Everyday Heroes Who Give Us Hope

Written by on May 29, 2014 in Sense of Purpose

Everyday HeroesWe love great survival stories because they give us hope. They help us to realize we are not alone – that others have experienced similar challenges and if they can make it through, then surely we can too.

These everyday heroes inspire us to embrace our inner strength to push through our own challenges; to bounce back stronger than ever from hardships and go on to achieve all that we are capable of in order to emulate their example of courage and resilience.

Today I’d like to share with you 3 inspirational stories about perseverance and survival … at the heart of each is an everyday hero who in their own way exemplifies extreme resilience by their refusal to let adversity define them.

We can let circumstances rule us or we can take charge and rule our lives from within. ~Earl Nightingale

* * *

In November 1986, 20-year-old construction worker Cliff Meidl was at a work site breaking up a concrete slab with a jackhammer – he didn’t know that the concrete housed an unmarked power line. When the tip of Cliff’s jackhammer punctured the power line 30,000 volts of electricity exploded through him with a charge that was 3 times more powerful than that used for capital punishment in an electric chair. Seconds later he laid dead on the ground, his heart stopped, his clothes smoldering, and his entire body burned.

A firefighter quick to arrive at the scene was able to revive him using CPR. Cliff’s heart stopped twice more in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, but the paramedics resuscitated him each time.

He spent the next several months in the hospital while his body healed from the terrible burns. “One-third of both my knee joints were burned away and two toes were burned off. I had such extensive injuries that the doctors said they would have to amputate my legs.” says Cliff. Fortunately, one surgeon was able to save his legs with a special operation.

Before his accident, Cliff had been a runner. “I was heartbroken because they said I would never walk again.” He finally had to accept that he couldn’t be a runner, but Cliff didn’t give up. He worked hard and was eventually able to walk with braces and as part of his rehabilitation he began to canoe and kayak.

Cliff’s hard work and determination led him to become one of the best kayakers in the world, competing at the 1996 Chris MeidlOlympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia, and qualifying to represent the US at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia. An inspiring accomplishment in itself, but he was also chosen to be the United States flag bearer at the Olympic Opening Ceremonies, an honor normally limited to multiple Olympians or gold medalists.

Cliff Meidl led the U.S. athletes into the Olympic stadium in Sydney carrying the American flag. He walked proudly showing almost no sign of a limp from his damaged knees.

Today Cliff Meidl is a successful asset manager and works with community foundations and organizations to assist individuals in overcoming adversity.

I still have enormous physical limitations in my legs. The damage is done, and there’s no coming back from that. But the accident changed the person I am. It made me stronger mentally and physically. I don’t think I would have had the will and determination to make it to the Olympics without going through that experience. ~Cliff Meidl

* * *

Mackenzie Bearup was just 16 when she was diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome / Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. She spent months in bed in great pain and was unable to walk or attend school throughout most of her eighth-grade year. To get her mind off the pain, she escaped into books.

During that time, her doctor told her about a local residential treatment center for abused children that was hoping to open a library for the many children they housed.

Mackenzie BearupSince reading had helped Mackenzie get her mind off her own pain she thought it could also help the children get their minds off their emotional pains, fears, and worries, so she decided to donate books she no longer needed to the children’s home.

Then she approached friends and neighbors about donating, and her book drive took off. Mackenzie personally collected and donated over 11,000 books for the library, filling their shelves to capacity.

Her success convinced Mackenzie to continue her book drive so she then contacted several homeless shelters in her area to see if they would like books for their children. The response was overwhelming; shelter directors were thrilled to get quality children’s books for their residents. To learn more about her work visit the website for her nonprofit organization Sheltering Books.

For her work, Mackenzie received many honors, including being named a CNN Hero in 2010. As nice as it is to be recognized, one thing is very clear when you listen to Mackenzie – the mission she set for herself was never about awards or recognition.

I still suffer daily from my neurological disorder, still love reading and use it to get my mind off my pain, but I also now fight through the pain and keep myself busy by working on my book drive, knowing I am doing important work to help homeless children have books to keep their minds off their pain and improve their reading skills at the same time. I feel that if just one child can develop a love of reading and learning, I have succeeded. ~Mackenzie Bearup

* * *

Life Without Limits by Nick VujicicNick Vujicic was born in 1982 with Tetra-Amelia Syndrome, a rare disorder characterized by the absence of all four limbs. Nick has never let his disability define his life. He’s learned how to write, use the computer, play tennis, drive, started his own nonprofit foundation, and even surfs.

Now in his early thirties, this limbless young man has accomplished more than most people many times his age, with far more advantages. He’s written 2 of the most inspiring books I’ve ever read, Unstoppable and Life Without Limits, he is the president of an international non-profit organization, and Nick also has his own motivational speaking company: Attitude Is Altitude.

In 2012, Nick married his beautiful sweetheart Kanae and in 2013, the happy couple welcomed their first child, a healthy baby boy.

We may have little or no control over what happens to us, but we can control how we respond. If we choose the right attitude, we can rise above whatever challenges we face. ~Nick Vujicic

While it is true that the people in these stories have gone on to achieve recognition and some level of success, the vast majority of everyday heroes never make front page news. You will never hear their stories or know their names. There will be no movie to watch or book to read.

But that’s okay because the truth is people do extraordinary things every day. They share their time, resources, or love. They show incredible courage and resilience. They inspire us to do more, be more, by their example.

If you don’t already have one, I’d like to encourage you to find a few everyday heroes of your own. Regardless of the circumstances of your life, if you are still growing then you can benefit from following the stories of people who have made similar journeys and gone on to achieve their dreams. And, if someone’s story helps you through a difficult time, or inspires you to reach a little further than you may otherwise have, I hope you will take the time to let them know they made a difference in your life.

Relevant Articles:
Let today be the day you give up who you’ve been for who you can become.
About Marquita Herald

Marquita Herald

Marquita is an author, resilience coach and the chief evangelist at Emotionally Resilient Living. She’s also an unapologetic workaholic who loves red wine, rock n’ roll, road trips (and car dancing!), peanut butter cookies and (especially) a dog named Lucy.

She’s saddened and frustrated by excuses and cruelty and believes authentic compassion is the most powerful force in the world.

To learn more about Marquita and the mission of Emotionally Resilient Living  click here.



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  1. Yorinda Wanner says:

    Hi Marquitta,
    thank you so much for sharing these inspiring stories.
    One of the inspiring stories I just came across is about ‘Operation cover up’, which was started by Liz Clarke in NZ which contributed towards Orphans in Europe getting blankets and other items to keep them warm, knitted by lots of people in New Zealand.
    I started knitting a blanket for this lovely cause.

    Love and Light!
    Yorinda Wanner recently posted…Insights from the brainMy Profile

    • martyherald says:

      Oh I love that Yorinda – thank you so much for sharing and for sharing your love in such a wonderful way! Here in America there is a similar project called Project Linus. If you’re familiar with the Charlie Brown characters Linus is the little one always carrying around a snuggling blanket.:-)
      martyherald recently posted…The Reality Behind the Art of ProcrastinationMy Profile

  2. This is a great post, stories are always motivational and these stories are really motivational. Going from a near death experience to carrying the flag at the Olympics is incredible and is an example to us all. Thanks for sharing.
    Andy Lockhart recently posted…5 Content Blind SpotsMy Profile

    • martyherald says:

      Welcome Andy! I’m so glad you found the stories inspiring and appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts and contribute to the conversation. 🙂

  3. Suzie Cheel

    Inspiring, empowering and great when one might be be feeling sorry for oneself. These everyday heroes give us reason to shine
    namaste ♡♡♡
    Suzie Cheel recently posted…Maya Angelou A Phenomenal WomanMy Profile

  4. Holly

    Some powerful stories!! Many of those who have to endure adversity do become amazing. It is stories like this that inspire and give us reasons to believe that anything is possible!! Thanks for sharing~!
    Holly recently posted…You Don’t Have To Be Perfect!My Profile

  5. When I read about people like Nick V., I tend to forget that they really are ordinary people like me. Helen Keller is another… and so is Joni Eareckson Tada. Joni was a normal, happy girl till she was in her late teens and had a diving accident. Life looked pretty bleak for some time after the accident. But in the decades since then, so many have been blessed through her optimism and her testimony.

    Life can change in an instant. A seeming tragedy can cripple us for life, or can open up whole new worlds of giving to others because of what we have learned or gained through our experiences.
    Willena Flewelling recently posted…Randy Gage – Why You Tell Your StoryMy Profile

    • martyherald says:

      You are so right Willena, there are many such inspiring stories and I plan to share more here in the future. That old quite is really very true, “You never know how strong you are, until being strong is the only choice you have.” Thanks for sharing and contributing to the conversation. 🙂

  6. Hi Marquita,
    What a wonderful post. It’s true that most everyday heroes are never recognized or mentioned for their contribution to causes.

    I am familiar with Nick Vujicic, having watched some of his videos. The other two heroes you spoke of I haven’t heard of until your post. I will be sharing.

    Have a great day. Monna
    Monna Ellithorpe recently posted…Cross Posting – 6 Part Social Media Series – Twitter #1My Profile

  7. nick catricala

    Marquita, as you said in the beginning “survival stories because they give us hope.” I must add that I get so emotional that most time cry..

    The story about Nick Vujicic has been very much in the news a lot and so I was aware.. I cry the first time I seen his video.. but I tell you what Cliff Meidlt brought me back in 1987 when I too had some incident that marked a turning point in my life.. NOTHING close to Cliff but boy ho boy, I will never forget.

    THANK you for taking time to share all this with all of us.. I know each one of us have something to go back too when we read these stories and make us more humble as we strive to live life as best as we possible we can.

    Thanks again Marquita.. always great to visit your fresh blog.
    nick catricala recently posted…A Lifetime Commitment – Part 1 of 5My Profile

    • martyherald says:

      Glad you enjoyed the article Nick. I’ve been a fan of Nick Vujicic for years, and he certainly is not new to those of us who work in and follow personal development. So glad you found the article inspiring, and thanks for taking the time to contribute to the conversation.

  8. Kimba

    These stories are remarkable and so inspiring! I’m currently working on a story about a young man who lost his leg but because of his drive and spirit has developed a device so he can continue to wakeboard, his passion. This post inspires me to hurry and finish my article – thx for the motivation!
    Kimba recently posted…By: twitterMy Profile

    • martyherald says:

      Welcome back Kimba! Yes there are so many inspiring stories and I’m planning to share more here in the future so when you’re article is one maybe we can work it out to share with my readers as well as yours! 🙂

  9. Chery Schmidt

    Hello Marty! What a Great post, There are so many amazing people in this world that’s for sure. I agree we all need to find everyday hero’s of our own and let them know we are proud to be part of their life..

    I loved this post Thank You For Sharing these 3 Amazing people’s life stories with us, very inspirational.. Chery :))
    Chery Schmidt recently posted…Helping Others On Their Journey To SuccessMy Profile

  10. All wonderful and inspiring stories Marquita! I’ve seen Nick Vujicic speak a couple of times and am always brought to tears by his story. You can’t help but listen and watch him and feel that sense of — “if he can succeed, so can I.” He overcame such odds, but persevered.
    Rebekah Radice recently posted…Social Media and Beyond: Rocket Fuel for Accelerated ResultsMy Profile

    • martyherald says:

      Hey Rebekah, yes I certainly agree about Nick as an inspiration to anyone who’s ever seen or heard him. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts – always appreciated. 🙂

  11. Dana

    Resonates for me..my son has a similar story of survival and has adapted. There a so many true heroes that walk among us every day. Thank you for bringing this to the forefront of our minds. Dana

    • martyherald says:

      Welcome Dana! I’m so happy you were inspired by the stories I shared and thank you for taking the time to contribute to the conversation!

  12. Anastasia G

    Marquita, thanks so much for your post! That’s exactly what I needed – some inspiration from the strong people who didn’t agree to give up.

    Anastasia G recently posted…Are You Overstimulated or Simply Unhappy?My Profile

    • martyherald says:

      Welcome back Anastasia! So glad you found the article and stories inspiring. Thanks for taking the time to contribute to the conversation – always appreciated! 🙂

  13. Hi Marquita,

    I had read long ago that strength is a quality of the mind. Human beings are endowed with this quality…they just need to discover it as these heroes could accomplish all they focussed on!

    Have you heard of Sudha chandran, an accomplished Bharatnatyam dancer, Indian film and TV actor, who lost her leg to an accident when she was hardly 17 but didn’t give up dancing? She overcame her disability with the help of a prosthetic ‘jaipur foot’ becoming one of the most highly acclaimed dancers of the Indian subcontinent. She received invitations from all over the world for performances. She was honored with various awards.

    Such stories do inspire us to keep all kinds of hope alive. Thanks for sharing these wonderful heroes.
    Balroop Singh recently posted…Have you felt the Emotional and Therapeutic Appeal of Music?My Profile

    • martyherald says:

      Thanks for sharing Balroop! I haven’t had the pleasure of reading about Sudha, but her story sounds inspiring and I will definitely see what I can find to read more about her. I danced hula for several years and one of the dancers here in Maui lost her leg as a young girl and yet continued to dance and was an inspiration to us all (especially when we were tempted to whine about sore muscles and tired feet from hours of practice!).

  14. Dave

    Hero: someone admired for outstanding qualities or achievements. These may be visible to the public eye, or they may be reserved for the eyes of a select few friends or family members. Regardless of where the inspiration and hope arises from, I agree that letting that person know that they have had a positive impact on you pays dividends greater than words can impart.

    Wonderful stories of hope and inspiration, thank you for sharing. And thank YOU, Marty, for continually providing that little dose of mental adrenaline, caffeine for the soul, if you will, that keeps us all moving towards our highest potential.
    Dave recently posted…Cookie crumbsMy Profile

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