Like most other Canadians, I recognize Clara Hughes on TV because of her huge, tremendously vibrant smile, and she has always struck me as a sunny, positive, confident person, not to mention a world-class athlete.
Reading her memoir called Open Heart, Open Mind showed me that being sunny, positive, & confident doesn’t always come easy to Clara. There’s a world of struggle behind that smile. Hearing Clara speak in front of a sold-out audience in Lloydminster last week was even more affecting.
Clara speaks with so much passion & energy. She sounds like a spoken-word poet, delivering line after line of sincere, honest, evidence, attesting to her personal struggles with mental illness. She insists that while one in five Canadians suffer from mental illness in their lifetime, it is the five in five that really matter. We are all in this together. We all need community, & we all need to be willing admit it when we aren’t doing okay.
I was so moved by Clara’s passion and message, that I found myself openly weeping several times throughout her story. Most of all, I was moved by Clara’s incredible willingness to not just meet everyone who wanted her autograph, but to really connect with people and have a personal conversation with everyone she met. She laid out her huge collection of medals from both winter & summer olympics, and encouraged people to feel them, hold them, & even wear them in pictures with her. The ribbons of the medals were tattered, but so beautiful. If there’s anything I took away from meeting Clara, it’s that we are all a little tattered, but still so beautiful.
If you have the opportunity to see Clara speak, take advantage.