On 30th October, I came across ‘Remarkable People’ by BBC Presenter, Dan Walker. A few people were mentioning it in my Twitter feed and after a reading a quick synopsis (snippet below)… I knew this was the book for me..! What I didn’t expect was that I wouldn’t be able to put the book down for the next 36 hours!
“In Remarkable People, he [Dan] recounts tales of incredible humanity, empathy, compassion, and a steely determination to transform lives, restore trust, renew hope. Remarkable People is the perfect book for these challenging times; an escape from the negativity of our everyday news cycle, and a tribute to courage and positivity.”
I cannot communicate clearly enough what an impact this book has had on me… but let me try!
I am surrounded by books at home! I love books so much that sometimes I get an overwhelming surge of excitement when I look at them. To be honest, it’s a love affair that is out of control… and my guilty truth is … 3/5 books are never finished. I either get too excited by the next one, work takes over all my reading time, or I am so tired I start drifting off to sleep after one page. BUT… this book… this book was impossible to put down. I spent my next few nights reading until 12:30 am … and if you know me… you know I am a 10:00 pm lights-out kinda gal!
So, let me talk you through what it was that had me locked into the book, either sobbing uncontrollably, laughing out loud or muttering… “OMG” under my breath while the rest of the house slept…
Shine a little light on 2020 …
2020 has shattered many of us. Our world and economy has been turned upside down and I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard: ‘2020 is such a write-off’. If you are one of the many people who have uttered those words, then dive into ‘Remarkable People’ – this book has managed to completely reframe 2020 for me.
This year has been undeniably hard and we should not invalidate our struggles, however, throughout 2020, there has also been hundreds of celebrations of humanity, demonstrated time and time again. There is always a way to shine a little light into the darkest of places, and this book is your torch.
If you want to capture hearts and minds, tell a story…
Another reason this book captivated me was it’s incredible art of storytelling. As the synopsis explains, this books recounts tales of incredible humanity, empathy and compassion, and what astounding tales they were. It is well known that storytelling is the most effective way to communicate, and this book did not fail to deliver.
There were so many stories that captured my heart in every single chapter, but I’ll just share a little bit about three stories.
In one chapter, we met an elderly gentleman, Tony Foulds, who – as a young child – witnessed a B-17 Flying Fortress, known as Mi Amigo, crash at Endcliffe Park, Sheffield, during World War Two. A BBC news story explained that: ” The Mi Amigo was severely damaged by shelling during a raid on an enemy airbase and was flying low searching for a place to make an emergency landing. Because children, including Mr Foulds, were playing in the park, the pilot Lt John Kriegshauser, from St Louis, crashed the plane into woods and there were no survivors.”
We learn that, throughout his entire life, Tony has been tormented by overwhelming guilt around the sacrifice those men made to safe those children that day and as a result, Tony made a commitment to tend to the memorial of these 10 men and make it the most cared for memorial in the UK. It is an incredibly story with a heart-warming outcome, and I highly recommend a read.
Another chapter shared the story of John Sutherland, who spent 25 years serving as a police officer until he had to retire on medical grounds. I was honoured to interview John on my podcast a few months ago, and I can truly tell you – this man has worked tirelessly to make a difference in our society, and this chapter is a timely reminder that we severely under-value many of our police officers. Since retiring in 2018, John has used his incredible gift of storytelling to speak and write about the policing issues and he is a voice that we could all benefit from listening to.
The last story I’ll share with you is about a woman named Ilse Steyaert. Ilse lost her 3 year old daughter, Georgia, a few years back when Georgia suffered from a brain aneurysm while playing on a beach in Egypt. While going through the most horrendously difficult situation no parent ever wants to experience, Ilse made the brave decision to donate Georgia’s organs. This decision resulted in them saving the lives of four children and the eyesight of two others. Ever since Georgia’s death, Ilse is committed to raising awareness around organ donation and it is a chapter you simply must read! Although this book retells her journey and her agonising grief in such a sensitive and respectful way, I literally sobbed through the whole chapter…!
Those are just three of many stories shared about some remarkable humans who have experienced heart-ache, grief and trauma and have gone onto use it as a catalyst for something truly remarkable. This book left me feeling empowered, determined, and even desperate to make a difference to the lives around me.
How are you going to remember 2020?
As we go into the 2nd wave of lockdown in the UK, it’s important to remember that the most effective way to brighten your day, is to brighten someone else’s. In ‘Remarkable People’, we hear about people who did extraordinary things and raised extraordinary amounts of money, but we also hear about small gestures of kindness that meant the world to those involved. This book reminds us that you don’t have to change the whole world to make a difference – just a simple act of kindness can change the world for that one person!
This year will be whatever you make it. The impact of this year will be different for each and everyone of us, but we need to support each other, more now than ever! As Dan puts it: “I wonder how many people I have walked past because I was buried in my phone or thinking about something else rather than what was in front of me. They [the remarkable people] have taught me to talk less and to listen more”.
What a gift this book has been!
It will break your heart on some pages but, by the end of the book, Dan will piece your heart back together with gold, sparkly glitter glue and as a result, your heart will be bigger, stronger and far more open that it was in those moments before you turned page 1.
How are you going to remember 2020?
Book available from Amazon: ‘Remarkable People’ by Dan Walker