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Inspiration isn't just a word, it's a call to action; Jackie Bird BEHIND THE HEADLINES.

Byline: Jackie Bird

The passing of 19–year–old Stephen Sutton was a sad moment for those of us who never knew him, so I cannot begin to imagine the heartache suffered by those privileged to share the short life of this special young man.

In trying to sum up a maelstrom of emotions after her son's bravery had touched millions, his mother Jane wrote: "My heart is bursting with pride but breaking with pain."

As others paid tribute, the word most often used to describe Stephen was "inspirational".

But what do we mean when we use it? And, rather than just being a word we reach for when we are in awe, can it ever have a lasting legacy? I suppose we base our views on whether someone's actions are inspiring or not on how we would react in similar circumstances.

Stephen knew he was dying but, rather than spend his last months raging against the cruelness of fate, he went flat out to raise money for charity. Who among us would have the courage to do that?

He was adamant he didn't want his life to become, as he put it, a sob story, so he ticked off his bucket list of fun.

As the money poured in, his grin was as perpetual as his now familiar thumbs up.

In the face courage from man like might launch fundraising How many of us who are not facing a death sentence but, with nothing more to endure than our mundane existence, go about our business without so much as cracking a smile? And yet these days we are inspired by many things. You could argue that as society becomes more self–centred, the more humbling the actions of genuinely inspiring people become.

We see the determination and athleticism of the paralympians and we are inspired. We watch the fundraising endurance treks of military veterans who've lost limbs and we are inspired.

I'm sure none of these people take on such a task thinking, "If I do this I'll be an inspiration". In fact, it's usually the opposite.

Disabled athletes I've met aren't best pleased when their efforts are praised in this way because they see it as patronising.

Servicemen and women aren't keen on it either. For them, it's a case of simply cracking on.

But perhaps a better word for our feelings in these situations is envy.

of such a young Stephen, we our own ventures We envy the ability of these special people to battle against adversity because we fear that, in the same situation, we'd give up and curl up in a sympathy–seeking ball.

Perhaps, then, the true definition of inspiration is when their efforts not only touch us but motivate us.

In the face of such courage from a young man like Stephen Sutton, we might decide to follow his lead and try to stop moaning about our comparatively petty problems. We might donate money to his charity or launch our own fundraising ventures.

Being inspired isn't a word, it's an action – to raise our own game to do something that attempts to honour those who have already done so much.

In the face of such courage from a young man like Stephen, we might launch our own fundraising ventures


BRAVE Stephen Sutton and, below, chalked tributes after his death
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Title Annotation:News; Opinion, Columns
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:May 18, 2014
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