“Don’t live down to expectations. Go out there and do something remarkable.”
Graduation season is in the air and with it come all of the inspiring pearls of wisdom that go along with the celebration. It is oh so easy to give advice and it is oh so difficult to use it. Every time I speak to a non-profit founder I hear passion, purpose, joy and gratitude in their voices, regardless of where they live or their cause.
The reason is that they have not set out to do something remarkable, they just paid attention to the signs, one thing lead to another, the knew they needed to do this one thing and then they reached out to inspire others to help them achieve that goal….which ultimately became a non-profit and something remarkable.
Each of us makes daily choices with our time. How will you use yours to do something that inspires passion, purpose, joy and gratitude? ” Don’t live down to expectations. Go out there and do something remarkable.”
The beauty that is Charity Matters, is the incredible people who I have the privilege of meeting and telling their stories. Mark Brenner is one of them. A few months back, when I attended a non-profit seminar I was fortunate enough to be seated with this dynamic man, with a huge smile, a zest for life and an unlikely non-profit founder.
Mark told me that in the end of 2013, he had recently sold his recruiting business and attempted to play golf for a few months, but knew there was something missing. A life long connector and recruiter he knew he still had people that he could help with his skill set.
In 1967 at 19 years old, Mark served in Vietnam, and was a Veteran. When Mark came home from Vietnam, they threw rocks at him as he stepped foot in the U.S. for the first time in a year from being away. He said,”The way I was treated coming back from Vietnam, I knew I didn’t want anyone else to ever go through that.”
More than that, Mark had learned recent statistics on Veteran’s unemployment and thought, “Now this is something I can help with, I know how to get people jobs.” His help turned into a 501c3, non-profit called Veterans Career Xchange. His mission to coach veterans to get full-time employment and to retain their jobs.
Today, Mark is working harder than ever. He and his team at Veterans Career Xchange have coached, mentored and gainfully employed hundreds veterans, with over 80% who have remained employed. His passion for helping these men and women who have served our country is simply contagious. Mark said, “When the Veterans you serve get a job and donate back to your cause and tell you that they have purpose and are happy again, it makes you just want to keep going.”
While I don’t typically do follow-up stories, I think we are just at the first chapter with this one and I can’t wait to share with all of you what is next for this remarkable man and organization. Mark is proof that regardless of where you are in life you, you always have something to give.
February is heart month. Over the years, I have interviewed so many people with such heart warming stories, but one that has truly touched me is the story of the Paul family and their journey as parents of a child living with congenital heart disease.
You may remember them, because they are extraordinary people who took their pain and turned it into a non-profit foundation called Saving Tiny Hearts.
When I first interviewed Francie Paul five years ago she sent me this note, which I wanted to share here today. On friday, I will tell you what the Paul Family is doing now.
Thank YOU for your beautiful post– we are extremely honored to have Saving tiny Hearts featured.
We did have high profile malpractice attorneys at our doorstep…practically before we were out of the hospital from Joshua’s firstheart surgery…it wasn’t who we were…our life’s mission came out of the greatest need for medicine and science into heart defects to catch up to support all children, like our little love, afflicted with heart defects.
Starting the Saving tiny Hearts Society began before our Joshua’s second heart surgery (- he has had 3) at 3 months old, after pediatric heart surgeons told us that there was a desperate need to fund research, that young hungry scientists were being turned down for government funding because they didn’t have enough monies to beef up their revolutionary proposals….which is where we would come in, to provide the seed money for it all.
Most people don’t realize that so many babies and children do not survive because of lack of research to save them. We didn’t know that it was the #1 birth defect in the world and the #1 cause of birth defect related deaths….we didn’t know that it could happen to our baby.
Someone had raised funds for research for us 30 years ago and our baby was given a chance to live. Ten years from now will be a whole different ball game into medicine, science and technology into heart defect research. We don’t want to wait for what doctors say ‘will be….’ we want to fund research to change the future for ‘what can be…’ for all children, like my beautiful Joshua suffering from heart disease. Out of our heartache, there is hope….
I don’t know if you had seen the movie ‘Something the Lord Made’ but it was an HBO movie about one of the very first heart surgeries ever performed, the Blalock-Taussig Shunt (-BT Shunt). It was the very first successful heart surgery that began with a blue baby as doctors were afraid to touch the heart and felt that of these babies wouldn’t live otherwise, so they would try this most revolutionary procedure on a baby first. Nearly 60 years later,at 4 days old, after our baby was stabilized, he had a Blalock-Taussig shunt.
We can’t thank you enough for sharing our story; it has truly been a humbling journey for us and in the greatest of heartache, we have seen the very best in friends. Can’t wait to read more Charity Matters and see all of the amazing things that are happening because of you.
“Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.”
With Valentines Day on Tuesday, who knew that we had another day to celebrate this week? Today, is National Random Acts of Kindness day…I know, who knew? This is actually such a wonderful way to start the long holiday weekend by doing a random act of kindness for someone. It can be as simple as a smile, putting coins in someone’s parking meter or even giving someone a compliment.
In case you need a few ideas or inspiration there is a non-profit called Random Acts of Kindness Foundation.org that has tips, ideas, lesson plans for simple ways to be kind and here is a video to get you thinking about how you can celebrate today and the act of kindness.
The most beautiful gift you can give is a little piece of yourself to make someone else’s day better. It will make you feel great and create a chain reaction of kindness. Imagine if our world was like this everyday, not just today…
So, here is wishing you a day filled with giving and receiving random acts of kindness. As the quote says, ” Remember there is no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.”
While I know this has been a crazy week with Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday and the Presidential Inauguration today….I find my mind somewhere else. Each week I try to find a theme for Charity Matters and Martin Luther King Jr.’s question of,” What are you doing for others?” Thishas become my mantra for the week, that common thread of service.
Really, more than that, I am fascinated with people’s journeys to serve. On Wednesday, it was the story of InsideOUTWriters and Sr. Janet’s program for incarcerated youths in juvenile hall. But what happens when one person’s service inspires another? The goodness is contagious.
That is exactly what happened to Scott Budnick. In 2003, he was asked by a friend to attend a writing workshop through the InsideOUTWriters program. Scott is the infamous producer of The HangOver movies, a Hollywood producer and man who had no idea that his life was about to change. His first trip to juvenile hall, to mentor incarcerated youths, changed everything.
Scott not only committed to mentoring incarcerated youths (which he still does) but he took it so much farther when he realized that these young men and women had a 54% recidivism (going back to jail) rate and decided to do something about it.
He decided to start a non-profit called ARC to change that statistic, one youth at a time by providing the support, mentoring, education, housing, employment and guidance needed to make the transition out of prison a final one.
Today, ARC serves more than 300 formerly incarcerated men and women, who commit to living crime-free, drug-free and gang-free and dedicate themselves to being of service to their community and paying it forward to others in the ARC network.
One man, one moment volunteering and now Scott Budnick is a non-profit founder, who has taken on prison reform, mentored hundreds of young men and women, transformed their lives, the prison system and less than five percent of his kids ever go back. They only go forward passing that torch of service that Sr. Janet ignited in him, to others.
Today is Veterans Day and the day that we celebrate all of those amazing men and women who have served our country. Last week I had the privilege of speaking with one incredible veteran and her name is Genevieve Chase. At only 38, she has served two tours in Afghanistan, is the recipient of the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and the Combat Action Badge, and is the Founder of AmericanWomensVeterans.org
Genevieve had trained for two years as a counter intelligence agent and was in Afghanistan for only two months, in April 2006, when a car bomb detonated and changed her life forever. She and her team survived but suffered varying degrees of traumatic brain injuries. She told me, “Angels watched over us and I knew I survived that bomb for a reason.”
At the end of 2007, Genevieve came home, depressed, unsure about her purpose and began volunteering for another military non-profit. She began to realize that women veterans where not being heard, served or listened too. More importantly she discovered that there are 2.2 million women veterans in the United States.
In December 2008, Genevieve and her sister (shown above) put a call out on Facebook to any women Veteran’s in New York City to come join them for breakfast and thirteen women did. As she listened to stories about their shame to be a veteran, the way they were treated or ignored she knew something had to be done and that was the beginning of AmericanWomenVeterans.org
Today, almost eight years later the American Womens Veterans has become a change agent for women veterans. Genevieve has testified before U.S. Senate Foreign Relations and Veteran Affairs Committee to bring change and attention to these incredible women who have served. The American Womens Veterans is proud that they have helped to bring women’s health care to every VA facility in the country, helped acknowledge women veterans who were not allowed to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery and continue to shine a light on the remarkable role that women veterans have played and continue too, as they serve our country.
As we honor all of our veterans today, we need to remember that not every GI is a Joe.”
Last weekend, I attended my first TED talk. While I have listened to an occasional talk here and there, I am one of the rare people on the planet who is not addicted or really even familiar with TED. I was even more surprised when I learned that TED (which stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design) is a non-profit organization….but isn’t everything these days?
The TED concept was created in 1984 from Richard Wurman’s observation of three amazing fields converging, technology, entertainment and design. The very first TED talks included demos from revolutionary new products, the compact disc and the e-book. However, even with such a wow factor the conference and idea lost money and six years later, in 1990 Richard Wurman tried again and this time it worked.
A decade later, media entrepreneur, Chris Anderson met with Wurman and in 2001 Anderson’s non-profit, the Sapling Foundation acquired TED. Anderson believed in the concepts that make TED great and was determined to seek out the most interesting people on the planet and let them communicate their passion.
So as I sat in an auditorium and listened to speakers talk on such topics as, The Future of Women in Science, Troubled Water on water conservation, Transforming Prisons from the Inside, Out, Accepting my transgender daughter, and the list goes on….I was inspired. Each speaker and topic more unique than the previous, and yet they were all the same.
What was it that made this very different group the same? Their passion. Each speaker was passionate about their topic and their passion and insight was real, it was human and the hundreds of us in the audience became one…..and that is the magic of TED.
I don’t know about you, but I have always adored Katie Couric. I follow her on Instagram and for the past two weeks every day she has posted a picture and told the story of someone’s life affected by cancer. Each story more devastating than the next, with faces of children, mother’s, grandparents….each one of us knows someone who has been affected by this horrible disease.
Katie has been involved with an organization called Stand Up 2 Cancer. It began as an idea in 2008, to bring the entertainment industry together to raise funds for cancer research. Tonight, once again they will do just that.
Since 2008, Stand Up 2 Cancer has raised millions of dollars that have funded over one thousand cancer researchers and 19 cancer dream teams put together to end this disease. So, tonight turn on your tele to be entertained, inspired and to join in this fight that Stands Up 2 Cancer.
Last week I was privileged to speak at the launch of the USC’s Women in Leadership Society at the Annenberg School for Communication, my alma mater. An amazing organization founded by Professor Christopher Smith to provide support, build self-confidence, build community and connect young female undergraduates who are at the intersection of tech, media and entertainment. So what could I possibly say to these young women?
First, I remembered what a challenging time USC was for me, my parents had gone bankrupt and I was putting myself through school. I had boyfriend problems, was trying to figure out my path and the basic challenges of having fun, growing up and juggling it all that all young co-eds face.
I wanted these young women to know that we all go through this. More importantly, I wanted them to have a bigger goal and keep their eye on the prize. So often, the vision is short-sighted and they can only focus on the internship, the A, the diploma or the job. I want them to focus on living a life full of purpose, where you are using your gifts to the greatest ability.
While leadership is a tool that helps you on the path to acquiring all of the above, isn’t the real goal of leadership simply one life inspiring another? I shared my favorite leadership quote by Woodrow Wilson who said, “You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.”
Because Leadership is at its essence….one life simply inspiring another and after all, isn’t that is the purpose?
This past weekend I was up in Northern California for a board retreat. We were in the beautiful hills of Los Altos and it was a time to reflect, slow down the pace and “just think.”
As I pondered the takeaways of the weekend, I recalled a story that Bill Gates Sr. shared at a different board retreat a few years back. He was asked the question, “Was there any early indicator that your son (Bill Gates Jr.) was destined for great success?” Bill Sr. thought for a moment and shared a story about his teenage son.
He told the crowd that their family had loaded up the station wagon with children, pets and the like to head out-of-town to ski for the weekend. No one could find Bill Junior. Bill’s mother went searching through the house hollering for Bill. When she opened the door to his room, there was Bill laying on his bed staring up at the ceiling in a quiet room. His mother said to young Bill, “What are you doing? We have all been looking for you, yelling and waiting?” Bill Jr. looked up at his mom thoughtfully and said, “I was just thinking. Do you ever just think?”
As Bill Sr. shared that story with the room, he said that his son had always taken the time to simply “just think.” That story has stayed with me over the years and as I was given the gift of time to reflect, slow down and “just think” it occurred to me that, “thinking” is a gift each of us needs to give ourselves. When was the last time you were “just thinking?”
What is commitment day? It is one of the most important days in Watts all year. Commitment day is the day that the boys from Verbum Dei High School stand in front of their community and tell everyone where they will be attending college in the fall.
This might not seem like a big deal to many, but for these boys of South Central Los Angeles, this is a game changer. A moment that will alter their life course forever. These young men live in one of the most dangerous, poor and crime ridden neighborhoods of Los Angeles. Yet, 100% will be leaving because they are going to college, against all odds.
What makes their journey more unique than any other high school student? The obstacles that these young men must overcome are simply staggering. First, they must apply (if their parents allow them to or understand) to this amazing boy’s school and be accepted. Often times they are behind academically and students must catch up quickly. While other boys in these neighborhoods are joining gangs, the boys of Verbum Dei are putting on dress shirts and ties.
In addition to overcoming poverty, family issues, grades and gang pressures these young men are trained to work in corporate America. One day a week they board a van to their job where they work to help subsidize their education and more importantly see who they can become. After four years of studying, working, doing sports and becoming “Men for Others” these young men are proud to tell their family and friends that they are heading to a place most have never been, college.
Today is Commitment Day at Verbum Dei. These men will announce to their families, peers and school that they are on their way to schools such as Georgetown, USC and a host of others, all sharing bright future ahead.
The teachers, staff, parents and corporate sponsors have made commitments to these young men and now these young men are committing to the world that they are leaving the life they know and heading to incredible futures full of promise. This is Commitment day.
“Love begins by taking care of the closest ones – the ones at home.” Mother Teresa
In keeping with this weeks theme that “Charity starts at home,” I thought I would share a photo of our family a few years back, when we first moved into our house. This was the last time that we did serious home improvement. I hope this weekend finds you enjoying summer, wherever you maybe, I’ll be staying close to home.
Tomorrow is just another day like any other except that it is the marking of another year passing. I have so many friends that dread these days which justify the wrinkles and sadly few left that embrace their birthday. When we were little, we loved the cone-shaped hats, the friends, the candles. When and why did that change?
Well for me, it hasn’t. I am still a birthday girl. I love everything about them. First and foremost it is the friends and family that reach out, people I love, I miss or I just simply really enjoy. How fantastic to have one day a year when all those people simply say hello? Honestly, that is my favorite part of birthdays.
The other thing that birthdays have brought in the past few years is a time of reflection and gratitude. I am so grateful that I am alive, I am healthy and that I get to celebrate another magical year of living. That is a beautiful gift and one that I never take for granted.
Birthdays are also a time to see where I am. What have I accomplished this year? Being born in June, it’s a nice half-year assessment mark. Looking back and acknowledging any goal accomplished and looking ahead with all of the new ones I can’t wait to tackle.
I am in my late forties now and to me I’m just getting going. I have a whole second half of life beginning. How exciting is that? So tomorrow, I will be soaking up the calls, the friends, the love and the moments. Something we should all do everyday, even if it’s not our birthday.
I might pass on the cone-shaped hat this year but I will enjoy blowing out all those candles, even the extra one!