Life stories to make us proud
The media is often accused of focusing solely on the negative aspects of life here, but that is a charge which cannot be sustained against this newspaper. Certainly we are critical when we feel it is in the public interest to highlight ineptitude, criminal behaviour, corruption or shortcomings in public service.
But we are equally keen to publicise the people and events which show Northern Ireland in a positive light. Nowhere is this more evident than in our annual Women of the Year awards, the winners of which were announced recently.
And they are truly astonishing women. Their life stories are inspiring, moving, encouraging and humbling and should be required reading for anyone who sometimes despairs of life here.
Take Maud Kells, the winner of the Woman of the Year title, who has devoted her life to missionary service and who almost paid for her crusading work among the poor of the Democratic Republic of Congo with her life. She was wounded by armed bandits who broke into her home in what is believed to have been an attempted robbery.
Then there is Joyce Craig, Mum of the Year, who has had to bear tragedies that no mother should ever face.
Her daughter Nicola was born with severe disabilities, not expected to live beyond a year, but survived until the age of 26. Then her only able-bodied child, Michael, died from a brain tumour at 25, just as he was set off for a new life in Australia, and Joyce now is left with 23-year-old son Christopher, who has cerebral palsy. The deaths made her question her faith, but she is now volunteering to raise funds for the Marie Curie Hospice, where Michael died. Read her story. It will make you weep, but also count your blessings.
Another winner was 83-year-old nun, Sister Olive Cooney, who runs the laundry in the Welcome Centre in Belfast to clean the clothes of the homeless. How often do we close our eyes to the street people, never mind offer them some dignity and assistance?
Other winners have made their name in education, health, beauty and business. What they have in common is making life better for those who come in contact with them and also portraying the real image of Northern Ireland.
Every one of us knows an extraordinary woman. They often don't get the recognition they deserve because they do amazing things every day. We are proud to tell their stories.