An inspirational person is generally deemed as someone who serves as a source of motivation, guidance, and positive influence to others through their actions, words or accomplishments.
We usually find that these individuals often possess qualities and characteristics that inspire and empower others to strive for personal growth, overcome challenges, and pursue their goals. So if I were to ask you to name an inspirational person right now, what would you say?
In all likelihood you would probably be able to name several including athletes, celebrities, artists and science innovators of now and times gone by. Many of them we would all recognise and agree that indeed, they were and still are an inspiration to many.
Obviously times change and many sources of inspiration nowadays for the up and coming generation take the form of a famous You Tuber, gamer or social media influencer but in many instances I feel that these people are admired by their followers but they are not inspired by them. Sure, said You Tuber may be a leader in their chosen field or indeed be extremely wealthy but where inspiration is concerned it doesn’t matter because as I personally found out first hand, there really are no requirements to be a true inspiration to someone else.
In this article I am going to share a story about a person who is still to this day, one of most unlikely and unexpected, yet true sources of inspiration to me in my 43 years on this planet. The very same fact that astonishingly went rather unnoticed on my part until several years after our paths first crossed.
So as a favourite childhood song of mine once said, lets start at the start and end at the end, first a little background information that led to this afore mentioned, crossing of paths.
It was a Wednesday afternoon in late March 2007. I was happily working away at my job in the local dry cleaners when my partner popped his head around the shop door. Long story short, my partners employer had lost some of their larger contracts and were looking for ways to, shall we say, lighten their workforce. So they did what most unscrupulous employers do, contrary to persuing the correct and fair route they decided to shove people out of the back door in the most deceitful but cheapest way possible for them without so much as a backward glance for over 15 years of service.
Luckily at this point in our lives we did not have children which was at least one saving grace, we both had average paying jobs, very little savings and our first home together that was still very much in its mid stage of renovation, It was like the rug had been pulled from underneath us and neither had a clue what to do next.
The companies excuse for my partners instant dismissal was at best questionable, and at worst a definite claim through an official channel.
A lady that I worked with at the time suggested we try the local Citizens Advice Bureau. The next day we made our way there and explained to a nice gentleman exactly what had happened, it was the Thursday before good Friday and the Easter bank holiday weekend and he had copped for the graveyard shift. He had no experience in employment related matters but advised us that if we came back the following Tuesday there would be another guy in the office who he felt would most certainly be able to help.
It was one of the longest bank holidays in history, We were quite literally shell shocked and began rearranging our limited finances to take such a drastic loss of income into consideration until my partner could secure alternative employment and we could find our way out of this situation which was completely beyond our control.
Tuesday finally came, we stood waiting in the Citizens Advice Bureau reception eagerly awaiting our beacon in the dark to appear before our eyes, what happened next is a story that we have relived so many times over the years and here I am doing it again. I’m not quite sure who or indeed what I was expecting when the door to his office opened but to say that in that moment my heart sank is no understatement.
Out came a very well dressed gentleman to greet us, I would have guessed at the time that he was around his early 70’s, he had on a pair of brown perfectly stay pressed trousers, a knitted pullover with a tweed blazer and half rim round glasses, I looked at my partner and my partner looked at me and at that moment we both felt each others most hopeless thought, we were sailing off up that creek without a paddle in sight, deflated was not the word.
The well dressed gentleman introduced himself as ‘Ted’ and invited us into his office, I say office but it resembled more of a lost property cupboard with a desk, you know the sort. He told us that he had some experience in employment law and he would like to take some details from us in order to be able to advise us of our options, if any. Then instead of turning to the PC on the desk, in what came to be true Ted style, he pulled out a little notepad and gold pen. For the next hour or so we gave him as much background information as we could which he jotted down in his mini notepad. As we left he promised that he would be back in touch in the next few days to let us know his thoughts, Between us I wasn’t holding out much hope.
A few days later, true to his word he asked if we could call back into the office and see him, he advised that he felt that we had a strong case for unfair dismissal through the employment tribunal and if we decided to persue a claim, he would be more than willing to help, we asked about cost as we were cutting our cloth very to fit the tightest of pockets at the current time but he confirmed that his help would not incur a single penny.
In the weeks that followed, not only did Ted accompany my partner to a formal grievance appeal meeting but he completed paperwork after paperwork alongside us to get our case moving. Every step of the way, Ted was there, not just in a practical sense but also as a source of motivation and indeed the beacon of light that we were hoping for to guide us.
I remember that we spoke with Ted the day prior to the grievance appeal hearing, my partner was feeling understandably nervous. Give him something to fix or build and you wont see him for dust but formal meetings are just not his thing. In response Ted gave yet another pearl of wisdom which put me in good stead many years later when he said “At the end of the day they are nothing special, just men who wear suits” and how right he was.
During one of our meetings I asked Ted if he had previously worked as an employment lawyer or a career within that field as his knowledge on the subject astounded me, there was not a question that he seemingly didn’t know the answer to. What he told me made me feel not only ashamed of the way that I had perceived him on that first meeting but also very humble to be in the company of someone so unaware of the difference that he had made to us and I’m sure many others. He told me that many years beforehand he had found himself in the same position as we were in now, but with a wife and 2 very young children. Ted had been unfairly treated by his employer and had challenged them in an employment tribunal by himself with no help whatsoever because he couldn’t afford a solicitor.
He won his claim against them and at the same time had found another job to support his family but he had made a promise to himself and his lovely wife Fran, that one day he would not let everything that he had been through and all he had learned go to waste and at some unknown point in the future, he would use his experience to help others. After keeping up with changes and cases in employment law throughout his working life, when he retired he began as a volunteer at the Citizens Advice Bureau where he had remained, He was actually in his early 80’s yet still worked tirelessly and selflessly hour upon hour each week to help others like us, he had even got into trouble with his wife for refusing to take a holiday because of his dedication to the cause.
Thanks to Ted, we got a successful outcome and began to move on with our lives. I asked if there was any way in which we could repay him for all of his support and hard work throughout the previous months, do you know what he asked? If we would be kind enough to write a letter to the CAB head office and include all of the volunteers in our note of thanks, obviously we did this without question and sadly just a while later we heard that Ted had sadly lost his wife and was unwell himself, we never saw him again.
Like all challenges through life, they tend to fade into the distance as we continue to forge our path in this thing called life, but 13 years on I would be reminded of Ted in the most ironic of ways and realise just how much of an inspiration he was going to be in getting me through what can only be described as some very dark days.
In March 2020 the Covid pandemic hit hard and the country went into its first lock down. Just 3 months later on the 10th June 2020 I received a call out of the blue from my then, manager, to inform me that the company that I had worked for in excess of 10 years were making redundancies and my name was at the top of the list in my department which made absolutely no sense to me whatsoever.
Yet again, shock set in and over the course of the months that followed it became very evident to me that I had also fallen victim to yet another unscrupulous employer but this time more on the grounds of part time working status rather than anything else. What they had done to me was wrong and I felt that to let it go unchallenged would be a terrible example to set for our 2 children. If we do not challenge the wrong doings done against us now then we risk leaving a world for the next generation where they are unable to.
I had no insurance, no union, no funding for legal representation and sadly this time around no Ted either. We had no choice but to drop the claim or go it alone. I still remember so clearly to this day sat in our living room and listing all of the quite frankly, valid reasons why we should not continue with the case when my partner said something that became our team motto…..”What would Ted say”
At that moment, the enormity of the task that Ted had undertaken for us hit me like a south bound train. I didn’t just owe it to myself to challenge this wrong but I also owed it to Ted.
In January 2022 after 16 gruelling months of hell, we received a successful judgement in an employment tribunal for unfair dismissal against my ex-employer. To this day, I truly believe that I had an angel sat on my shoulder for the entire journey silently cheering me on and picking me back up on the days that I didn’t think I could tolerate the emotional and mental toll, that the process took on myself and my family for just one more second.
Since receiving the judgement, I found a social media forum group where I offered help and support for those going through the same nightmare as myself. I also reached out to various outlets to share my story in the hope that I could offer that small beacon of light to them as Ted had done to us all those years ago. To this day I continue to work behind the scenes with those who are trying to make positive changes to what can only be described as a failing employment justice system.
Furthermore, this blog that you are currently reading perhaps on the website that I built continues to pick up momentum daily on the back of my chance meeting with one of life’s true inspirational humans.
Ted wasn’t a celebrity, nor a professor in his field and as far as I am aware was no great inventor of our time, he was not a wealthy man yet he possessed the most valuable and priceless traits of humanity that no amount of success can buy for it simply doesn’t have a price tag, and he isn’t on his own. These true warriors of our time walk amongst us everyday without realising the super power that they possess, indeed you might be one of them.
To me, a true inspiration is someone who has experienced negativity but instead of allowing it to define them, they are able to use that experience to help others in a positive way. Hard times for you today could well be that beacon of light in the dark for someone else tommorow. Imagine the difference that we could make by realising the true super power that we all possess in one way or another and put it to good use.
I can honestly tell you from first hand experience that the saying really is true, not all super heroes wear capes. Lets all be more ‘Ted’.