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Who Inspires You?

When people ask “Who has inspired you?” there are always names that come up like Nelson Mandela or Mother Teresa but the people that have actually inspired me are more personal to me.

There have been former bosses and a yoga teacher who have inspired me to do things or make changes in my life, but one of the most inspiring people I have ever met was a girl I met at an airport.


We were on a trip to India in 1999 and we visited a town called Auroville, “a universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities.” It was founded in 1968, the dream of a French woman now known simply as “The Mother” with the wonderful aim of fostering peace and creating an ideal township devoted to an experiment in human unity.


Later in the same trip we were at a scruffy provincial airport waiting for an internal flight. The flight was late, the airport seats were uncomfortable, it was late in the evening and we were fed up. I started talking to a young American girl in her late teens who was travelling on her own. She told me that where she went to university one of the lecturers had links with Auroville and every year one lucky student got to spend a year working there. It was a hotly contended prize and she had won.


When she got to Auroville she hated it. She didn’t like the dirt and poverty of India and missed the comforts of home. After 3 months she decided that she could not hack it any longer and made plans to give up and go home.


During her last week she accompanied a group of teachers and school children on a bus trip. As they were returning the bus was hit by a lorry. It was a bad accident, there was broken glass and blood everywhere, several people were seriously injured and she was one of only 2 people on the bus not injured in some way.





This horrific incident made her completely re-evaluate her life and her values and she realised, to use her own words, that “If you do something, you should do it!” She cancelled plans to go home and threw herself into Auroville, and came to love it. When I met her she was on her way home and heartbroken to be leaving India.


Then our flight was called and we hastily gathered our stuff and left without even asking her name. That young woman showed remarkable courage and strength of character and I often think about her.


And I have to wonder if I could be as strong in the face of such a challenge and make the choices that she made.


What can we learn from this?


  • We have inner strength that we don’t always realise

  • Adversity can sometimes be a valuable turning point in our lives

  • If you do something, you should do it (as the young woman said!)

  • Talk to strangers, one of them might just inspire you!