July 28, 2011

9-year-old's Water Wish Granted After Her Death

You can't read this without feeling that effervescent, inspiring, chilling feeling -- the community, humanity pulled through to make this gir's wish come true, thousands of times over.

We all have birthday wishes. Most of the time, we wish for something for ourselves, often the newest, coolest, most gratifying, most personal present we can imagine. Instead of presents, then 8-year-old Rachel Beckwith from Bellevue, Wash., made a simple wish for people she never knew - clean drinking water for residents of third world countries.

Rachel campaigned to raise $300 by her 9th birthday to help CharityWater.org, a non-profit that brings fresh water to developing countries.

Her wish:
“On June 12th 2011, I'm turning 9. I found out that millions of people don't live to see their 5th birthday. And why? Because they didn't have access to clean, safe water so I'm celebrating my birthday like never before. I'm asking from everyone I know to donate to my campaign instead of gifts for my birthday. Every penny of the money raised will go directly to fund freshwater projects in developing nations.”

On her birthday, June 12th, she raised $220, just $80 shy of her goal.

Sadly, shortly after her 9th birthday, tragedy struck.

(Photo Courtesy: Charity Water)

Last week, she was involved in a multiple car crash. On Sunday, Rachel was taken off life support, but her philanthropic spirit lives to inspire people – many of them complete strangers – to chip in and help her achieve her goal.

Members of Rachel’s church and the community banded together to make sure her wish came true, and Rachel’s donation page was reopened last Friday.

The media shared her story. Her story went viral – her dream continues to grow exponentially.

Monday evening it grew past $140,000 and by Wednesday afternoon, the total soared past the $430,000 mark.

Rachel’s mother, Samantha Paul, posted a message Monday on the website: “I am in awe of the overwhelming love to take my daughter’s dream and make it a reality. In the face of unexplainable pain you have provided undeniable hope. Thank you for your generosity! I know Rachel is smiling!”

I got goose bumps after hearing about Rachel’s story and the chain of humanity and goodwill from strangers. This is a beautiful example of, and testimony to, the fact that we are all one. It makes me think that if we each had the mentality that we’re all a part of the same experience of this journey called life, we could perhaps treat one another differently, more kindly, and live with more eager generosity.

Rachel started with her wish to get fresh water out to strangers in need. Then the community and strangers helped her exceed her dream. What are you doing to leave your mark in this world in the present moment? What can you do today to fulfill someone's wishes? What's stopping you from doing it now?

July 20, 2011

The Power of YOUR Words

We’ve all gotten to where we are today because someone helped us along the way. My earliest recollection of someone who has made an impact on my life is Mrs. Perskinski, my kindergarten teacher.

I had a lot of friends in school and I was pretty social – as social as any 5-year-old social butterfly could be. But one day, I came to school filled with sadness. I was down right melancholy. Mrs. Perskinski knew something was wrong because I seemed depressed, despondent and different from my usual cheery demeanor. She asked me, “What’s wrong Toan? Is everything ok?” I told her, “I’m really sad.” She asked, “Why?” I told her that I saw on the news that another kid was shot and killed in my neighborhood and that made me really sad.

What she told me next changed the trajectory of my life forever.

She told me, “In life, we have choices, Toan. You can make bad choices and you can make good choices. If you make bad choices, then bad things happen to you. If you make good choices, good things happen.”

Looking back, I think she was trying to explain cause and affect, and the idea of karma -- that the good choices beget goodness and bad decisions lead to bad consequences.

This was the earliest philosophical conversation that I can remember – it was also the first person, outside of my family that made an impact on my life. Words possess such power, for good and bad. So I learned to be careful how I use them.
Funny how I chose to become a TV reporter who would cover death and destruction on a daily basis for almost a decade. I’m glad to report that although I’m grateful for that experience, I’ve left the news biz and carved out my own path to inspire people -through storytelling and videos - to use their power (resources, talents and network) to help others.

Thanks Mrs. Persinski and to everyone who is using your words carefully to inspire the future.

I’m currently looking for Mrs. Persinski to thank her for the impact and life lesson she’s had on me. I’m sure there’s someone in your life you’d like to thank for shaping your journey for the good…

I’d love to hear what they did and who they are (I'm sure they the person who inspired you would like to hear from you too): Twitter and Facebook

July 11, 2011

DooF - Inspiring Healthy, Fun Food for Kids!

Go Inspire Go (GIG) is proud to introduce its first Social Good Spotlight, to raise awareness of individuals and organizations doing good in their communities in order to inspire others to take action and ultimately make real social change. GIG believes everyone can find inspiration in helping others, whether it’s through doing small acts of kindness or working at an organization dedicated to making a difference. If you know of an individual or organization that you think should be featured, please contact GIG and help us forward their stories to inspire the world.

GIG Social Good Spotlight:


What is DooF?

Formed by Mike Axinn, DooF (food spelled backwards) has found new and creative ways to teach children how to eat well using the power of multi-media entertainment, education and live events.

What is DooF’s mission? What big changes is Doof trying to make?
DooF’s mission is to explore food from every possible perspective - backwards, forwards, sideways, upside-down and inside-out - in order to teach kids about how food gets from its source to their table.

Jennifer Schumacher, a DooF and GIG volunteer told us about this amazing organization.

So a couple of my volunteers (Robert Fletcher and Erin Sitt) and I came to the DooF-A-Palooza event at Jack London Square in Oakland, California and helped her produce this piece.

Thanks for the scoop and great editing job, Jen!

How is DooF using its power to help others?
DooF does many things, from producing short videos explaining how food comes from local farms and ends up in restaurants and markets to providing teachers with lessons plans to teach in their classrooms. DooF also puts on “DooF-A-Pallooza,” an event that brings together local markets, food producers, farmers, and families. On May 22, 2011, hundreds of families attended DooF’s 3rd festival at Jack London Square in Oakland. DooF describes it as a “food-backwards, table-to-source, food educational experience” that includes entertainment and hands-on activities with growers, chefs, purveyors, businesses, and cookbook authors.

What inspires DooF to do this work?

For years, children have been taught nutrition by being told what food they should and shouldn’t eat. The failure of these messages to inspire children to eat better and be physically active inspires DooF to think differently and show children how to have fun with food. By truly engaging children, DooF hopes they will truly learn healthy habits and live well.

What is DooF working on now?

DooF continues to look for new ways to spread its message of smart eating and play. An immediate project is to start working with younger filmmakers to produce films focused on having fun with food.

How can GIGSTERS get involved and support DooF?

1. Visit/Volunteer with DooF www.FoodBackwards.com
2. Be mindful when you eat. Love every bite and chew.
3. Think about one simple thing you can start with to improve your diet. Can you drink two more cups of water daily? Eat fruit and almonds for a snack in between meals?
4. Inspire a youngster in your life to eat healthier.

If you have a nonprofit that you believe deserves a pat on the back, we'd love to hear from you. Hit us up on Twitter or Facebook!

July 7, 2011

The Power of Group Meditation and Intention

Growing up, I used to think meditation involved monks, gongs and a lot of chanting. I was sorta right. My paternal Grandma - who I endearingly call “Ah Ma” - inspired spirituality in me since I was a little kid. She’d light incense, close her eyes and sit in silence. To be quite honest, this would freak me out because I thought she was either dead or napping. So, as any little squirt would do, I either tiptoed up to her and held my finger close to her nostrils to make sure she was breathing or I would throw something at her, then run – she had a strong aim and could smack me with her slipper that rotated like a boomerang.

Through her example, I too would mediate, as a teenager and an adult. As life got more complicated, I would turn to this practice, this moment of silence and stillness, to focus and keep me grounded. To this day, I turn inward in this special space to listen to my breath, which keeps me centered and clears my mind.

Recently, I was invited by Mallika Chopra, founder of Intent.com, to participate in a unique experience: group meditation and Yoga in San Francisco’s bustling Union Square. The event, appropriately named “Seren-i-tea in the Square,” was co-hosted by Mallika and Stephanie Snyder, a well-known Yoga instructor.

More than 100 people showed up with yoga mats in tow. Included in this crowd were the winners of GIG’s first contest. We asked GIGsters to tell us what inspires them, and then we randomly selected 8 to receive a VIP pass to “Seren-i-tea in the Square.”

The following are the 8 winners with their responses (note: some comments were shortened/edited):

Adriana G. - “The positive energy of children inspires me. When I want to give up or something seems frustrating, I think about how we are born with this ability to keep trying until we succeed. We wouldn't get anywhere if we never tried to learn how to walk or ride a bike or learn to read. That desire fuels a baby to learn how to crawl or stand, and to keep on trying even after the many falls... I think sometimes we forget that we have that desire within us and it takes a child to remind us of that power we have always had within.”

JoAnne L. – “Love inspires me. Acts that expand the heart, open the mind, turn fear into faith, and judgment into compassion and understanding. Loving ourselves allows us to authentically love others...as a joyful humanity that awakens individuals to BE In Spirit with one another.”

Kim Y. – “Family & friends inspire me. They make each day worth living and encourage me to lead a good life and to never stop growing.”

Long P. – “Badminton inspires me to coach - almost 10 years at Wilcox High School. There’s so much to learn from the sport and to gain for myself and students. There’s always a new experience each season, and a new way to be inspired!”

Melissa A. – “Having the privilege to work with ‘at-risk’ youth and watching them flourish despite the incomprehensible hurdles they must overcome.”

Phuong H. – “My high school students and fellow teachers from South Central LA inspire me to teach…They are resilient and have taught me a lot about perseverance. My seniors will be the first to either graduate high school or attend college. The teachers are agents of change. They don't come to work for a paycheck; they invest in the kids and work hard to give the students all the tools they need to be successful in life.”

Sharon B. – “The resiliency of my students inspires me to move forward with the work of changing an institution that continues to give our students of color, most especially our African-American and Latino students, an education that places them in the peripheries of many people's minds. Their abilities to persist, grow, and succeed in the face of stereotypes and low expectations inspire me and move me to act.”

Susie S. – “What inspires me is someone going against all odds- someone following through when the cards are stacked against them. Fighting for what’s right, no matter what the cost is. Sometimes you have to lose to win! Someone who has the insight to see the big picture and hang in there. Someone who has hope to believe when no one else will.”

Thank you to all of our viewers/readers for your inspired participation and for being present. Thanks to Mallika and her Intent.com team for reminding us to love ourselves and our community - this inspires us to be serene, to be aware and to set our intentions.

I meditate regularly, practice yoga and try to operate in the space of consciousness, but this was a unique experience because there was a sense of power when people converge – a feeling words can’t paint – an effervescent vibrational energy of a collective consciousness and overflowing goodness. Apparently, more than 150 people joined in on this event, and more than 500 virtually participated. My one word summation of this special event: Powerful!

One of the most memorable parts of the group meditation (there were so many) was when Mallika asked us to close our eyes, focus on our breath, to set our intention. She asked us to let these questions flow through you: “Who am I?” and “How am I serving?” This resonated with me as I focused inward to think about what I am doing with my life, my skills, my time to serve the community and others. That’s exactly what my team and I set out to do through storytelling and our Go Inspire Go project. What are your intentions? How are you serving? How are you using your power to help others?

July 2, 2011

Facing Death and Rediscovering Life

What do you do when you’ve been diagnosed with a life threatening condition? Live life, of course! That’s exactly what Alice Pyne, a British teenager who blogged about her dying wishes, did – though she never expected worldwide support in achieving her dreams.

"It doesn't look like I'm going to win this one,” she writes on her Alice’s Bucket List blog. “The cancer is spreading through my body. It's hard because I gave it my all. And it's a pain because there's so much stuff I still want to do. Anyway, Mum always tells me that life is what we make of it."

Alice's bucket list blog is the list of things she'd like to do before she dies, and she marks them DONE when a wish list item is complete – like swimming with sharks, meeting British pop stars Take That, and a movie night with friends.

Pyne admits she only expected the blog to be read by a few friends; however, it made its way around the world inspiring supporters from Canada, Australia and America to help her accomplish her dreams. Generous readers have offered Alice everything from photo-shoots to trips, and she continues to share her experiences through her blog.

I have never been given the grim news of a prescribed time of death – and I can’t even begin to understand how Alice must feel. But at one point in my life I lost 4 very close family members in 8 short months. During the healing process, I learned to live life more fully through the experience of death.

It’s been 10 years since my father, auntie and both grandmothers passed away and finally I have the clarity and composure to write about the lessons it brought me.

Both my father and aunt left their Earth suits months apart after courageously battling the big C. At the time, I couldn’t fathom how I would get past that experience. Then things got worse. Both of my grandmothers passed away a few months later – 4 deaths in 8 months. Whew… deep, melancholic physical, mental and spiritual pain ensued.

The loss hurt so much that I didn’t talk much for three months. When I crossed the street, I didn’t look left or right. I didn’t care if a Mack truck struck me. I felt like a large part of me was gone forever.

My sister, Lynn, described it best when she said, “I feel like I lost my purse and in it, I had everything that mattered to me.” Ok, well, I don’t have a man-purse, but I can say I could feel her on this one!

But in my deepest darkest time, I eventually began to thaw and saw light and felt warmth that eventually started to fill that hollow, dark space, void of life. I guess this is what death feels like to the living. On the contrary, I guess this is the visceral feeling of how it feels to live consciously. Three months after the last death, I started to regain feeling again.

I can clearly and consciously say that this life lesson about death made me love and revere life and the myriad of experiences even more – yes, I’m saying that the deaths of my loved ones made me love living even more.

Many friends have wondered, “How can you say that? That’s very optimistic.”

The truth is, my spirituality started to emerge. Like little spires of life that emerge after a forest fire like little signs of life blossoming from the charred debris and soil in the aftermath of the raging flames. The deaths were a firestorm of emotions that ensued, but the lesson they brought was light and love. I suddenly saw God through people, plants, children, etc. I felt love through their actions.

One friend said, “I know you feel like you’re in a vortex of darkness and you are freefalling, but know that I’m here for you, so call me anytime, even in the middle of the night, if you need someone to talk about how you’re feeling.” Another friend offered to pay my bills until I could get back up on my feet. I could not accept this generous offer, but I accepted the intention and love behind such a statement.

This powerful lesson also shined light on my own inner power, like the little seedling, that wanted to emerge, but was too afraid of the light.

Perhaps Marianne Williamson’s quote explains how I felt best:
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.' We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

What I’ve learned from these tragic experiences made me realize that our time on this planet is limited. I gained this sense of urgency -- what is it that I’m doing to make my mark and create a legacy that will outlive me; what message do I hope to give the world? That question led me on this quest or passion work called GoInspireGo – my goal: to help viewers “Discover and Use Your Power to Help Others.”

Alice has inspired me to start a ‘living life list’ right now…

In the wise words of Alice Pyne, "I've created a bucket list because there are so many things I still want to do in my life ... some are possible, some will remain a dream. My blog is to document this precious time with my family and friends, doing the things I want to do. You only have one life ... live it!"

What can you do to live a fuller life and how are you using it to help others? Are you living life or is life living you?