Google recently honoured a great Pakistani hero with a doodle on his birthday. A great cricket batsman, an ICC Hall of Famer, whose name may still be mentioned in certain corners in reverential terms but who had generally faded from public memory over recent decades.A hero whose visage no longer sold various products like washing powders or soft drinks.A champion who chose not to pontificate endlessly from the pulpit of a television commentary box. The great Hanif Mohammad rode off into the sunset with the same quiet dignity that had personified his playing career, untainted by any black marks like match-fixing, spot-fixing, ball-tampering and so on. While we still worship at the altar of those who have besmirched the name of Pakistan and Pakistani cricket, showering riches, platitudes, and sponsorship deals on those who may have been blessed with preternatural sporting ability but whose personal conduct was wanting we allowed a legendary cricketer to fade from our collective consciousness. We became poorer for that and it is a shame that it took a Google doodle to remind us of a sporting hero who – despite his diminutive stature (he was the original “Little Master”) – was a titan who had performed legendary feats and had nobly flown Pakistan’s flag high. We owe it our heroes to honour them however we can and we just don’t do enough of that. There are some exceptions, of course, where we carry our hero worship to extremes, refusing to see the feet of clay, the blackened souls, the compromised hearts, the oversized egos with delusions of grandeur and destiny that hide behind handsome visages and glamourous facades. By and large, however, we fail to acknowledge those who deserve it. I think it was a year or so before he passed away that I saw Hanif Mohammad in person. We were on the same flight from London to Karachi. The great man was looking frail and though it was a thrill to see him I didn’t want to bother him out of respect. I’m also not one to ask for autographs or gush over celebrities. So I never went up to him to either shake his hand or ask for an autograph. Generally, other people on the flight also left him alone. Perhaps for the same reasons as mine or perhaps because his playing days were long gone and his celebrity had diminished over the years. To this day, I regret not speaking to him or thanking him for his great service to the country and the legacy he left behind (what he and the young Pakistani team accomplished in its early Test playing years is nothing short of astonishing, miraculous even given their limited resources) or asking him to sign a piece of paper. I don’t know – it might not have mattered to him but it just might have made his day to know that the Pakistani public still loved and acknowledged him. It was because of this everlasting regret that when I recently saw Younis Khan (the man is still as fit as he was in his international playing days) at a doctor’s clinic where he had accompanied his mother that I went up to him to shake his hand and thank him. According to the World Giving Index 2017, Pakistanis rank fifth among nations in terms of donating money and seventh in helping a stranger. The Stanford Social Innovation Review reported that about 98 per cent of people in the country give in one form or another – if not with cash, then with in-kind donations or by volunteering for needy causes Pakistan is full of heroes. Despite all the bad press that we get (often not unmerited) we are a charitable nation, many of us donating generously to individuals and organisations, giving of our wealth and ourselves. Pakistanis donate over Rs5oo billion annually, according to a study by research-based advocacy and consultancy group Individualland.According to the World Giving Index 2017, Pakistanis rank fifth among nations in terms of donating money and seventh in helping a stranger. The Stanford Social Innovation Review reported that about 98 (!) per cent of people in the country give in one form or another – if not with cash, then with in-kind donations or by volunteering for needy causes. It is ordinary Pakistanis who through initiatives like The Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation, The Kidney Centre, Indus Hospital, The Patients’ Aid Foundation, The Citizens Foundation, and Progressive Education Network not to speak of The Edhi Foundation who have taken up the slack from an often underperforming government and filled in the vacuum created by politicians and bureaucrats. People who have turned personal misfortune into tales of courage and strength and inspiration like the story of The Coach Emad Foundation where a young man’s suicide compelled his parents to set up the foundation to start a football academy for the less fortunate children of Lyari as well as a financial support program for them to fund their education and to start a support group for parents who have lost young children, especially to suicide, and to work on mental health awareness issues.The Sports Company is another not-for-profit venture focused on student athletes and their development, organising the Karachi Athletic League, providing training for special needs children, and launching the TSC Academy, helping schools and students benefit from professional level training programs. Most of the people behind these initiatives have done their work quietly and unobtrusively, without the need for public recognition or power or privilege. Many such examples abound. There is resilience within the nation which has helped us to overcome the very worst of odds over the years. There are so many of us who answer the call to serve in so many walks of life and who achieve so much with such little resources and for whom the driving impulse is not fame or fortune but a desire to help and to inspire. They are the true heroes, one and all. They should be honoured as such. The writer is freelance columnist and can be reached at [email protected] Published in Daily Times, December 26th 2018.