Anyone who grew up reading Time Magazine, when it was just one of the few printed publications and before the arrival of multimedia and online news sites— is knowledgeable about the mag’s Person of the Year in its cover and feature. I looked forward to it every year-end and jolly up reading about the persons featured in its pages.
There have been as much persons of good standing in politics, the arts and other fields as there were persons who were questioned more about what their faces were doing on the cover.
The discourse about making a great impact on people’s lives always came to play when the person on the cover is a self-absorbed political anarchist or a terrorist who enabled the murder of innocent humans.
For these are the attributes of humanity. There are those who take a step back quietly to let others live and there are those who destroy lives. And our lives are affected by these good persons and bad persons.
There are always the purveyors of harm, death and destruction, and we can find plenty of them anywhere in the world. Sometimes, those who are labelled bad can be interesting, and it is unfortunate that people think those who are good tend to lead boring lives. We often exist to feed on notoriety, oddity and even the quirks of celebrity but stray on the saintly.
I find it amusing too to read up about twisted monsters of people but I pray I won’t encounter one when I go out and take a walk. I still am one of those who yearn more for the human beings whose lives made an impact that was positive and constructive.
In past decades, persons of the year made lasting impressions not just in the year past when they were honored but in the years that followed. There are some names out there that will endure for generations mostly because of the good they did.
Today, in the age of online platforms that have very short lifespans, the person of the passing year may be forgotten in the first quarter of the next year. Another person will blur that short-lived fame and will, in turn, take the world’s attention for some specific reasons.
Because the internet has taken over and people’s consciousness toward someone who changed the world a bit better can be fleeting, it would be good to invest in the stories of people who inspire us because we can be like them or we can do what they do.
We can pattern our lives after them and we, too, can walk with our gold medals of good deeds. So there are gemstones of life’s meaning from a person’s momentary fame.
I have people in mind, too. But they are not even on the cover of a magazine.
The ones I just added to my list is the all-male crew in a recent boat and kayak tour of one of the most beautiful islands in the world.
The lead guy asked us to swim, frolic and snorkel all we want but also to just let the fish swim with us, not lift them from the water, and not to touch or bring home the corals. Then they prepared food for us on the boat. They had a vampire fish— so-called because it has vampire fangs— which they freed back to the sea. I will never forget their simplicity and love of the earth.
At the start of a new year, I hope to meet more persons who I will think about all year round.
Diana Mendoza is a journalist based in Manila.