years and for almost ten years, he has mentored me. I know I am not the only one he mentors; he gives of his time and his energy without judgment, and he's shown patience when most folks would have been tempted to throw up their hands. Yet he never asks for anything in return. His work through JCCGW and personally is far-reaching and life-changing.
#5 : Mickey Gregory
Mickey Gregory is the Executive Director of the Lumberton Visitors Bureau in Lumberton, North Carolina. She works tirelessly to improve Lumberton and Robeson County, pulling together business leaders, community organizations and individuals from all walks of life. She seems to be everywhere at once: from early in the morning until well past evening, seven days a week, she is attending community events, making telephone calls, giving talks, answering emails - and never taking "no" as a final answer. She is undoubtedly one of the key players in taking Lumberton from a farming community into a new, exciting era as a tourist destination.
#6 : Mary Ann Masters
Dr. Mary Ann Masters is an Optometrist but she is on this list because of her vision for the Arts. She resurrected the Robeson County Arts Council, which had been dormant for several years, and has spear-headed efforts to revitalize Robeson County, North Carolina as an arts community. She has pulled together artists from theatre, the visual arts, the literary arts and more, helping to develop events that attract tourists from around the country, and profiling the vast talents of artists and artisans in this community.
There are many people, both well-known and obscure, both great and small, who help to make their communities and the world around them a brighter, better place to live. I salute each and every one of you!
Who has made a difference in your life this past year?