I didn't think of volunteering for the Olympics. I was one of the grumblers, I'm sorry to say. But I'm eating my words now. Here in London anyway, the whole Olympics event has highlighted what ordinary people can do, and how amazing it can be.
The above pictures are part of a fascinating display in the National Portrait Gallery, one of my favourite museums in London. As part of their Olympic theme, photographer Nadav Kandar photographed some of the torch bearers who took turns in carrying the Olympic Flame through Britain to London.
The three shown are (left to right) Kenneth Reid, blind from the disease retinitis pigmentosa, who volunteers for many organisations to help the blind. Second from left, Abtisam Mohamed battled a tough upbringing to take a law degree and began a charity to raise the aspirations and achievements of Yemeni women in Britain, and their children. Third, Andy Tutte, an ex heroin addict and homeless man, who now teaches young people about health through fitness and sport.
There are several photos and descriptions of other inspirational people in the gallery, and a link to the portraits here.
And then, how's this for volunteering? This nice BMW, whizzing through a restricted area, might have been driven by someone I met yesterday. He'd volunteered as a driver, and said it was one of the high experiences of his life to be part of a huge once-in-a-lifetime event.
He'd been allocated to drive around foreign bigwigs in a gleaming BMW. Sailing through London, preceded by many cops with blue flashing lights, stopping all the traffic. How cool is that?
He had felt very "challenged" at the start, because everything had to be perfect. But his Olympic pass lets him into many events for free, and he's mixing with people of all colours and cultures from all walks of life. He also said he's never seen so many celebrities. All such a change from his normal life, he said.
I asked if he was a driver in his normal life, and he said, "No, I'm a managing director of an international company." (!)
And then, I spotted these bandsmen outside the American Ambassador's residence on the first day of the Olympics. Michelle Obama was there hosting hundreds of poor London kids, plus 700 American kids, and a group of top athletes and celebrities had a day of Olympic themed activities. What an experience for them!
When snapping this photo, I was taken by the guy in the truck. He reminded me of someone from a Norman Rockwell picture.
I sure hope that whoever is organising the Olympics in Rio, 2016, will also involve all members of their community. Meanwhile, I'm mad I missed out, but I am so enjoying being in London and seeing everything. And I am very proud that the organisers of this games have done so much to be inclusive of everyone in our country.