[WRITTEN BY NAFISA SHAMIM]
Ever been in the same room as a magician who can juggle live explosives? Or someone who has skated across Canada and New Zealand, the USA and a large part of Australia, all on a skateboard? How about the CEO of the largest grassroots environmental movement, which happens to have Spiderman as an ambassador, maybe? Or someone holding a CNN Hero of the Year award?
I never would have imagined that I would get to meet anyone that extraordinary.
And yet, here at Taylor’s Lakeside campus, before a fully packed and thronging hall and despite the fact that it was a Saturday and early afternoon, these heroes graced us with their presence and with their inspirational stories- teaching us that we can be just as extraordinary.
All we have to do is try.
These heroes are living examples of that fact. Rob Dyer did not give up when he lost his loved ones to cancer- instead, he raised funds, sponsorship and awareness by doing what no one would have thought possible, and skateboarded his way across practically all of North America and more. Scott Hammell did not give up when a live firework burnt off the skin of his palm- instead he re-mastered the trick, took precautions, and made sure he turned his failure into a success. Efren Penaflorida was not daunted by the enormity of the task before him- instead he pioneered the “pushcart classroom”, teaching slum-dwelling children in places like cemeteries and garbage dumps, earning him the title “Hero” in 2009. And Andy Ridley, CEO and co-founder of “Earth Hour”, stresses the same message- lend a hand. Take that first step forward. Don’t give up because it seems difficult.
As Penaflorida stressed in his speech, “One is never too ordinary to be a hero”- and that “One” can be “You”.
The emotions ran high in the Grand Hall this weekend as we were regaled by these people, who greeted and interacted with the audience with frank camaraderie, sometimes making us laugh, sometimes cheering us up and sometimes to cause us to hold back tears- and for the entire time, marvel at the sheer difference these individuals have been able to make, in such unlikely circumstances, to the point of invoking that burning desire to emulate them and their success stories in making the world a better place.
Credit, however, does not only go to these iconic figures- it goes to the masses they were addressing as well. The spirit of the audience barely dwindled even though the day was long- the fever-pitch of excitement was electric and practically overflowing even though several hours elapsed between these speeches and the Reach Out concert featuring YouTubers who had flown in all the way from Los Angeles for iM4u’s cause- promoting and celebrating youth volunteerism.
The crowd all but refused to budge from their positions, as close to the stage as humanly possible, seemingly not tired even after swarming to the Meet-and-Greet sessions held at Truffles, or grooving to the performances by DASH and Elizabeth Tan among others- neither did anyone seem to mind having to stand as one by one, people we have grown to love and admire on screen appeared before us, in the flesh, to perform for us live.
Whether it was Jun Sung Ahn’s mashup of Yiruma’s River Flows in You and Taeyang’s Wedding Dress or his rendition of One Republic’s Counting Stars, the chords of his violin were enough to make the masses swoon, and Jason Chen followed up fabulously as he intoned Maroon 5’s Payphone, and even performed an original song written by him. Madilyn Bailey and Kina Grannis both seemed overwhelmed by their audience’s enthusiasm- I lost count of the number of times I heard someone shrieking “I love you”, and it was impossible not to get infected by the exhilaration and rapture of the moment as armada of people, teeming down the entire distance of the hall, crooned along to David Choi’s honey-sweet, buttery-warm notes originals like By My Side and Lucky Guy. The connection between these immensely talented folks and the crowd was amazing- whether it was posing for selfies with them, hands in the air, singing along, or just cheering until our vocal chords went numb- the energy-level, the excitement, the spirit, did not lag for even a second.
The last number, with all five of these amazing individuals- inspiring not only because of the talent they are brimming over with but because of their own active participation in volunteerism, in giving back to society- collaborating for Pharrell William’s Happy, ended the night with a bang. I could not get rid of the grin on my face, and even though it had been a long day, I could not remember the last time I had felt this energised and, well- happy.