April 20, 2009

The BIG "A" is for Apple & Awareness




April 19, 2009

Spring is in full swing -- and I've got the allergies to prove it! Aside from the sniffles and sinus pressure, I welcome this season, this change, with open arms.

This spring time, I'm lucky enough to be able to travel to NYC and upstate New York to enjoy the myriad of cherry and apple blossoms that line several streets of this concrete jungle, the food, fashion (I love people watching) and the calmness of Upstate. The colorful blossoms scattered everywhere are constant reminders to slow it down... and enjoy them... because they do connect us to something bigger -- the universe and its energy; sun, water, soil, the people -- and their stories.

The Big Apple is always teeming with energy; good, bad and nervous all bundled in one. I've been to New York twice already, but this time it was different. I wasn't here for conventions or business; I'm here for a "laycation." (For everyone who's been laid off, I do recommend you take a laycation, if you can, and make the best of your new time.)

If you asked me a year ago, I wouldn't have even imagined I'd be laid-off and here in NYC people watching, meeting up with new and old friends. It's truly been a serendipitously busy vacation. This trip was truly rewarding both personally and professionally.

I only planned to come, hang out with some friends in NY, then take a train along the Hudson River to Poughkeepsie to visit my friend Shannon. I should've known the Big A isn't the place for just sitting, relaxing and vacationing. The energy is amazing, but at the same time, it could be draining.

A recruiter for the CBS Network, was inspired and contacted me after seeing the Go Inspire Go website and wanted me to meet a few folks under the CBS tent. I did not expect the amazing events to ensue. First off, my agent contacted me and said, you're in NY, I'll send the other networks your reel and website. That's when I got one call after another -- ABC, NBC and then back to CBS -- for more meetings. Wow. I didn't realize that even the recruiters would be inspired by this website.

And another amazing thing happened... I met a true life angel/hero and another life-long friend, Sara. I came here on the lookout for a family who cooks over 120 meals nightly and selflessly gives them out to the homeless people under the subway tracks in Jackson Heights, Queens. I heard of this story, by a viewer, Terrie in Chicago. I looked high and low on the internet, and asked Terrie to research where she saw it, but to no avail. Oh well, I'll surrender to the powers that be and if it's meant to happen, then I'll do it, if not, I can always come back to New York to do this story.

Then, last Wednesday night, I met a new friend, Sara, who was a laid-off producer of one of the networks. (Thanks Ramy for connecting us over dinner.) She told me about the same story, that she had read about in the newspaper. Oh my gosh, I knew it wasn't a coincidence and that I had to try my best to find this family and do this story. Sara and I researched, Googled and asked around, but no luck. Then, a few hours later, we found it through more research on the Internet. It just so happened that the food delivery location, was down the street from my friend, Ramy's apartment in Queens where I was staying -- A BLOCK AWAY!!! I was so excited. So was Sara.

The man we interviewed is named Jorge Munoz. He is a school bus driver by day, and after his shift, his second jobs begins. He and his family start grocery shopping and cooking away. Together, they prepare over 120 hot meals, pack them, and then drive them over to the subway stop every night at 9:30. They've been delivering hot food to the needy for the past four years, only missing one day, due to a snowstorm. After the interview, I felt chills and overcome with emotion. I told Mr. Munoz that I was so honored to meet and spend time getting to know him and his family. My eyes filled with tears as I left his home. Mr. Munoz only makes $700 a week. The donations through his non profit, www.anangelinqueens.org and donations from folks in the community isn't enough to feed the growing army that meets him under the subway -- so he has to spend $250-$300 of his own money EVERY WEEK to make sure everyone is fed. WOW!

It's so funny how, what's meant to be just is. It just works out -- despite all the obstacles in the way. We had no equipment, no idea of who or where Mr. Munoz was, but still, something bigger than us, connected all the dots. . . Sara told me, "When I met you over dinner and you invited me to do this story, I couldn't sleep. I was in a funk, after being laid off for the past three months, and was so excited to participate in a story that I cared about so much. I'm so excited, I have no words to describe it."

Although this laycation was surprisingly busy and filled with so many pleasant surprises, I also realized it was because I'm at a different place in life and in my career. In the BIG Apple, I was also "Aware," on the subway, while walking throughout the city, and while meeting up with faces new and old. I realized that when you are present and on your path to doing good, with the resources and talents you possess, great things come, 20-fold!

My mantra this year is, "KNOW YOUR POWER -- AND USE IT!" AMAZING!

OK, gotta catch my flight to Chicago now to do another story for the site. I'll file my New York Angel story this week, spread the good word, and stay tuned...

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