From the Teacher’s Desk

Leonard
Leonard Quilty
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Our life mission

On my flight back home to NL Jan. 31, I took advantage of the quiet time to read a few articles in the Globe and Mail. Much of the coverage in today’s Globe is about the strife in the country of Egypt ...

Compared with what we ought to be, we are only half awake. The human being lives far within his limits. – William James

On my flight back home to NL Jan. 31, I took advantage of the quiet time to read a few articles in the Globe and Mail. Much of the coverage in today’s Globe is about the strife in the country of Egypt, where sometimes-violent protests against the ruling government have engulfed many parts of the country.

In that backdrop of calamity and chaos, I was drawn to another section of the paper where there were a couple of articles that piqued my interest in a different way.

One of the pieces of writing was about an Ontario real estate magnate, who has set an intriguing goal for himself – to live to be 120. This gentleman, who appeared to be in his mid to late 80s, was extolling the advantages of a regimented exercise routine as a key component in the quest for longevity of life.

The other article that really caught my eye was about a young woman from Vancouver, who had sadly passed away from cancer at the age of 20. This singer/songwriter – Megan McNeil is her name – had written a song about four years ago called ‘The Will to Survive’.

According to the article, she had written this song ‘to lift the spirits of other children in the chemo ward’, and ‘as a gift to anyone who needed to be picked up on a very bad day’.

Those two short accounts of the lives of two fellow Canadians resonated with me because they speak to me of two people who are/were truly awake to the possibilities for their life. They both exhibit, or exhibited, a strong will to survive, as the song suggests.

In the first story I really admired the spunk of this octogenarian. Why not live to be 120?

And why not put in the maximum effort to improve the quality of our life through daily exercise?

But the second story about the courage and inspiration of Ms. McNeil truly inspires all of us to stay alert – to become really engaged in our own life mission – whatever that may be.

When I look around the world and hear about the fuming unrest among groups of people, or nations, I become very concerned. As I see this discord being played out on my TV screen, or read about it in the newspaper, one of my first thoughts is to wonder why – why does it have to be that way?

But when I hone in on the uplifting accounts of people who are, by their exemplary models of ‘joie de vivre’ and encouragement, lighting a torch to give direction for the rest of us, I become very humbled. Then all my thoughts form a queue around the question – why not me, why not now?

Leonard Quilty is a teacher with the Center for Learning@Home in Okotoks, Alberta. He can be reached by e-mail at ‘lquilty5@gmail.com’.

Organizations: Globe and Mail, Center for Learning

Geographic location: Egypt, Ontario, Vancouver Okotoks Alberta

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  • Susan McLennan
    February 08, 2011 - 11:44

    Hello Leonard, I had the great privilege of working closely with Megan McNeil on her Will To Survive song and campaign and I can tell you that she was and is truly inspirational. Right to the end, she put others first, and her song will continue to work for a day when no one dies from childhood cancer. You can learn more about her life and legacy at www.willtosurvive.org or at www.babbleoncom.com Thank you so much for sharing a bit about her life and mission with your readers. Kindest Regards, Susan