It was announced today that Diana Ross is going to be honored for a lifetime achievement award at the American Music Awards. I love Diana Ross and I love her music, she is so deserving of this award.This got me thinking of how many millions of unsung heroes there are in our world that also deserve lifetime achievement awards. All of us know that person in our life, a teacher, a mother or father, a firefighter, a housekeeper at the local motel, a dishwasher at the little corner restaurant. You’re probably thinking at this moment, “What is she talking about? The lifetime achievement award is a huge honor that is only reserved for famous figures that achieve great things in life.” I respect your opinion, but just hear me out for a moment.
How do you measure the level of achievement? By counting how much money they have, or how big of a mansion? Or by counting how many movies, songs, arts, trophies they have? Or by how many followers on their Facebook, Instagram, Twitter? Or by how many friends they have in high places? Or maybe by their last name, the title of their works? Or how much money they donate to a charity. Let me tell you about some of the people I have known that I would love to give the Lifetime Achievement Award to…if I had that power.
Imagine a father in his late thirties, carrying one little baby on his arm, one older child on his back, and holding the hand of his young wife, in middle of the night, as they cross the border to enter the haven of America. Some of us in this country label this an illegal act but I call it an ultimate act of love and bravery. The father works three jobs and sleeps about three hours a night trying to make a new life for his family in this land of opportunity. He labors between farms, picking strawberries, washing dishes in the evening and cleaning a building at night. There are no vacations, no weekends, just work, eat, sleep and repeat. His wife is working as a house cleaner while taking care of the kids. She babysits at times to earn extra cash. They live in a makeshift garage that’s freezing cold in the winter, even in California’s mild climate. They cook with a little gas stove and eat mostly the leftovers from the restaurant. After paying for their modest living expenses, any extra income they make, they send back home. Their four parents are still living in their small hometown getting older and needing more care. Two of them have chronic illnesses that requires money to get the necessary medications.
Many years pass by, the oldest child graduates from high school and qualifies to go to college with a scholarship. The younger one wants to join the army.
Many more years pass by, the older one is graduating and on track to become a dentist. At the graduation day, the father breaks down crying. Tears come down his older than his age face. When he uses his hand to wipe off the tears, you can see the many scars on his palm, fingers, wrist. He lost half of his last two fingers from an accident at work. The wife openly cries and in between breaths, she keeps saying, “ Oh, my kid, my great joy.” They celebrate by going to the local pizza place.
The following year, the family is together again to celebrate the younger one finishing his boot camp to join the army. The father has lost a lot of weight. He once again, silently cries. The wife keeps hugging him and their two children. They celebrate again by going to the local pizza place. The wife keeps crying until finally she breaks down with a whisper to the children, “I just want to let you know that Dad has stage four lung cancer, he only has a short time to live.” The father cries, the mother cries and the two children cry. They hug.
To me, this is the person who deserves my Lifetime Achievement Award. Both parents living in the shadow world of being illegal, working with every ounce of their being to provide the next generation a chance for a better life. They ask for nothing, they sacrifice, they give and they die. The Unsung Hero: A Life of Giving.
Or this person:
She was a young and very beautiful woman in her early twenties, when her older sister died during childbirth. Her parents, as per Asian tradition. asked her to marry her now widowed brother in law to make sure the two grandchildren would not be treated badly by another step mom. Just like that the young woman buried her dreams and stepped into motherhood for her two little nephews. She developed the love of cooking and opened up two restaurants. Many years go by, now in her late 30s, she is the mother of eight kids and a grandchild. Her husband died in the concentration camp. She works any job and every job to get a little food home to feed the kids. Letting her only daughter escape the country was a decision she made out of desperation. A miracle happened though, the girl got rescued at sea and arrived safely in America. An even bigger miracle still, when the mother, all of the siblings and her unite twenty years later. The mother now in her mid seventies is the matriarch of twenty-two spanning four generations, she still cooks, cleans and continues to sacrifice to serve her family.
I wish I could achieve half of what she did in my lifetime.
Who would you give the Liftetime Achievement Award to? Share your story on TalkingStick.