Today we pay tribute to the 180 notable New Zealanders in the New Year Honours list being recognised for their wide-ranging contributions to our country.
These outstanding Kiwis are sportspeople and businesspeople, politicians and academics, advocates and activists, artists and musicians, health professionals and educators, journalists and broadcasters, scientists and judges; people who have worked tirelessly and selflessly to better lives and advance causes, who have provided inspirational leadership, guidance and support to others and made our country a better place.
They are people like new dames Dr Anna Crighton - acknowledged for her services to heritage preservation and governance - and professor Marilyn Waring - recognised for her services to women and economics.
• READ MORE: New Year Honours 2020: The full list
People like new knights Sir Joe Williams - our first Supreme Court Māori judge - and tireless disability advocate Sir Robert Martin.
They are sportspeople like outgoing All Blacks coach Sir Steve Hansen and Silver Fern coach Dame Noeline Taurua, honoured for their leadership at the highest level of rugby and netball.
It is both humbling and inspiring to read of the achievements of these people who would likely label themselves ordinary Kiwis, and for whom their new mantle may not sit comfortably, but who in many cases have performed extraordinary feats, given lifelong service above self, and provided positive role-modelling in their communities and for us all.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
And it is a special, positive way to end the year; an undoubted high note - particularly after the shocks and horrors that have befallen the nation this year, notably the Christchurch mosque attacks and the Whakaari/White Island tragedy.
As the honours demonstrate, our nation is fortunate to have people who go above and beyond. They are the same sort of people who stepped up during those two recent crises, too; dedicated and hard-working emergency services personnel, members of the public who saw need and responded in heroic, helpful and empathic ways.
From the very worst, came some of the best aspects of humanity - and examples of true leadership.
So, on the eve of a new year, and after learning about the amazing work of our others (in times of crisis, in times of need, but most often - like many of those recognised today - quietly, consistently, tirelessly and out of the spotlight), it is timely to reflect on our own contributions.
If we are in positions of power and privilege, do we act with entitlement or with generosity and responsibility? Do we best use our skills and experience? Could we provide leadership, mentoring and inspiration to others? Could we do more to help others - or to help ourselves in order to take the load off others? Could we be kinder, more understanding, more inclusive, more gracious and grateful, more forgiving?
Tragedy and misfortune will sadly always be a part of life as this year has shown. But the light shown by those in the New Year Honours list, and by many other unrecognised heroes nationwide, through selfless leadership and simple acts of human kindness - to loved ones and strangers alike - will surely put us in good stead for a happier new year ahead.