June 29, 2012

What Would You Do If $86,400 Was Deposited Into Your Bank Account Today?

I don’t often click on the real time posts that friends plug onto their Facebook walls, unless it’s something that I feel will add value to my life. Recently I saw this post on my timeline which made me stop typing and clicking – and made me pause, pensively:
“Imagine there is a bank account that credits your account each morning with $86,400. It carries over no balance from day to day.
Every evening the bank deletes whatever part of the balance you failed to use during the day. What would you do? Draw out every cent?
Each of us has such a bank. It's name is TIME.
Every morning, it credits you with 86,400 seconds.

Every night, it writes off whatever seconds you failed to invest in a good purpose.
It carries over no balance. It allows no overdraft. Each day, it opens a new account for you. Each night, it burns the remains of the day.

If you fail to use the day's deposits, the loss is yours. There is no drawing against "tomorrow."
You must live in the present on today's deposits. Invest it in order to get the most health, happiness and success!

The clock is running! Make the most of today.
Too often, I see many people working tirelessly, like a hamster running unconsciously on a wheel – only stopping when fatigue sets in or the master intervenes. For some, this master is the moment, or an opening into spiritual awakening -- an illness, the loss of a loved one, or a challenge that rocks them to the core.

For some, the goal is to attain wealth -- big titles, paychecks and homes. However, oftentimes, it comes at a bigger cost, that no amount of money can buy -- your physical and mental health, as well as spiritual well-being.

In retirement, some people admitted that their health had deteriorated while on this hamster wheel of life and equally as tragic, missed out on special experiences with their spouses, children and friends to get to that BIG goal that they thought would make them happy. Ironically, they’re now unsuccessfully trying to use the money they’ve earned to get their health back.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t work hard, celebrate accomplishments, and buy nice things. This is all good stuff. However, it gets bad when we aren’t present and listening to our inner compass that points us to true happiness and joy. This is when we miss out on what really matters: spending time with family and friends, enjoying nature, giving back to our communities.

So use up those 86,400 seconds wisely. The next second isn’t promised to any of us.

June 18, 2012

GIG Social Good Spotlight: Supporting Students ~ Saving Lives

Go Inspire Go is proud to present this month’s Social Good Spotlight, to raise awareness of organizations doing good in their communities in order to inspire others to take action and ultimately make real social change.  For more information and to read past Social Good Spotlights, click here.

GIG SOCIAL GOOD SPOTLIGHT: 
Supporting Students ~ Saving Lives – Educators Advocating for LGBTQ Youth

Compiled by Marcia Estarija Silva


Jody Huckaby, Executive Director of PFLAG, Lily Eskelsen, Vice President of the National
Education Association, and Conference Chair, Vincent Pompei

“These educators become an army of change agents that go back to their schools and use these resources and research to make kids feel safer.” – Vincent Pompei, Supporting Students ~ Saving Lives Conference Chair 


What is Supporting Students ~ Saving Lives?
Supporting Students ~ Saving Lives, a division of the Center for Excellence in School Counseling and Leadership (CESCaL), provides training, consultation and support for educators seeking knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) youth. It hosts the only national annual conference focused on working with LGBTQ youth, for counselors, teachers, nurses, social workers, counselors, administrators, students and families.  Earlier this year, President Barack Obama showed his support for the conference and thanked Supporting Lives ~ Saving Lives/CESCal for their work.  Last year’s conference sold out, with 500 educators from 29 states and 3 countries and the next one will be held in February 2013 in San Diego. 

Conference Chair, President of the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), President of the American School Counselor Association (ASCA), President of the California Teachers Association (CTA), President of the California Association of School Counselors (CASC), San Diego Unified School Board Member, Director of CESCaL)

What inspires CESCAL to do this work?
“It’s not the priority of universities or school districts to provide formalized training on working with LGBT students.  The disturbing data associated with this group of youth is being ignored by a far majority of districts,” said Vincent Pompei, Conference Chair.  

The Human Rights Campaign recently surveyed more than 10,000 LGBT-identified youth ages 13-17 and their groundbreaking research found that 92% of LGBT youth say they hear negative messages about being LGBT, with top sources being school, the Internet, and their peers.  LGBT youth are twice as likely as their peers to say they have been physically assaulted, kicked or shoved at school. Nearly half of LGBT youth said they do not “fit in” in their community.

“There’s huge fear among educators to be visible allies of the LGBTQ youth. They’re scared that they’ll be fired, harassed, or evaluated negatively because of their personal beliefs. Having a visible ally in the school system that students can see is vital to their feelings of safety,” said Vincent.

 
How can GIGSTERS get involved and help Supporting Students ~ Saving Lives?

-    Help spread the word and encourage the people you know that work with youth to attend the conference to better understand LGBTQ youth issues and how to bridge the gap.
-    Sponsor an educator to attend the conference for $249, whether it’s someone you know or if you’d like the conference organizers to connect your donation to an educator in need.  Last year, over 150 people applied for financial assistance, but the organization was only able to provide 67 scholarships.
-    If you work at a company that supports this kind of work, suggest that they become a conference sponsor.  Corporate sponsorships range from $1,000-$35,000.  Click here for more information on how to become a corporate sponsor and to see last year’s sponsors. 
-    Keep in touch and get the latest news from Supporting Students ~ Saving Lives by liking the CESCal page on Facebook


CESCaL It Gets Better Video



Find more Social Good Spotlights here.  If you know of an organization that you think should be featured, please help us forward their stories to inspire the world and contact us.

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June 11, 2012

GIG SPARK: Small Acts, BIG Impact (VIDEO)

When was the last time someone did something nice for you? Did you receive a hand written  letter/postcard in the mail? Did they open the door for you? Was it a smile?

How did it make you feel?

ALL of our actions -- no matter how big or small -- has an impact on others.

A cashier at a local grocery store recently taught me a huge life lesson.  Instead of greeting me with a hello, Sarah said, "Is that all?" There was no greeting, no smile. My initial reaction: I felt really annoyed and wanted to tell her that she needed an attitude adjustment. Instead, I said, "I'm sorry you're having a bad day." When she looked up, I immediately noticed her big hazel eyes. I told her that she had beautiful eyes. She immediately smiled and said, "Thank you." I responded, "Have a nice day."

I walked away and turned around and noticed something amazing. Cue the spotlight and dramatic music... I realized that her attitude totally shifted. She was smiling and passed on the good vibes to another customer.

I recently tried to pass on this life lesson to a special group of underprivileged youth in San Francisco's most crime ridden neighborhoods -- the Bayview and Hunter's Point.

I had the honor of getting to know the talented BAYCAT kids during a presentation about Go Inspire Go's GIG Spark (Youth Lesson on Compassion Program) this summer.

BAYCAT is a non-profit community media producer that educates, empowers and employs underserved youth and adults in the digital media arts. By bridging the digital divide, BAYCAT inspires students to stay in school and become lifelong learners, and to use the power of digital media and design to shape their communities and tell their unique stories.

The stories they shared of things kids shouldn't witness would make your jaw drop. Christopher Vanegas, 15, said there's so much violence in his neighborhood that he doesn't go out to play. When I asked him, "How does that make you feel?"  He answered, "It's normal."

Vanegas is just one of hundreds of brilliant, caring and inspiring kids that BAYCAT serves. He teamed up with his BAYCAT friends, John Paul Mackey and Willie Lamar Turner, Jr., and hit the streets of their Bayview neighborhood to create this GIG Spark. Their goal: to inspire you to send a postcard to someone you love.

Sometimes it's the smallest gestures that changes the trajectory of someone's life. A thoughtful act, a call and even a post card -- these little things have great meaning to those on the receiving end.

GIG is about inspiring small actions that ripple out to meaningful changes. As we've experienced, the ripples continue to billow out, one story, one person, one act at a time.

What will you do? Please share in the comments below.

We hope this video inspires you to do something nice for someone in need in your community in the next 24 hours.

Gigsters:
Willie Lamar Turner, Jr. - 15
John Paul Mackey - 14
Christopher Vanegas - 15

Where: San Francisco

Spark: Send a postcard to someone you love



FEELING INSPIRED? Make your own GIG SPARK.

As part of GIG's mission to inspire our viewers to discover their power, we developed GIG Spark: A Lesson on Compassion. The goal is to spark action in everyone that witnesses your good deed. We want you to identify a problem in your community and be the change by capturing your action in a short 1-1:30 minute video. Use your passion and creativity to produce a GIG Spark and inspire viewers with your story! What can YOU do? 

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June 6, 2012

GIG SPARK HELP Inspire Compassion in Youth (VIDEO)

Calling All Adults -- The Youth Need You.

To teachers, parents and everyone dealing with a seemingly difficult youth in your life — please listen up. The youth need you.
You have the power to change the trajectory of a young person’s life.
I believe that everyone we encounter is brought here to teach us something, a life lesson. Recently a student, whom I will call “Jeff,” taught me one of the most important lessons in my professional teaching career. Jeff was one of my most apathetic students I’ve ever encountered in my teaching career. He was frequently tardy, turned in several late and missing assignments (I don’t accept late assignments) and when called upon, his answers clearly showed that he wasn’t paying attention.
I like to think that I’m a compassionate person and give people the benefit of the doubt most of the time — so I tried to get to the root of the problem by having three heart-to-heart conversations. I wanted to give up after our “Come to Jesus convo No. 4.” I couldn’t seem to break through.
I was torn, do I focus on the students who always show their “A-game” and let Jeff fall even further behind? How do I help someone who seems to not want to help himself?
It was time to meet with my department director and his coach (he is on an athletic scholarship). We told him about the opportunity he is receiving, scholarships, a great education with passionate teachers who are working in the real world and multimedia tools galore.
Turns out, Jeff grew up in a rough neighborhood, had no one to look up to (until college) and essentially, no one took the time to listen to him. No one ever told him that he matters.
We shared stories about how we once got off track -- and how we realized that if we didn't address the problem, it would come back disguised in different ways, shapes, forms, people and situations.
We got him on a “plan to get back on track.” And every week he delivered — and then some. He was more attentive in class, his work improved and he was engaged. The last class was monumental. Several students clapped. “Wow, you’ve improved so much. You should get an award for most improved,” a classmate said enthusiastically.
At the end of class, Jeff shook my hand and said, “Mr. Toan, thank you for not giving up on me. Everyone in my life has given up on me, except you. Thank you. I will promise to be better.” My body tingled with chills. Holding back tears I said, “You’re welcome, you have a lot of potential, I don’t want to see you waste it. You are capable of greatness, don’t give up on yourself.”
I often think of students and other kids like Jeff. What would they do, who would they be, if they were given the proper care, time and compassion?
Unfortunately, our youth face many challenges. Some are bullied, neglected or in this case, no one told Jeff, “I see you. I hear you. You matter.”

                Photo: Jose Alfaro

For others, violence and crime have become the norm for too many kids. It’s the everyday reality for students I recently met at BAYCAT, a wonderful organization that serves youth in the Bayview and Hunter’s Point neighborhoods — the roughest neighborhoods in San Francisco.

                Photo: Jose Alfaro
BAYCAT trains these talented, bright and eager-to-learn students multimedia/film tools and helps place them in production jobs.
As a multimedia teacher, I realized many of my students and the youth do want to be a part of something positive. They do want to help others. They just don’t know how.
That’s why GoInspire Go (GIG) created the “GIG Spark,” A Lesson on Compassion” program. In an easy to follow lesson plan, kids can create short video stories told through their experiences. The goal is to use storytelling and social media to build community and spark civic engagement/action.
I was so excited when I was invited to speak to this group of incredibly talented, creative and intelligent students.

When I asked the kids how they felt about the rampant violence they see everyday, 15-year-old Christopher Vanegas innocently answered, “It’s normal.”
My heart sank.
Before BAYCAT, these kids who had no mentors and no hope. This is where you teachers can provide added value by joining GIG to make HUGE a difference.
Why we created the GIG Spark program.
1.      Kids creatively take ownership by identifying a problem in their neighborhood/community.
2.      Kids take action by immersing themselves in the change they want to spark. The lesson plan includes how to produce a 90-second video, documenting the action they’d like to see happen and to be the change.
3.      We take action by sharing the message on a global platform.
One thing I love about teaching is that I learn as much from the students as they learn from me.
The youth care more than we think. Just ask Lily Gordon, who at age 11, asked for money in lieu of gifts, to fund her trip to Africa to teach the local Tanzanian women how build a brick oven so they can cook their own bread.
My former student Julian Cohen created a GIG video with the intention of helping a reverend build a highschool in Haiti. The video inspired and galvanized a youth orchestra winter benefit concert, which led another class creating a PSA. In the end, 30+ students in Haiti are going to school this year because of Julian’s original video.
This is where we need your help.
If you’re an educator, or a part of a youth organization, I am inviting/challenging you to join this movement. If you’re interested in bringing the GIG Spark program into your class, please contact us at info@goinspirego.com.

* Meanwhile, stay tuned for a GIG Spark video produced by the BAYCAT kids on GIG's site soon.
Please share this blog with a young person in your life.
We need to take action. We need to act now. The youth in your life do matter. They are our future.
What can YOU do?
Take action:
1.      Share this message
2.      Join our movement, connect via Twitter & Facebook
3.       Do something: Spark change using your power/talents/network — and let us know — we may share the inspiration with our global audience.

June 1, 2012

The True Meaning of Life: In One Word


If you're reading this, chances are you've probably asked yourself this question time and time again. It's a timeless question indeed -- and something we've all been trying to figure out in this big, wacky, wonderful world.

What is the true meaning of life?

No matter what job title you hold, how many zeroes you have in your paycheck or where you came from, I know the TRUE MEANING OF LIFE can be summed up in one word: SERVICE.

Don't believe me? Ask the 14th Dalai Lama himself. I was inspired to write this post after a stranger (who happens to be a Bay Area meditation teacher) gave me this lovely card. It was given to him during a visit from the Dalai Lama. So I wanted to share this gift with you:



I framed it and keep it in my apartment as a reminder that even though life is an intricate, complex layer of experiences, the meaning of life and key to joy is through giving back and serving others. I used to think being a TV reporter in a big news market and for PBS would bring me joy. I had it all figured out. I would go to a small market, medium market and then large market, uncover injustices as a journalist and make good money etc… etc… etc.

All of my dreams manifested, however, I still found myself feeling empty. My soul was still not satisfied. I was hungry for something else.

I believe we are all brought here on Earth for a reason. As a child, I remember praying to God and asking, "Please use me, use my life to make a difference, to help others." As a student at the University of San Francisco, on the long Muni bus rides to my internships, I'd ask myself, "What am I supposed to do with my life? Why am I here? Am I on the right track?"

I felt like the Santiago, the little shepherd boy in Paulo Coehlo's, The Alchemist (one of my favorite books) who was searching for the treasure in the Egyptian pyramids that would bring him happiness. I too, was searching for that "treasure," only to become disillusioned after I found it.

After many personal and professional twists and turns, I've finally found the joy that I was searching for through serving others via my nonprofit, Go Inspire Go (GIG). I believe we all have a power, some sort of talent that comes naturally to us. But it isn't just about discovering this gift and keeping it to yourself.

As I've experienced, the true joy comes from giving it away. I am grateful to use my power of connecting with people and telling their stories to spark civic engagement and ultimately change. Service is the meaning of life and what will ultimately bring you joy.

Our hope is that the stories on GIG's YouTube channel will help you "Discover and use your power to help others." Along this journey, I've met incredible people from all walks of life -- the true treasures in my life. I'd love your feedback on how these stories made you feel and what you will do to make someone else's life better.

As you will witness from our stories, it doesn't take much effort, just a small action. What can you do to serve others? Onward!

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