As the Giro D’Italia kicks off, the BBC has run a fascinating story about Gino Bartali who was not only a brilliant cyclist at the peak of his career around WWII, but he was also humble hero. He was so secretive about his great deeds that his son had to pry them out of him and was sworn to secrecy.
“When I asked my father why I couldn’t tell anyone, he said, ‘You must do good, but you must not talk about it. If you talk about it you’re taking advantage of others misfortunes’ for your own gain.’“
In an age of selfies and ‘Personal Branding’ this is one of the most selfless quotes I have heard for a long time. Despite endangering his own life and that of his family by saving numerous jewish lives, he refused to be seen as a hero.
“ “When people were telling him, ‘Gino, you’re a hero’, he would reply: ‘No, no – I want to be remembered for my sporting achievements. Real heroes are others, those who have suffered in their soul, in their heart, in their spirit, in their mind, for their loved ones. Those are the real heroes. I’m just a cyclist.'” ”
Working for a secret organization he cycled thousands of miles around occupied Italy, under the auspices of his training program, with documents concealed in his bike frame. This, so well as the fact that he hid an entire family could well have cost him and his family their lives, but he not only aided those in need, he refused to be acknowledged for it. The story of his deeds was only painstakingly pieced together after his death in 2000.
The act of giving not for social equity, but just because it is the right thing to do! I take my hat off to you Gino. Though I guess that is exactly the opposite of what you would wish for.