IT TAKES JUST ONE


For those of us in the global travel & tourism industry, to call it, now them, ‘heartbreaking‘ would be a profound understatement. Scenes of airline passengers being abused by staff and, systems.

First it was a medical doctor being forcefully and ultimately bloodily removed from his seat by local police on request of the airline in order to make room for crew. And then, just days later, a mother in tears as a result of an airline attendant aggressively separating she and  her baby from her baby’s stroller, with shouting between the attendant and surrounding passengers thereafter.

One after the other, these incidents have horrified the watching world, the images and audio penetrating the hearts and minds of millions seeing the amateur videos created by passengers watching on being played over and over and over, online and on news networks.

Naturally, and rightly, outrage at airline staff and overbooking systems has ensued. The latter, an economic model that allows airlines to maximise capacity and minimise costs to passengers, is something the travelling public has seen for years, ideally for the benefit of passengers, even those incentivised to give up their seat for a later flight. Never before, however, had it been seen to be applied with such force, directly and violently violating the promise of flying the friendly skies.

The actions of United Airlines in the moment, and afterward, simply fueled the already raging fire. Failure of the CEO to see the suffering of the passenger, rather choosing to protect the airline’s crew, will go down in history as one of the most shameful moments for our industry. As stated by Sir Tim Clark, President of Emirates Airlines, and an elderly statesman of the global airline community,:

“Let me say it was a disgrace. It shamed the airline industry as a whole. We don’t go about our business in that way. Had it been me in that position I would’ve have had blue flashing lights on cars going right through the company to find out how this could’ve been allowed to happen in the first place. That was probably the last thing I do before I resigned.”

Sir Tim’s words capture at a cellular level the depth of disgust felt by those of us in the travel and tourism sector – a sector that we so proudly serve, feeling each and every day how our work is connecting people and places in a way that builds understanding, respect and appreciation of differences at a time when our world so desperately needs to connect in peaceful spirit.

As for the inability of the airline to then apologise for the incident, United’s CEO Oscar Munoz only managing to find the words to rightly own the situation on a third communique? Forget policy. Where was the humanity?

It just takes one. Just one moment of disgrace has the ability to scar a remarkable industry that works across the world to enable, as expressed by IATA Director General Alexandre de Juniac,:

“some 10 million passengers (to) board planes. And 100,000 flights will take them safely to wherever they are going, almost always without incident. That is no less than a modern day marvel of technology, coordination and dedication to safety.”

And now we have a second incident tearing off the BandAid on a still fresh wound. As video continues to replay of a deeply rattled and tear soaked passenger on American Airlines protectively holding her baby, shielding her child and herself from attendant shouts and shoves, once again we hang our heads in shame.

Thankfully, in this case the airline stood up in protection of the passenger, American Airlines immediately owning the wrong, putting forward an unedited apology (and suspending  from duty during investigation of the incident the attendant involved) in hopes of taking a first step to making it right.

It just takes one.

There will never, ever, be an excuse for the behaviour seen recently on aircraft, and that which we know goes happened but unreported/videod. Nothing makes the actions of the individuals involved acceptable. They, in their selfishness, took down the eyes of their companies, and their industry.

Similarly, there will never be good reason for bad behaviour by a disruptive passenger, the ‘right’ to travel taken as permission to become obnoxious, causing an entire cabin to cringe, and making all passengers look ungrateful of the blessing of flight.

What there always will be, through the millions and millions of interactions that take place on the ground, and in the skies, in aviation, and in life in general, is the opportunity to just stop for a moment, and before seemingly putting policies first, putting humanity first.

It just takes one second to say those two precious words: “I’m sorry”.

Then, and only then, can our gaze begin to look to the skies once more.

 

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2017

 

TAKING CARE OF TRAVEL’S CRITICAL ENABLER


Tickets. Passport. Money. Mobile & charger. Go.

For millions of travellers, the ability to pick up and venture off, whether around the corner or across the world, has become a daily reality, not to mention necessity. Mobility is a must to make each day count. And to make each day an exciting learning. The possibility discovering new places, meeting new people, unlocking new possibilities, magnifies the blessing of today and the anticipation of tomorrow.

In the process of travel planning and doing, there are many things that regular travellers take for granted. Flights will be available, taking off and landing on time, with one’s belongings neatly tucked in the belly of the aircraft. Weather, air traffic control, pricing levels, all will coordinate to make it all happen. Onward. Even when things go wrong, frustration is met with a degree of acceptance and understanding. It happens. Plan B is out there. One’s sense of control is still high, even if movement is low.

But then the completely unplanned and unwanted happens. Movement is brought to a stop. Not because of some moving part out there that has slowed or even paused. But by our own engineering failing us.

Suddenly the most critical enabler of our ability to move – our body – is unable to. Dreaded words enter into conversations with oneself and, under duress, with others: “I’m sick”

It is only when one is grounded by one’s own health that one truly appreciates the ability, the ease, the privilege, of perpetual movement. And the ability to find help, especially when far from home base. Symptoms emerging with an underlying not knowing of not just what the problem is, but where and how to fix it, suddenly turns a carefully scheduled day into a significant cause for concern. Not to mention a scheduling mess. Next meetings, next flights, next commitments, raise red flags around the ability to move from sickness back to health. Even if able to keep moving, fear sets in around not just passing something on, but passing by airport temperature screenings and flashing red.

A safe place needs to be found.

For any traveller, regardless of frequency of travel, establishing that safe space is critical to on-going wellbeing. That ‘safe place’ need not be a specific geographic location. Being a nomad more often than not makes being back at base when unwell an exception, not a rule. That ‘safe place‘ is instead a little place that travels with the intrepid traveller – a small space in one’s carry-on bag where essential TLC is kept: medication & first aid treatments to keep one’s body strong, small personal totems to keep one’s spirit centered. Whatever is needed to immediately calm rising panic of unwellness, helping set in motion the steps towards getting real help to get through the fog.

Because the quiet reality is that, when out in the world, a huge part of not feeling out in the cold is feeling like one is not alone with one’s worry. Tucked within one’s safe place should be the things that allow one to feel they can take a breathe, focus, and safely figure out what next.

Moving to the what next, especially when still moving from city to city, hotel to hotel, ultimately poses (and imposes) a distinct test to oneself. Is a sniffle something more serious? Will OTC drugs be the SOS needed? Or is it time to make the call and make an appointment? Being strong is one thing. Being silly is another. No matter what others may say, what advise they may give, listening to the voice in the back of one’s head reveals whether one really feels safe pushing through the unwellness, of pausing to get qualified help. Now.

The value of our greatest travel enabler – our body – sometimes needs a reminder. The incredible blessing of the strength of body and spirit we need to do what we love should never be taken for granted. Sometimes a brief push of the pause button can be a good thing. Only when we pause do we really appreciate the gift of the ability to shift to fast-forward once more.

Safe, healthy travels.

 

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2017

 

 

NOT MY FLAG


 

Patriotism. The pride felt for one’s flag, one’s people, one’s national identity and one’s overriding ideology. It is something that is felt, deeply, even if not on show overtly.

At times, however, the love of country can reveal itself in full force. Moments of national victory, be it in sporting or political combat, tops the list of overt expressions of national pride. Chants of national jubilation unite citizens of differing backgrounds, different beliefs. In that moment, all are one.

At others, one’s sense of national identity is felt most vividly when among others of another nation. Whether at home or out in the world, immersion into another national identity can make clear unique elements of one’s nation. Its voice, its values, its vision of the future. All are amplified to oneself (and often others) when among others of a different flag.

To stand beside one’s flag with hand on heart, expressing solidarity in spirit, is something in which every national should feel confidence and pride. Rarely in one’s lifetime is this feeling of connection to national identity ever challenged.

Rarely does one feel a shame in revealing their flag, be it through accent or actions.

And yet, sadly, these moments can happen. A single event, a single signature engraving one moment in time, can leave literally millions in shock, their feeling of pride of flag shattered, while people of other nations look on shaken, their respect for a once celebrated flag shredded.

Such was the case on January 28th when, with the stroke of a pen, the land of the free shut its doors. And for millions across the nation and world, shut its heart. The travel ban imposed by recently elected President Trump under Executive Order immediately tore families apart, openly rejecting people, principle and the promise of a nation once known for the possibility of dreams being realised. Employers and educators scrambled to secure the safe return to the United States of valuable and valued people under their guard. Students, scholars, staff alike were now at risk of being locked out, indefinitely. Border officials and boarding gates across the world raced to understand what exactly the new ruling meant for those travelling. Law abiding, legally registered American citizens suddenly felt rejected from their adopted home.

Painfully, citizens once celebrating their allegiance to their flag felt shame, deep shame, at the actions of their elected leaders. The threats of the newly elected President were being acted upon, the ripples of fear reaching far and wide. Even if, as the new administration argues, only a few are impacted by this act of intended national protection, the impact on national psyche will and has hit millions. Love, trust and pride of flag – gone.

Within minutes o the Executive Order being signed, airports filled with protestors pushing back on what their new President defined as the new America. Fury erupted across all both sides of the country, both sides of the aisle. American citizens separated themselves from the actions of their head of state, clearly stating the actions of one man not being reflective of the fabric of the flag.

Caveats are suddenly expressed in conversations:

“This is anti-American”

“I am an American but this is not my President”

As days have passed, unedited expressions of anger, shame and condemnation fill conversations and official communications. Across industries and individuals, the overriding statement: this is not what America stands for. This is not what our global community will stand for.

Rarely is a person’s national identity defined by what they are not.

This, sadly, is one of those ‘once in a lifetime’ times.

There are no words. Only deep, deep feelings of sadness.

And for millions, same flag or not, shame and separation.

Surely we as the global community, wherever we are, are better than this.

x

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2017

COUNTDOWN TO CLOSURE

 

Just a few hours left……

As Washington DC concludes final rehearsals in anticipation of today’s inauguration of the 45th President of the United States of America, rehearsals of not just events related to the ceremony taking place in front of the nation’s capital, but also events set to take place once President Trump takes over the Oval Office, the city, under the gaze of the waiting world, is bracing for profound change.

At the moment of the taking of the Oath of Office,  swearing in a new President of the union, moving out of the nation’s capital will be a first family that has lead a number of firsts in not just American politics, but society and ideology. Being the first African-American President of the United States started was the first of the first. Many subtitles soon followed.

As the people of the USA and world look upon the legacy of President Obama, many positives and negatives will emerge across the economic, political and social spectrum. Viewpoints will be as many as voices. Over his eight year term, President Obama has established an immense portfolio of highest accolades, and of heartaches. Debates will continue for decades.

What cannot be debated, however, is the show of character that President Obama brought to America and the World. Importantly, to the White House, and the American people, he brought remarkable class, commitment, compassion, courage.

And now it is time for closure.

So much can be said, and no doubt will, about POTUS #44. As is the case for POTUS #45, still due to rest his hand on the Bible in swearing his service to the American people as the rest of the world watches on.

Whatever happens, whatever may be for the US, and the world, as the winds of change blow through Washington DC today, immediately reaching out to the world through the media and global markets, one thing is certain:

“The sun will rise tomorrow…”

 

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2017

IN HONOUR OF THE WORLD’S GREATEST TRAVELLER


 

December 24th.

Work phones and emails are silencing across networks, deep exhales are sounding across the globe. Everywhere, whatever the global coordinates, local sentiments, races & religions, rhymes or reasons of daily life, a hush is setting in. Something soft, something special, is filling the air. Something that unites us all, whatever our religion / faith / spiritual sensibilities. Like fairy dust, it makes this night brighter, merrier….softer, slower, kinder.

It happens every year at this time. Christmas eve. A day when miles are travelled by millions for the sake of simply being together. As the clock nears its moment of striking midnight, a sudden rush of emotion is felt to be where one needs to be, to be with whom one’s heart most desires, white Christmas or not, even if only in one’s dreams…

It is moments such as these that magnify the gift that is travel – the ability to come together to share the times that truly matter.

At this moment, according to NORAD’s so stunning Santa Tracker http://www.noradsanta.org/, Santa has just left Nepal, he now making his way to India. From there it is onward to Sri Lanka, followed by the Maldives, back through India, up to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia, through the Middle East, then onward westward. With magic up above, children across the globe look up the skies. Grown ups too. It’s impossible not to. Maybe, just maybe the sound of bells will be faintly heard, the soft glow of a red nose may be faintly visible…

On this night, while our eyes may see nothing, the image in our hearts is clear. The world’s most dedicated traveller never fails to deliver, in all ways. With 9 reindeer leading the way, a soft red globe at the front of the pack, Santa is spending this night crossing regions, and religions, sprinkling the world with the gift wonder.

As midnight rings in across the globe, wherever you may be, whatever your spirit may sing to, may this night be one to pause your thoughts, squeeze your heart, and leave you feeling blessed in your ‘here & now’.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good flight. x

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2016

AIDING OUR BETTER ANGELS


It was only 3 weeks ago.

It is hard to believe it was only 3 weeks ago when so much of the world woke to a shock they will never forget, yet one that so, so many wish that they could.

The map was red, undeniably, unquestionably, irreversibly red. He had won. The Republican candidate was now to be referred to as ‘President Elect, Donald Trump’.

Hundreds of millions across the US, and the world, woke to shock. Time-freezing, ‘you will never forget where you were when…’ shock. The people had spoken. The American elite will no longer lead. Now it was time for the power of the people to rise, and govern. The relieved souls: US-based in the main.

For the rest, it was shock and awe. The dawn was to bring a map bathed in blue. The responsibility of the right to vote was wisely to rise over the unprecedented theatrics of the 2016 US Presidential campaigns. The moment of truth was to reveal a choice in favour of experience, stability, global sensibility, and decency over disruption and disrespect. The polling booths were to be the moment when the country (and world) switched channels, resuming regular programming, the reality show having come to its final, dramatic episode.

But it was not to be the case.

Sunrise brought the rise of dismay. And angst. And tears. Could this be true? Have the American people chosen this man, this character, as representative of the nation’s vision, identity and ethos?

2016 has been a year beyond fiction, beyond feeling, and beyond logic, in so many ways.

First came the continued tragedy of the Refugee and Migrant crisis. Then Brexit. Then the US Elections. The people have spoken once more. And their words, their wishes, are expressions of a desire for profound change, with separation at the centre of their sense of stability, security and future opportunity.

The feeling of ‘how can this happen? really was like deja vu all over again……

Which begs the question: what do the events of 2016 say about us, each of us, as a citizen of the global community? The choices we make in terms of:

  • What attracts our attention?
  • What pokes us in the eye, stirring up our compassion?
  • What forces us to take a stand, taking action?
  • And at the same times, what goes unnoticed?

Today, months after Brexit, days after the US Presidential Elections, seconds since the latest crisis, our attention is pulled in so many directions. But actually, none at all. The intensity of activity turns to a numbness. There is just so much noise that it is simply easier, and understandable, to cover one’s ears and walk away.

But if there is anything that Brexit, the US Presidential Elections, and so many other tests have proven, we cannot, simply cannot, turn away. What may seem the path of least resistance is, in fact, the path of apathetic abandonment of responsibility.

What is happening is not ok.

What is being ignored is not ok.

Turning away, covering our ears, walking on, is not ok.

Never, ever, should it take the lifeless body a tiny Syrian toddler named Aylan on Turkish shores to draw the attention of people of the world to the plight of others. ‘Syria’ has become a symbol of abandonment. ‘Trump’ has become a synonym of populism. ‘2016’ has become a page in history punctuated with disbelief…the ‘Word of the Year’ most consistently expressed in 4 letters, the first being an F, the rest best not put in print but rightly assumed.

So where are we now? What have we learned? What difference will 2016 really make?

If anything, one can only hope, it will be the need to do everything possible, sometimes defying instinct, to not turn away.

There is too much, too too much, happening every day everywhere around us, trying to create a global community of enemies. That is not who we are, and who we are meant to be.

Whoever we are, wherever we are in the world, our blood reveals immigrant ties. Our hearts reveal hope for a safer tomorrow.

Our better angels are fighting tirelessly to rise above. Because all lives matter.

 

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

WORDS FAIL


 

To watch / read / listen to the debates, discourses, digs, documenting, and painful dispatches from campaign offices in this year’s US Presidential election is truly historic. In so many ways both the Democrats and Republicans are making history. Personalities and profiles of the candidates are unprecedented. Some of the reasons were expected – the first woman at the helm of a party in the presidential race versus the first outsider and self-funding her opponent. One a lifetime in the political arena, the other a lifetime in the boardroom. One an assumed contestant for the 2016 presidential race, the other a complete shock in participation and now pole position.

Yet there are similarities – both are deal makers, though each with profoundly different agendas, styles, and bottom lines. Both possess gravitas and grey hair in their respective areas. Both love their families, flowing in their affections and fierce in their protection. And both are in it to win it. Never before in the race for the White House has the competition been more diverse, nor divisive.

As hundreds of millions are spent in the countdown to election day, the equivalent of GDPs of small, struggling nations, messaging grows more acutely focused on the courtship of voters, building on bases, seeking to appeal to undecideds, imploring the need for all Americans to exercise their democratic right and responsibility to vote, to step forward and help shape the future of their nation’s economy, psyche, and one hopes, unity.

To be at this point in the race is to be in a period of intense noise. The media blitzes are expected, the massive spends a cost of doing business and praying for the return on investment, be it party funds, supporter donations, or personal wealth. This is nothing new. The new highs in spend are what they are. They are expected, and accepted.

What has been a great shock to the political system, and the people of the US, and dare it be said the world, has been the shocking, simply shocking, lows that the presidential race has reached, and continues to reach, with each passing day. Attacks on the opposition have become abusive, personal fur tearing and assaults on character and capabilities eclipsing professional agendas and policy perspectives. Social exchange has gone into freefall.

Painfully, embarrassingly, the vocabulary of the US presidential race, candidates, critics and commentators (official and those simply socially empowered with 140 keystrokes of opinion, qualified & verified or not, American and worldwide) alike, has become the stuff of tabloids, tantrums, bullies and brothel owners.

Credit where it is due – it is one candidate in particular who built his party campaign off of hurling offenses and building fear. Now a party nominee, the hateful and hurtful rhetoric has reached new highs, the national elections vocabulary new lows. Still, whether one’s one words or echoing those of another, to give such language, such sentiment oxygen, is to magnify the mess.

Back in the day when both candidates were children, to use the language used so freely and so unashamedly today, by those in the race and then magnified by the population at large, would have both candidates and all speaking such soiled language, grounded. Four letter words, hate speech, bullying – these used to be prohibited, punishable. And yet today, as the race reaches its climax, the entertainment of the race has stripped the candidates and the American people of a filter. Speaking one’s mind, regardless of prejudices and paranoia, had become applauded as being honest, being anti-establishment, being what is going to be what makes a nation great again.

But what happens once November 08th has come and gone. How will Americans look at one another as they look to their respective futures? Together, after pushing so far apart? Hopeful, after declaring oneself so hopeless? Safe and secure at home after being so overtly singled out for as unwelcome?

And what about once one crosses US borders? How does the world now look at this nation that has declared war on itself, one turning free speech into foul exchanges that cheapen the overall image and sense of ethics of a people? How does one maintain a seat at the table when they have shown absolutely no regard for table manners?

What we are seeing now is beyond comprehension. There are no words for what has become acceptable language. Whatever the outcome of the presidential race, the image of the position of the ‘President‘ has been bruised. The dark, painful colours of this fight will take years to fade, exceptional effort to heal, though no question scars will remain.

The scars? A society that allows such open, unedited, abusive and offensive language as everyday language. Walls have been built and bridges destroyed across the nation’s psyche, simply through words. Bricks and mortar were not needed.

Still, as the sun rises on November 09th, with ballots having been counted into the wee, dark hours of the morning, the victor announced and ballots safely discarded, how dearly, desperately, one can hope that thrown away with the ballot papers will be the rhetoric that was used to rip people apart, Americans recognising that from this day forward, greatness as a nation comes through a desire to be better first and foremost through how one looks at, speaks with, reaches out to the person standing right beside them, whether they were voting right, left, or in the middle just 24 hours before.

It’s not ok. And it is not an evolution of the times that must be accepted. Americans are better than this. We are all better that this. Decency is not a political policy, nor a position, nor a platform. It is a simple code that should, at a cellular level, be shared by all nationals, political preferences aside.

One can only pray that as the sun rises on November 09th, words of unity and respect will be be reawoken. America, the world, is better than this.

Saying a prayer……x

 

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2016

 

PLEASE DO NOT LOOK AWAY


 

One year ago the image of baby Alan Kurdi washing ashore gripped the world. The desperate quest of his Syrian family for freedom and safety ended up in this tired, overtaken rag doll image becoming a reflection of the plight of the Syrian refugees. A little angel forced our attention.

One year on. And where are we now? Has his life been honoured by lives protected? Lives saved?

Has the call to the global community for compassion and accommodation been heard? Has the message been able to make its way through the year?

Painfully, it appears not.

Immediate response to the image of lifeless little Alan on the shores of one of Turkey’s tourism beaches was citizen outrage and political action. As hearts opened across the globe, and hashtags acted as a voice imploring a humanitarian response, policies were put in place to open doors. European leaders, some but not all, showed an ethical leadership and unity unseen for quite some time. Their show of courage and conviction within political leadership was needed, immediately, not later, as day after day thousands of desperate, journey defying refugees arrives on the shores of the continent. Tiny children. Tired parents. Too many to count. Too many tears to see through.

Hearing of the struggles for life, hundreds of millions worldwide watched as flimsy, water-defying boats arrived in Europe, and the journey of the refugees continues. The long walk to freedom. Hundreds and hundreds of kilometers were taken on without hesitation by the refugees remarkably on terra firma. Germany, Austria, the UK, France…anywhere, actually. As they say, beggars can’t be choosers. Thousands of kilometers away from Turkish shores, refugees began their trek to their so dearly hoped for final places to rest their tired hearts, souls and soles.

The world was finally watching. And yet the reality is that long before baby Alan washed up on the shores of Turkey, refugees had been fleeing from Syria to places promising simply safety. Millions. Millions the world chose not to see as it was not on their shores.

And then reality bit, hard. As waves of refugees arrived into Europe, doors began to close, along with hearts. Policies were changed, promises fell, compassion faded. And # activism moved on to the next issue, the next crisis, the next popular outrage.

Still, while the world looks away, the global refugee community continues to fight for freedom, dignity and safety. The numbers of refugees making the terrifying journey since little Alan’s death has reached almost one million, with close to 6000 lives lost – those that we know of.  This past week, in a period of just 30 hours, an estimated 6,500 refugees made the terrifying crossing of the Mediterranean, including a pair of five day old twins born on the waters thankfully finding themselves on the dry shores of Europe, and in the headlines of global news. The survival of these two little souls has been called a ‘miracle’, the story squeezing the hearts of the world. Likewise the image of little Omran, the young boy pulled out of the rubble of an airstrike on his neighbourhood in Aleppo. His family chose to stay. He survived. His brother, however, did not.

Children, fragile children, have become what it takes to get the world’s attention, to care.

But does the world care enough to not look away?

The care, compassion and action of the world can be so much more. We who can make a difference must stop looking to the lives of refugees for stories of miracles – we must create the miracles that their life stories so desperately, courageously seek.

The policies of governments across the world accepting, or rejecting, refugees are a direct reflection of the wishes of their citizens. It is the opening, and closing, of hearts and homes on safer ground that is determining the fate of the refugees – courageous souls simply seeking to find a way of looking towards tomorrow with confidence that they will see the sunrise. Are changes needed to systems and structures to take in refugees and make them productive, appreciated members of society? Absolutely, this we know to be true. As is needed ways of identifying those taking advantage of the suffering of others to drive their own agendas, gaining access to be able to do damage to societies simply trying to do good.

As opportunities and issues across our world continue to bring people together, the refugee crisis has rightly been called ‘the moral test of our generation‘. To fail this test would be profoundly shameful.

Today, right now, here’s how you can help: http://edition.cnn.com/2015/08/28/world/iyw-migrant-how-to-help/index.html

And please, please, do not look away…..x

 

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2016

 

2016 OLYMPIC HEROES LONG BEFORE THE RIO GAMES BEGAN


To watch the 2016 Olympic Games is to watch magic happen. Day after day, event after event, new records are set, new dreams are realised. Coaches, families, friends and funders cheer from surrounding benches and bleachers as young spirits ignite, turning years of tireless training into seconds that will last a lifetime. Some win, some lose, all are top of their game, whichever part of the Games in which they are participating. Tears fall, the pain of Olympic moments caused by both physical and emotional highs and lows. Through it all, ignited spirits glow strong.

Even those losing out on their goals for gold will forever feel a golden fire within their hearts. They were there when the Opening Ceremonies saw the world’s flags and finest athletes walk the stadium surrounded by a world of applauding admirers sitting right there in the venue, or the tens of millions sitting in their homes and offices watching from across the globe. Their Olympic moment can never be taken from their hearts, their life stories.

For all athletes the road to Rio has been a commitment beyond compare. All else was put on hold – at times it felt as though their lives depended on it. Those around know only to support – be there, supporting in silent strength, unless loud rallying of effort and energy was required to keep them moving forward, looking upward.

Their moment is all that matters. The rest of their lives can wait.

For the average athlete, superhuman in their strength of ability, hardships are assumed to be few. The fundamentals are assumed to be taken care of – a roof over their heads, a meal in their bellies, a team of professionals guiding their every move, a sense of peace that they are safe in their place in the world. Focus can afford to be selfish. There is little reason to fear anything but failure when tomorrow comes.

But for one team competing at the 2016 Olympic Games, fears they faced tomorrow were far beyond athletic performance. The assumptions of home, health, safety, security, and selfishness do not exist.

Home is no longer a place they can go – it no longer exists.

Family? Not 100% sure.

The future? Again, not 100% sure.

Such is the flame, the view of tomorrow, that is held in many of the hearts of the ten athletes that make up this year’s Olympic refugee team – the first ever refugee team in Olympic history. Without a nation state, still they have remarkable abilities, and even more remarkable dreams. And so, together these ten incredible forces of nature, often without nurture, stand tall, together, under the iconic Olympic rings flag.

Their spirit is everywhere, strengthening the Olympic flame for all.

The question is: how can these heroes be found, supported, championed, given a feeling of peace and place with all they need, beyond the Games, beyond these precious ten representing the over 65 million refugees worldwide today?

As these remarkable athletes grace Rio with their courage and commitment to not just sport, but survival of the human spirit. May they be the enduring flame, inextinguishable of the 2016 Games.

Their stories are here – https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/refugee-team-olympics-brazil-sports/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_content=global&utm_campaign=general-content&linkId=27340192

Please take a moment, read through their journeys to Rio. Open your heart to be able to hear their Olympic dreams, their daily dreams, come to life.

I challenge you not to cry…x

 

 

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2016

AS THOUGH SCRIPTING HIS OWN LAST WORDS


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