I remember being told to be kind as a kid, primarily as it related to how I treated any of my five siblings. I was thinking about this again this week while watching how little kindness there seems to be in the news. Between political battles of ideology, fighting for land, arguing over resources and fighting over egos, we have forgotten how to be kind. “Be kind for everyone you meet is fight a hard battle,” is a quote attributed to Plato. Regardless who said it, its message rings true now more then ever. What would it take for us to be more intentionally kind? And, how would our world change we did?
To me, the word Namaste says it all – “may the divine in me acknowledge the divine in you.” May whatever is great in me focus on seeing the greatness in you – even if I don’t know you. And if I did, I would be kinder. If I did, I would be more generous, more loving and more forgiving. I would see the greatness in you, trying to express your inner divinity. “We must find out for ourself that inside us is a god or goddess in embryo that wants to be born so we can express our divinity,” says Deepak Chopra in his book The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success.
Here is an exercise I regularly use for myself and as a challenge I share with my audiences. The next time you are on the highway and someone cuts you off, or you are in line and someone steps ahead of you, how will you make a point of seeing their greatness and their divinity instead of feeling offended? How will you see them as related to you, part of you and part of a greater plan? It isn’t easy because we have been trained to focus on ourselves more than on others. We feel violated, slighted or insulted. But it doesn’t have to be this way – our reaction to this is our choice. As we can choose to be unkind, we could also choose to be kind.
Changing a habit takes intention. To change a habit of focusing first on us takes the intention of wanting it to be different and committing to make the change. The starting point is awareness. We have to be able to see when we are kind and not kind. We have to be present enough to see ourselves in action – to notice our triggers and be aware of our responses. Only then will we be able to stop the “go-to” reaction of selfishness and retaliation, and instead see that we have a choice. That choice could include kindness. In the example of the car cutting you off on the highway, it could mean not blaring the horn and passing a gesture, but instead slowing down, letting the other car in and be entirely unaffected by the event. This is a choice.
The most amazing thing about being kind, is the greatest benefit is not for the other person; it is actually for you. The more unkind we are, the more damage we inflict on ourselves. I was coaching a client this week who is getting ready to leave an employer for some unfair and unprofessional things the employer did. This employee has the ability to “stick it” to his employer; be upset, carry a grudge and bad-mouth his employer. Or, he can realize that in a win-win termination solution, the employee can choose to not be at the effect of the situation, but actually choose to show up kinder, more aware and more committed to greatness. He can choose a mutually beneficial response that treats both sides kindly and professionally. He took the higher ground. His mood, health and spirit were left intact from the event. Kindness, it does a body good.
In what ways can you be more intentionally kind today, this week and this month? Feel the effects of it. See the effects of it. Though kindness does a body good, it also can do a planet good. Choose kindness.
Do you secretly ache for something more? Do you celebrate the miracle that is your life or are you constantly running, frustrated by the never-ending to-do list at home and at work?
When life is not going our way, it can be hard to look on the bright side. And what about the people who tell you “It’s all good” when your life is in a state of overwhelm, collapse, or just plain sucks. What’s good about it?
The key is to realize that you are creating everything in your life, that it is all perfect, even though you might not recognize it at the time. Hold the faith – understanding will come. Rather than seeing yourself as a victim, ask yourself, for example: “Why am I creating this difficult, angry neighbor who refuses to discuss the parking situation with me?”
In this very question your freedom starts. By refusing to get angry back, which creates a power struggle, you step past the ego, which would love to be ‘right’ and ‘win’, and create a calm spaciousness, in which amazing outcomes can happen.
By sending love, and compassion, to your antagonist, miraculous changes can occur.
In addition, you discover a rich well of creativity, strength, and wisdom inside you that you didn’t know you had.
What if we allowed ourselves to fully experience our challenges and grow and expand because of them?
Concerns and fears will still arise but we can learn to meet them from a place of spaciousness and calm. With these proven strategies below you will gain the understanding, and courage, to overcome challenges, and no longer run from your fears, but stand self-assured knowing you can navigate whatever comes your way.
1. Acknowledge Your Present Moment Reality
Accept what is. This doesn’t mean you have to like it, but you do have to accept it. Fighting reality only make things worse. In the very acceptance of what is happening, you relax, and a spaciousness opens up, that allows for a shift to happen. You are now entering the miracle zone, where all kinds of unexpected goodness can appear. Stay open to possibility.
2. Experience Your Moments Of Joy
This might sound obvious, but a lot of us have a pattern of expecting the other shoe to drop when life is going well. Become aware of this habit, and put your attention, energy and focus on really experiencing your moments of joy without assuming that disaster awaits around the corner. What if, around the corner, there is even more joy?
Love, joy and happiness are our natural state.
It is only our programming of fear, lack, and scarcity that tells us otherwise. The more you become aware of this negative programming, and ignore it, the more joy you will experience.
3. Allow Yourself To Experience Your Fears and Challenges
Instead of shutting down, and running from fear with all kinds of distractions, like obsessively checking your social media, too much TV/Internet, and so on, sit with yourself, and allow the feelings, however uncomfortable, they might be. In the very feeling lies the healing. In the very allowing, fears dissolve.
Don’t be afraid of fear: befriend, and embrace it. Open the door, look inside and realize that there is no skeleton in the closet. This will free you up to experience more joy, and less fear.
4. Let Go Of Desire
At the root of fear is desire: your agenda that things have to look a particular way. Let go of your attachment to the way you want things to look, relax, and see what happens. And I don’t mean that you fall into an apathetic, aimless state of passivity. Have your desires, but let go of your attachment that they have to manifest in a particular way.
When we insist that things have to be a certain way, we can miss what life is offering us.
5. Understand & Be Grateful For Your Fears
The key to dissolving fear is to understand it. This means that you have to drop all judgment, condemnation, and evaluation that fear is wrong. Fear is a reality in our lives, it is a part of being human. Once it is faced, and understood, it can be transformed. You experience more love and joy, and fear lessens. Your challenges become easier to navigate.
Today is my 37th birthday. And, I must say, it’s been a pretty interesting ride so far. As I look back over the years and many phases of my life, I realize how each stage, success, stumble, triumph and heartache has had a significant impact on where I stand right now. And despite the rough patches, I love it all.
From a shy yet studious little girl, to an artsy and somewhat rebellious teenager, to a happy-go-lucky big-dreaming twenty something with a bit of a wild size, my metamorphosis were plentiful in my early years. Now into my thirties, my heart has grown a few sizes larger and overflows with motherly love as I’ve discovered what matters most in life. And, my entrepreneurial experiences have been a crash course in lessons of life, business and self that, at times, brought me to the brink of what I thought I could handle, only to be rewarded nicely for sticking it out and seeing it through.
As I continue to step more fully into myself each day and bring to light my mission of helping others build their own dreams with joy and ease, I’ve racked my brain to think of my top 37 life lessons so far. On this day of celebrating another trip around the sun, I share these with you and hope you find inspiration as I have. Enjoy!
Top 37 Life Lessons So Far…
Happiness comes from within. We spend way too much of our lives looking for outside validation and approval that eludes us. Turns out, it’s been an inside job all along. Go inward.
Be grateful for everything. The good, the bad, the ugly. Our entire life is a precious gift. The pleasure, the pain – it’s all part of our path.
Subtle shifts in perception will transform your entire life. When feeling fearful, angry, hurt – simply choose to see a situation differently.
In being true to yourself, you can’t possibly make everybody else happy. Still, it’s better to risk being disliked for living your truth than to be loved for what you are pretending to be.
The world is our mirror. What we love in others is a reflection of what we love about ourselves. What upsets us about others is a strong indication of what we need to look at more closely within ourselves.
Everybody comes into our life for a reason. It is up to us to be open to the lesson they are meant to teach. The more someone rubs us the wrong way, the greater the lesson. Take notes.
Trust. In troubled times, just know that the Universe has your back and everything is going to be alright. If you’re not there yet, trust in hindsight you will understand. Your higher good is being supported, always.
Never take things personally. What others do is a reflection of what’s going on in their own life and probably has little or nothing to do with you.
A walk in nature cures a lot. Taking in some fresh air and the beautiful landscape of this earth is amazingly head-clearing, grounding, and mood-lifting. Bonus: you can learn a whole lot about life in your observation of the awesomeness which is nature.
Hurt people hurt people. Love them anyway. Although, it’s totally okay to love them from a distance.
You have to feel it to heal it. Bring your fears and weaknesses front and center and shine a blazing spotlight on them because the only way out is through. The hurt of facing the truth is SO worth it in the long run, I swear.
Perfectionism is an illusion. A painful one at that. Ease up. Strive for excellence, sure, but allow yourself room to make mistakes and permission to be happy regardless of outcome.
Take the blinders off. Don’t become so laser-focused on your own goals and desires that you miss out on the beauty in life and the people around you. The world is stunningly beautiful when you walk around with eyes wide open.
Celebrate the journey. It’s not all about the destination. Savor all of your successes, even the small ones.
Forgiveness is not so much about the other person. It’s about you and for you so that you can gain the peace and freedom you deserve. Forgive quickly and often.
We are all incredibly intuitive. When we learn to become still and listen, we can tap into some pretty amazing primal wisdom. Listen to the quiet whisper of your heart. It knows the way.
Let your soul shine! Be authentic. There is nobody else on this earth just like you. Step into your truth wholeheartedly and live and breathe your purpose.
We are powerful creators. Seriously, bad-asses. With intention, focus, and persistence — anything is possible. Know this.
I am full of light. You are full of light. We are all full of light. Some cast shadows on their own brightness. Be a beacon of light to others and show them the way.
Don’t take life too seriously! Nobody gets out alive anyway. Smile. Be goofy. Take chances. Have fun.
Surround yourself with people who love and support you. And, love and support them right back! Life is too short for anything less.
Learn the delicate dance. Have big beautiful dreams and vision. Chase them with much passion. But, also hold on to them all ever so lightly. Be flexible and willing to flow as life comes at you.
Giving is the secret to receiving. Share your wisdom, your love, your talents. Share freely and be amazed at how much beauty in life flows back to you.
On that note, be careful not to give too much. If you empty out your own cup completely, you will have nothing left to give. Balance is key.
Say ‘YES!’ to everything that lights you up. Say ‘no’, unapologetically, to anything that doesn’t excite you or you don’t have the bandwidth for. Time is one of our most precious resources that we can never get back. Manage it wisely.
Sometimes we outgrow friendships. It doesn’t mean they’re bad or you’re bad. It just means you’re on different paths. Hold them in your heart, but when they start to hurt or hold you back, it’s time to give space or let go.
Fear is often a very good indicator of what we really want and need in our life. Let it be your compass and enjoy the exciting adventure it leads you on.
Overcoming your fears is one of the most empowering things you can ever do for yourself. You’ll prove to yourself you can truly accomplish anything! Major self-confidence booster.
Our bodies are our vehicle to our dreams. Treat them with love and fuel them with the best health to feel vibrant and energized. But, never obsess over image. Looks are subjective and will fade in time, anyway. Feeling good, healthy, and comfortable in our own skin is what matters most.
Let those that you love know it often and enthusiastically. You can never say it or show it too much. Your time, total presence, love, and genuine concern for their wellness is the greatest gift of all.
The present moment is where it’s at. It’s the only one promised to any of us. Learn from your past & enjoy the beautiful memories, but don’t cling or let them haunt you. And, dream big and be excited about the future, but don’t become obsessed. Love this moment, always.
Life is full of highs and lows. We need them both to grow to our fullest potential. Just hang on tight and enjoy the ride.
We are all connected as one human family. Nobody is better or worse than anyone else — just at different stages of our journeys and dealing with life the best way we know how. Recognize that the other person is you.
Practice daily gratitude for all the blessings in your life, large and small. Not only is this a high vibe practice that feels amazing, in practicing regularly you are creating space for even more abundance – of joy, love, health, and prosperity.
We are not the center of the Universe, although our ego can make us feel that way at times. Step outside of that way of thinking and see the world and other people’s perspective in a whole new beautiful light.
The world needs more love, light, and laughter. Go be love. <3
You are the guru. For much of our lives, we have been told what do, how to think, what looks good, what “success” is. You don’t have to buy into any of it. Feel free to peel back the layers. Think for yourself. Break the mold. When you stop doing what everybody else wants you to do and start following your own intuition, you will be ridiculously happy.
In looking back at your own life, realize that every high and low is all part of your amazing story. Own it! Take cues and guidance from the Universe and you will continue to go on an incredible ride as you fully step into your truth and power.
Age is just a number, but the higher it gets, the more wisdom and life experience we’ve amassed. You are never going to be younger than you are in this present moment again. So embrace it, love it, and enjoy it fully!
Here’s to many more beautiful years of seeking-truth, questioning all that does not sit right, and making your greatest impact in the world! I look forward to adding more lessons as life continues to give me the opportunity to learn, grow, transform, share and expand. Hope you will too.
With much love,
Today we honor a motivational leader and speaker, who advocated for non-violent pursuits of equal rights far ahead of his time. Martin Luther King Jr. is known now as the face of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and President Barack Obama has declared the national holiday of MLK Day to be a national day of service. As you go out today and serve – in whatever way you can – Intent wanted you to carry the words of a man beyond his years.
As the New Year arrives, many of us are apt to pronounce our New Year’s resolutions, be they in the privacy of our minds or promulgated near and far.
Mallika Chopra’s December 11 post, Set Intents Not Resolutions For 2014, got me thinking. She set a clear distinction between intents and resolutions.
I took a look at the definitions of intent and resolution. An intent is the thing that you plan to do or achieve, an aim or purpose. I love that an intent is also the state of mind with which an act is done. A resolution is the act of finding an answer or solution to a conflict, problem, etc.; the act of resolving something.
This distinction makes me recognize the subtleties of the comparison. An intent sets the stage for choices and decisions related to a plan or purpose, while a resolution is more associated with the end result, a goal. And with a resolution, you are “finding an answer or solution,” which involves a process of searching for a resolution. With an intent, you already have identified what it is you want to PUT INTO ACTION.
Today I had an epiphany about how to activate my intentions so that they can flourish, rather than announce resolutions that remain unfulfilled. Like any new behavior or habit, it takes dedication to implement new intents and goals. And starting with a state of mind of positivity and purpose can go a long way towards the blossoming of intentions into what you want in your life. That’s all well and good, but HOW do I actually make my intents HAPPEN?
Now take a leap with me. One way to accomplish the activation of your intents is to “attach” them to something you already do regularly. This enhances success. For example, I have an intent to do the daily exercises prescribed by the PT I have been seeing for a torn meniscus in my knee. Not easy to incorporate this new routine into my daily schedule. So, I “attached” the new series of exercises to my existing morning yoga ritual. That way, what I intend to do actually happens. But, I took it a step further. I found that I was bored doing the exercises and rushing through them. Calling a friend during the process was not conducive to counting the repetitions. And lo and behold, it occurred to me to express gratitude at each rep. Gratitude for what? For each cell in my body involved in each movement. For my knees. For the fact that I could count. For the PT. For taking deep breaths. And between each repetition, I thought of something I was grateful for, taking up the 3 or 5 second “hold” between each repetition of the exercise. I felt so accomplished. I completed the routine, fulfilled my intent and felt really grateful for lots of things!
In short, adding a practice of gratitude as you embark on activating intentions just may make the process more, well — intentional, as in done in a way that is planned or intended.
Cheers to 2014, the year of fulfilled intentions for which to be grateful!
So there are just a few days left of this year! What are you intending to manifest for this coming year? Do you have any unfulfilled goal from this year that you wish to accomplish next year? There is no better way to manifest your desires than to release your intentions out into the universe and allow it to unfold on its own accord! The best moment to plant seeds of your intentions in your consciousness is during your meditation. In meditation, you connect with deeper levels of your awareness, making a better foundation to manifest your deepest desires. I recommend bringing your awareness on your heart and set the intention that feels just right at that moment. Then release it and don’t worry about when and how it will manifest…just know that if it is meant to be it will. Just have full faith on the energy of your heart. The power of love is magical enough to create many miracles!
Here are 24 intentions that you may use for a better and happier new year. Try working with 2 every month and see where it leads to. Don’t attempt to use one for each hour of the day… this is too much. Just take it slow and steady.
- Expressing love more often.
- Understanding that forgiveness is an everyday ritual.
- Witnessing the temple in your physical body and taking care of it.
- Practicing compassion towards all.
- Spending time in nature.
- Creating thoughts that lead to optimism and courage.
- Building an attitude of gratitude.
- Meditate everyday even for a few minutes.
- Being bold without being a bully.
- Treating work as a way to serve others.
- Respectfully parting from those who discourage and lower your self esteem.
- Stop blaming destiny and start working on manifesting your own goals.
- Staying present.
- Staying in touch with old friends.
- Taking a break from work to relax.
- Eating healthier.
- Reading books and articles to expand awareness.
- Staying offline often to connect with the people in your life.
- Fall in love.
- Letting go off regrets.
- Release the need to treat yourself so seriously.
- Being kind, but not weak.
- Complimenting others more often.
- Breaking the norms.
We just wanted to wish everyone out there celebrating this week a happy holiday! No matter what the occasion is we hope that you are surrounded by family, happy and warm. This is the time of year where we reflect on our blessings and remember to be grateful, to look at our lives and make plans to improve our lives in the new year or continue our current happiness.
We’ve had a busy year at Intent, filled with many hurdles and changes and we appreciate all of you being with us through the transitions (we’re growing and changing just like you!) Coming up are some of our biggest changes yet – for the blog, for Intent.com and for the brand as a whole. We are really excited about this new chapter and believe it’ll not only expand our loving community but bring it closer together. In 2014 we are going to make a much stronger effort to show how intents can work in your every day life to improve wellness and help you achieve your goals so you lead a more fulfilled life. That’s our mission and we hope you will join us.
More details about the project will arrive in the upcoming weeks but for right now we’re going to stuff ourselves with gingerbread and treats, open presents and hang out with loved ones as well. Happy holidays everyone! We hope it’s a good one and we’ll talk soon!
The Intent Team
I’m sitting here in bed at 7am and feeling grateful for the incredible blessings that continue to show up in my life. I’m also sitting here feeling a bit apprehensive about what’s to come over the next few weeks.
I am attending a 10-day silent Vipassana meditation retreat that starts on Wednesday. Ten days of silence. No yoga or exercise. No reading or writing. Very little food and 10 hours and 45 minutes of meditation everyday. That’s about 110 hours of meditation in under two weeks.
The schedule is intense, as is the food regimen , so I’m taking this opportunity to feel VERY grateful that my retreat begins after Thanksgiving. I plan on eating way more than I should in an effort to fatten up before I drive out to the desert to waste away. The feast before the famine, so to speak.
Besides my immense gratitude for this opportunity, what I imagine to be a life-changing experience, I am also especially thankful for these 3 realizations that I’ve come to understand over this last year.
My Mother’s incredible dedication to my development
My mother made the long trip to come and visit me for a week and we spent our time going through her old journal entries and listening to audio of me as a child. She had recorded a few of our conversations and one stood out as being very interesting.
I was 8 years old and my mother was asking me all kinds of questions and out of the blue I said something about my baby sister being “so fat and cute and she must have been born again” and basically I began telling my mother that good people who die go to heaven so they can come back and live again.
I was raised Catholic and went to Catholic schools so reincarnation was definitely not on the menu for any curriculum I would have been exposed to. My mother listened to me and began to explain that I was describing reincarnation and proceeded to give me a very intelligent and in-depth lesson in who believed in reincarnation and why.
This was cool for me on two fronts: 1) Seeing that I’ve had ideas about energy and life that were uniquely my own since I was very young. Ideas that had to have originated from somewhere outside of what my parents or school were teaching me; and 2) Seeing that my mother was open to my curiosity and did everything she could to educate and encourage me.
These audio conversations between 8 year old me and my then 31 year old mom have been such an incredible gift this Thanksgiving.
Learning the full art of forgiveness
Last night I enjoyed a little feast with an old friend. Someone I used to have an on/off relationship with over the course of many years. It wasn’t the healthiest or kindest relationship most of the time, but I always felt a connection to him that seemed like it was important for me in some way. Anyway, it had been maybe 3 years or more since we’d had any real contact and earlier this month he reached out to me to say hi and apologize for his behavior in the past.
I had been reading “A Course in Miracles” (ACIM) and was at the part where the act of forgiveness was being discussed and it felt like appropriate timing for me. When he apologized, I accepted it and told him not to let it worry him any further. It’s taught in ACIM that forgiveness is more than just saying “I forgive you” or “just letting it go” – forgiveness is actually taking the step beyond those things and doing whatever is in your power to balance the energy again.
In this case, that meant going to meet him and his new baby son for dinner without carrying anything from the past with me into the situation. We ended up having a really nice evening and it felt awesome.
Because I chose to release pride, ego, past hurt and all the other junk, I was able to reconnect with my old friend on the things that were always good between us. I felt incredibly happy holding his son and seeing parts of his dad in his little baby blue eyes. By truly forgiving and taking the final step in forgiveness to reset the balance in the energy between us, I gave myself the gift of having this relationship transform back into a positive force in my life, rather than a sad or injurious one.
The ability to feel from the inside and radiate out in a way that connects with others
Through all of the yoga and meditation and self-guided study I’ve undertaken this past year or so, I’ve come to a place where I’m able to feel my way through life more. Where in the past I was living from a place mostly inside my mind and thoughts, this year has brought the blessing of being able to trust in the sensations presenting in my physical body. These sensations are the manifestation of an intelligence that is always available to me if I take the time to slow down, let go and get quiet.
Because of these new practices, I’ve witnessed my love of self flourish and my capacity for love increase. I feel more love being attracted and drawn into my everyday life and I feel so grateful for all that it’s brought to me. My close friendships are growing even closer and feeling more and more like family everyday, and the relationships with my family members feel easier and more transparent.
I’m especially grateful for the connection I’ve made with a new person in my life. Someone I met last month who I never ever ever in a thousand years would have come to know if I hadn’t been available to accept and respond to the tiny sensations in my body telling me to remain grounded, listen and finally take action to speak up and connect in a vulnerable way.
So these are my things… What about you? What are you grateful? What lessons can you reflect on from the past year?
Like this post? Share it on Twitter
I create guided meditations about once a month. Sign up to get them delivered straight to your inbox!
My Conversation with Caryl Stern, President US Fund for UNICEF When I was in college, I wrote my senior thesis on the Convention of the Rights of the Child. I no longer know where that document is or even remember the details of that in-depth study that consumed my last year of college. What has stayed with me forever, however, is the belief that children have the right to live, to be protected from abuse and exploitation, and deserve basic human rights. I was also always inspired by the work of UNICEF, and for my first book, 100 Promises To My Baby, I donated 10% of my proceeds to their programs for children affected by HIV and AIDS. Thus, when I had the opportunity to hear Caryl Stern speak about her new book, I Believe In Zero, I was already convinced of her intent that no child should die from preventable causes.
Currently 18,000 children die every day of preventable causes – from things like unsafe drinking water, malnutrition, and lack of access to immunizations. This is truly unacceptable, and we, as a global citizens, should not think it is ok. I have met many people doing incredible work for others, but Caryl Stern truly impacted me in a way few others have. In fact, I was so moved by her book that I decided to buy several dozen books to gift to my daughter’s classmates.
In the book, Caryl shares through her own personal stories the plight of children around the world, as well as potential solutions to many of these problems. The book is hopeful, inspirational, and yet very real, at the same time. I reached out to UNICEF to see if I could interview Caryl for my book, Living With Intent, as she is someone who embodies passion and purpose in a unique way. I was honored to have a one-on-one conversation with her about 10 days ago in NYC to talk about her book, her family, her work and her intentions.
The US Fund for UNICEF is in a non-descript office building near Wall Street in NYC. I was escorted up to a waiting room where, while waiting to be called into her office, I watched a staff meeting in a conference room enclosed by glass walls. The staff at UNICEF seemed multi-cultural, relatively young, and animated from the peek I had into their meetings. After a short wait, I headed to Caryl’s office and was welcomed by her friendly staff. In the first few minutes of meeting Caryl, I knew this woman is a both a force of energy and passion, but also incredibly warm and welcoming. Her desk was full of papers and books, not messy or particularly neat, with photos on the shelves, including those of her two sons. A packed suitcase stood on the floor by her desk, an obvious reminder that she is a woman who lives on the road (something she talks a lot about in the book – balancing her need to travel with being a mom.)
In listening to my recorded interview with her, I realize I was really nervous, chatting for about 10 minutes about my intent before even letting to her speak! Once she spoke, I was put at ease by her friendliness, and became totally relaxed. Caryl begins her narrative sharing two powerful personal family stories. In 1939, her mother and uncle boarded a ship as children to escape from Austria during the Nazi invasion. An unknown woman, whose name they will never know, made sure they boarded that ship safely to escape the horror that could have killed them. Through her mother’s story, Caryl knows the power that even one person has to save another’s life. That same year, her grandfather boarded the SS St. Louis on a journey that became known as the Voyage of the Damned because Cuban and US authorities denied entrance to the passengers (mostly Jews) saying that they had fraudulent paperwork.
The ship was sent back to Europe, and most on board perished from Nazi persecution. Her grandfather, one of the few survivors of that journey, taught her “what happens when the world turns its back, ignores the facts, and allows innocent people to die.” In I Believe In Zero, Caryl shares her travels to witness the plight of children around the world, and the work that UNICEF is doing to alleviate their suffering. From the rainforests of Brazil to Mozambique, Darfur, Bangladesh, and post earthquake Haiti (just to name a few), she shares intimate moments, putting names and faces to the mothers and children whose lives seem so unjustly marred by war, famine, ecological devastation and disease. But the power of her stories are in the details and emotions she has witnessed – from holding the hand of a woman whose child is dying of tetanus (a preventable disease) in Sierra Leone to sharing an apple with a woman in the desert during the food shortage in Kenya, just 48 hours after Caryl excitedly (and nervously) meets Prince William and Kate Middleton.
Its Caryl’s ability to make everything personal that I realize makes her so authentic and relatable. During the talk I attended, a young boy asked her, “What is the most difficult part of your job?” I expected her to answer with a story about witnessing famine, the death of an infant, or meeting children of war, but instead she replied that it was being separated from her two sons. In the book, she shares the story of being at a refugee camp in Darfur, and getting a phone call from her son in NYC who needs help with his English homework. Any mom can relate to this feeling. As a mom, Caryl is constantly figuring out the balance of serving both her children and the world! During the interview, when I applaud Caryl’s belief the no child should die of preventable causes, she responds that her hope is that others will adopt this intent to make it a rallying cry of their own – that it is the ones who stand on her shoulders who will convince others that no child should die of preventable causes and do something about it. As she speaks, I am reminded once again of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, and how the mandates in that charter need constant re-affirmation, communication, and action.
I am inspired that there are people like Caryl Stern who are leading a global community of individuals who truly believe that we can help one another. I strongly recommend Caryl’s book, I Believe In Zero. It is entertaining, hopeful, and a first step to educating oneself about issues affecting our children. Caryl has generously donated profits of the book US Fund for UNICEF. I also encourage you to check out www.unicef-usa.org to learn about the programs and important work that UNICEF is doing daily to help children around the world.