One more idealist is now in Heaven.
Just a matter of days ago, one of our world’s great men – Michael Elliott – raised his glass for the last time, and then shut his eyes. As has been said in one of the many salutes that has followed news of his passing spreading across the globe, just 48 hours before his last breathe, as people gathered around him to toast him at his retirement party, “nobody could have known that he was, in fact, the life of the party at his own wake.”
So often the news of the passing of a global personality spreads like wildfire, and then quickly burns out. People pause, remember, and then return to normal programming of daily life. The personality was known, but not necessarily the person. The loss is somewhat removed from the lives of the rest.
However, every once in a while, the pause holds, the thought of the loss hanging like a thin layer of cloud over all thoughts.
Such was the case on learning of the Michael’s recent passing.
While having met him only once, this was (not liking writing ‘was‘ in the past tense!) a person who penetrated one’s conscience. His presence was strangely soothing. His combination of gravitas yet gentleness, silence yet strength, wisdom yet youthfulness, overriding presence of idealism, was, is, unforgettable. His CV underlined his acumen, his deserved admiration from the global community. He was, when we met, at the top of his game in the media world.
And then, in 2011 at the height of his journalistic career, he made news by choosing to leave being one of the world’s greatest men of the pen, to join ONE, working for a greater world. As expressed by the organisation,:
“Whether lobbying political leaders in world capitals or running cutting-edge grassroots campaigns, ONE pressures governments to do more to fight AIDS and other preventable, treatable diseases in the poorest places on the planet, to empower small-holder farmers, to expand access to energy, and to combat corruption so governments are accountable to their citizens.”
Joining a unique group of global voices and visionaries, Michael shifted his focus to leading what is today “more than seven million ONE members on every continent around the world carrying forward (the idea that where you are born shouldn’t dictate whether you live or die) through hard-nosed government advocacy and campaigning for smart aid and policy change to benefit the world’s poor.” (Source: ONE Annual Report 2015).
Over the next five years, as President and CEO, his vocation shaped his DNA. As poignantly expressed by Bono, co-founder of ONE,: “Above all else, he wanted his life to be useful. If you were around him, that’s what he demanded of you.”
To read the tributes now flowing through the wires is to read hearts celebrating greatness. Clearly, at a cellular level, he lived each moment dedicated to ONE. Only the invasion of cancer was able to stifle his efforts.
Now, as the pause lingers, tributes reinforce that Michael was a man who inspired people of inspiration to keep their chins up, eyes focused, hearts open. Reminded of him in reading of his passing, it is impossible not to feel a straightening of the backbone. A gentle push on the back to keep moving forward, following one’s inner compass that instinctively points north.
Why? Because every single day our hyper-connected world of communication reveals example after example of his sadly disconnected we are becoming from one another. Conscious, active, and increasingly aggresively articulated choices are being made as to where compassion is being exhausted, and where caution should be applied. Care for others is falling a far second to protection of oneself. Fear has become a motivator for action, not faith, nor human kindness, and certainly not a commitment to creating a better world for all. Walls are being spoken of to keep people apart at a time when bridges are required for understanding, unity, safety.
Michael, his last chapter of his life’s work, is an example of the fullness one can realise in life…even when the number of pages we have are fewer than hoped. Now is the time to work, actively work, to make a positive difference, one by one by one. Because tomorrow is a grand assumption.
At a time when the world so desperately needs us all to believe in better, and do what we can to make it happen, may the memory of this great man keep our chins up, eyes focused, hearts open.
May the Heavens welcome you with open wings, Michael. Rest well.
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2016