The planet’s human population is 50.3% male. Applying that ratio to this World Population Clock, there were 3 466 676 503 fellas on Earth at the time I started drafting this. Our recent posts have canvassed the insights of a small fraction of that cohort – some boys and their dads from Ballarat offered what qualities they see in the good men they know. I promised to share some thoughts at the end of that series.

So, over the next few days leading up to Christmas and New Year you’re getting my honourable mentions for 2010 and here’s my take… for every good man in the public eye, there is probably someone you know whose qualities and circumstances are similar and are equally as grand and inspiring… they’re just not as widely known. As you read my list of good fellas, consider your own people. And of course all of these qualities apply to the other 49.7% of humanity, the inspiring females of the world!

Jimmy and Stephen

If you’re reading this in Australia (or Ireland), you will probably know the name, Jimmy Stynes. He’s the 1991 Brownlow Medalist (Australian Rules Football’s highest individual honour), the co-founder of Reach – an organisation that helps young people foster self belief, has an Order of Australia and was the Victorian of the Year in 2003. A pretty impressive CV. Something I saw in his public profile though… rankled in recent years. He was doing good work – undeniable – but to me the best way of describing it was that it seemed like he had ‘lost the ground’. I only offer that as an opinion because I see that having happened in myself from time to time – we can be doing stuff that looks publicly like good work, our purpose and intent can be all be tracking OK but it doesn’t take much to get out of whack in a helping role. Things can quickly become a bit of a ‘me-fest’! That’s why, in the touching clip below, I find it seriously interesting how Jimmy reflects on the time he became president of his beloved Melbourne Demons, that he ‘was probably addicted to anything exciting’… ‘was getting a bit consumed’ and this may have fuelled ‘a bit too much of the ego’. It is a humble self-critique of his attitude about a year prior to discovering he was seriously ill…

Jimmy Stynes inspired before he got cancer. The way he is living now is off the charts inspiring. He has taken an extraordinary personal challenge and turned it into a positive… Jimmy’s final words in that clip really get me…

“When faced with death, the ego just drops its barriers. I needed to live a better life, and getting cancer has led me to a much better life.”

My friend Stephen is slightly different from Jimmy. He is not quite as into sport. That’s why I listed Jimmy’s CV above as there is every chance Stephen doesn’t know who Jimmy Stynes is! Stephen is similar to Jimmy as he has been a quiet inspiration to our little corner of the planet here in West Preston.

Stephen’s passion is music. Playing, writing, conducting and teaching, he has done it all over the years. He is a highly regarded musician, has an extraordinary ear and can pick up and play a tune so quickly. He is a fellow band member with me in SHeD – four blokes and a guitar. Here’s one of our cover songs we did for a family member in the UK… with acknowledgement, thanks (and probably apologies) to Things of Stone & Wood.

Over ten years, we’ve built up a repertoire of sixty plus cover songs and have always joked that if Stephen gets hit by the proverbial bus, we are down from 60 to three songs… namely our three a Capella numbers! That joke has seemed less funny over the last couple of years as we have watched Stephen struggle with his bad kidneys. He’s just had a transplant and all appears to be going well but we noticed how much he struggled when he forgot words to songs (his memory was always phenomenal) and how he needed more frequent breaks when we played. It became obvious that everything was a struggle. His kidneys not functioning properly, his system was becoming toxic. A mutual friend noted recently about Stephen… “I never once heard him complain”. There lies the inspiration.

In the midst of this tough time for Stephen, different people have organised little events to acknowledge and support him. The gold here is that Stephen let all this happen. Sometimes being helped can be kind of awkward – but Stephen is pretty laid back and people have done what has needed to be done with good grace… Heidi has organised a roster for meals (did I mention he has six kids?) and the community is rallying; his old choir, put on a ‘kidney benefit concert’ a few weeks ago… the generosity of the organiser Janice, reflected the generous way Stephen had thrown himself into anything musical over the years… kids’ concerts, writing and arranging serious choir pieces… playing in SHeD.

Tonight marks another great Stephen tradition… it’s a great memory for our family because one evening in the first Christmas we’d moved to this area, we people heard singing outside. Neighbours wandered out of their front gates to listen to the carol singers in our street. There was a lady living across the road then who had a battle with the bottle… I clearly remember holding my son in my arms, then five months old (now 14!) looking across at her we exchanged big smiles. I saw her shed a tear.

I hadn’t met him at the time but the person leading the carol singing was Stephen.

Tonight, our bunch of friends are getting together for our annual Christmas Carols sing-along around the local streets… Tim from our band has kindly offered to host from his place. Stephen will play it by ear but chances are that he won’t be able to wander round the streets with his guitar tonight… him just being there is going to make the night extra special. Tim hosting, keeping the tradition going, as Stephen recovers is more evidence of the community kindly pitching in.

Both Stephen and Jimmy Stynes have somehow made their tough illnesses something that can create good spirit in the world around them.

Stephen and Jimmy are good fellas.

Feel free to write about your good people in the space below.

Bill Jennings