Courage does not always roar.
Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying,
I will try again tomorrow.
—Mary Anne Radmacher
Alexandra (Alex) Miyoko Ross worked with Me to We as an international trips coordinator from 2012-2013. She had just finished a bilingual degree at York University’s Glendon College in international studies. She was looking for something in international development that connected with her skill set and beliefs.
Whether working on a TV production crew, escorting the President of Liberia, or learning how to crochet, Alex loved a challenge. There was just something about an intense situation that brought out the best in her. Among the jobs she held:
- Lifeguard. She probably hoped it would be intense, but it rarely was—once she rescued a woman with a cramped foot.
- Manager of team of hostesses at Real Sports in Toronto—a sports bar that seats a thousand people and always has a line-up. This was an intense place when there was a Leafs game!
- Production assistant at Cash Cab, the Discovery Channel game show. This was also stressful, dealing with contestants who were surprised they had entered the Cash Cab.
Alex handled high-pressure situations and long hours with enthusiasm and poise. In fact, she thrived on it. When describing a day at work that would leave others exhausted and overwhelmed, she would have a smile on her face and a note of pride in her voice. Sometimes it seemed she was a glutton for punishment, but she loved achieving a goal and working on the inside track. In the midst of her second round of chemo, she pulled together the energy to help with Toronto’s We Day in September 2013. She was assigned to help smooth the way for a special guest: the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and her entourage. It wasn’t an easy job. Whether it was traveling in an RCMP convoy, finding the only green Sharpies in the ACC for the President, or changing hotel rooms at the last minute, she loved the adventure of it all.
She worked well with a team. Alex had a strong sense of camaraderie and would happily pitch in to accomplish something. During her second round of chemo, she took a leave of absence from Me to We. But she missed the job and the people and she missed contributing. So she continued to be involved in special projects and helped set up a one-on-one mentoring program to help students who were having trouble fundraising connect with those who had been successful fundraisers in the past.
While she was a valuable team member, she was also a leader and would not hesitate to take control of a project if necessary. Hey, she was a big sister so she knew all about telling people what to do! She especially loved working with a group of like-minded individuals. In university, she headed up the annual symposium, but only after the original team leader had left. It was a day-long conference about the island of Hispaniola. Canada’s then ambassador to the Dominican Republic, Todd Kuiack, was the keynote speaker. It was one of the most successful student-led symposiums that Glendon College had ever held.
Alex’s ambitions and perspective were not limited by geography. She not only loved exploring the world through travel, but also had a strong sense of the big picture and the importance of global change. She caught the travel bug at age 11 when her family flew to California. In 2009-2010, she lived in Gibsons, British Columbia and the township of Khayelitsha, South Africa while volunteering with Canada World Youth. Her time in South Africa made a profound impact on her, and Africa forever held a special place in her heart.
As an individual, Alex could be a hard nut to crack. She didn’t like touchy-feely things. She didn’t like hugs. She didn’t like things that weren’t controlled. But she was a steadfast friend to people who earned her trust and affection. She would be the first person to support a friend who was struggling.
Alex was a hard working student — conscientious, diligent, all those things that teachers like. As a child, she loved reading Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. She loved make believe, Lego and artwork. She didn’t like team sports or gym class or summer camp. She wasn’t a natural athlete but she persisted with swimming (because her parents made her do it) and she ended up instructing new lifeguards. She considered becoming a paramedic.
Alex’s time was too short. In 2012 she was diagnosed with late stage colon cancer — a rare diagnosis for someone so young. But throughout chemotherapy, surgery and months of hospitalization, Alex maintained a hold on living. She stayed connected with her work. She started writing a blog about her experiences. She enjoyed eating some of her favourite things (she loved to eat!). Every day, her friends and family would come and hang out with her in the hospital or at chemo sessions. She continued to plan for a future she hoped for.
Of course she struggled. There were painful losses in her life. But she always came back to trying and thinking and working and hoping. She never thought of herself as a hero. But she lived with courage every day.