Making An Impact

I just had a random memory. When I was about 10 years old, my friend’s mom gave us permission to walk their German Shepard – this huge dog that was probably bigger than both of us at the time. As we were walking down the block, the friend accidentally let the leash slip out of her hands and the dog started running down the street.  Somehow, my 10-year-old reflexes were much quicker than I realized, and I grabbed the end of the leash just before the dog really took off.  We caught up with him and calmed him down. As my friend took hold of the leash again, gripping it tightly, she thanked me for not letting her dog run away because her family would be devastated if they lost him forever.

As I slipped out of that daydream, I wondered why I just had that random memory. I traced my thoughts back and realized I had just been thinking about Robin and how I got her the job at Domino Magagzine that would eventually fuel her passion for Interior Design and her subsequent but short lived career as a designer.  Then my thoughts went to a sort of dark place, but I regained clarity and decided I can only hope that the impact I had on Robin’s life was a positive one.  I hope.

I never really realized why I eventually got so involved in philanthropy or where this passion came from – but I think I just figured it out.  That memory of my neighbor’s dog sticks out so vividly because it was the first time in my life I can remember thinking, wow, I just had a really strong impact on this person’s life – good thing I was there!  And it felt wonderful. Having an impact on someone’s life, big or small, can be very powerful.  About two weeks ago, a conversation with a friend led to a series of events that I can only hope will turn into something amazing.  It’s only partially philanthropic, but it’s sort of big, and while I sit back and realize how the smallest acts really can have such an incredible impact, I can’t help but be amazed.

I hope if you’re reading this, that you’re doing what you can to make a positive impact in some way – however you define it.



As much as I love keeping up with all that’s being said on the Internet and staying connected to my friends and colleagues on social networks (hell, I’ve made a career out of doing so), one of the things I love most about travel is the opportunity to unplug and get away from all that. Even when I rent an international cell phone and check my email while abroad, it’s far less frequent. It makes the long awaited trip truly feel like a vacation.

Lucky for me, “tuning out” has been a much discussed trend for 2012. People who have experienced social media overload are now finding more and more ways to tune out in their everyday life, not just when escaping to a foreign country. I wrote about this on the DeVries blog earlier this month:

Unfortunately, the trip to Mexico didn’t pan out (I knew there was a chance it wouldn’t), but I’m making every effort to plan my next international adventure – and looking forward to the next opportunity to put my phone on airplane mode for ten days and truly disconnect.



Dancing for Peace

Sometimes I love my job. Today is one of those days. I recently had the opportunity to take on a pro-bono client, a New York based organization called Dancing Classrooms, which teaches middle school aged children how to ballroom dance. (Was also the inspiration for the movie “Take the Lead” with Antonio Banderas)

It wasn’t until our third or fourth call that I learned about this amazing project that Dancing Classrooms founder and renowned ballroom dancer Pierre Dulaine had created. Dulaine was born in Jaffa, Israel, to an Irish father and Palestinian mother. He took his Dancing Classrooms program over to his birthplace in the middle east, fulfilling his lifelong dream of teaching dance to Palestinian-Israeli and Jewish-Israeli children – together. His program forces the young people to meet each other face to face and work together to coordinate the steps involved in partner dancing. Dulaine had a documentary crew follow four children as they embarked on this program in Israel – you’ll be able to see it soon…but I can’t give away too many details yet.

These children, despite their cultural, religious and political differences, are now being introduced to each other in a way that enables them to work together at a young age. They actually make friends with one another through dance, movement, and cooperation.

Think dancing can save the world?

Me too.

Dreaming of…Kenya

Dreaming of...Kenya

A little while back, I read about this Elephant Orphanage in Kenya, and because of my absolute love for elephants and incessant desire to visit Africa, this destination moved to the very top of my list. Then, Matt got an email from his friend who is currently living in Somalia doing microfinance. The friend had visited the elephant orphanage this past weekend, and sent a picture of the elephant he adopted, Dabassa. I love him. And I want one just like him.

On Dreams

I’ve been having a lot of crazy dreams lately.  Last night I had a dream that my mother, sister and I went to Haiti together, and upon arrival we stopped in an artist’s studio.  I walked outside onto the deck for a moment only to have a parade of elephants walk right by me.  Then I looked down at my arm and noticed I was developing a small rash.  I then remembered that you were supposed to get vaccinations to go to Haiti, and I had completely forgotten to get them.  And that’s when I realized that if I had taken the time to think about it, to get the vaccinations and get nervous about the health risks of going to Haiti – then maybe I wouldn’t have come, and maybe I wouldn’t have ever seen those elephants.  Guys, this dream was so real – even though I’ve been awake for hours I’m still not completely convinced it didn’t actually happen.  (Although 1- my mother would never travel to a place like Haiti, and 2 – there are no elephants in Haiti, so this was most definitely a dream.)

Two days ago, I read through  my friend’s book proposal.  Any time you read a book of memoirs from a good friend, it’s an amazing thing.  Seeing everything you’ve experienced with her, or everything you’ve heard her talk about so much, right there, written down all in one place, it’s this surreal experience.  I was fascinated scrolling down the pages of the novel, and I came across a chapter about an experience we had witnessed together.  The focus of the memory was on the atmosphere, and this one inspiring person we met in this story, but as I read through her account of that same memory, I noticed one thing was absent from her story – me.  I understood why, the focus was on this more inspiring person, and it made for the story to flow better, but I still couldn’t help but feel a bit hurt that I was omitted from this tale.

This is coming from a person whose presence in my life has been incredibly significant.  She would most certainly be in my book.  The fact that I was removed from hers showed me that even though I try to do so much…I’m not doing enough.  I’m not doing enough to impact the lives of others, to inspire others where they see me as a crucial part of their story.

The other night I was talking to someone over a glass of red wine about my life dreams.  How every time I’ve had a dream, I’ve managed to make it come true. How I’ve done things that are so far beyond what I ever could have dreamed I’d actually do.  He said I needed to dream bigger.  He’s right.

Which brought me back to my original dream.  The one that started before I ever embarked on any kind of path.  The one that was implanted into my head at a young age when I discovered my passion for writing.  The one that sent me to enter and win that young writer’s contest in Newsday when I was 13. The one that sent me to journalism school.  The one that inspired me to start this blog.

I want to publish a book.

However, I’m left with the same questions I faced years ago, the questions that made me think I needed to become a journalist and travel the world in order to collect enough experience that would one day give me material to work with.  Well, I’ve traveled the world.  I’ve lived in the most exciting city in the world. I’m still doing both of those things, and doing my best to make the most of every single second. But alas, I still have no clue what I’m supposed to write about.

Maybe I need to stop thinking, and just start writing.  This blog post isn’t about any significant event, or world travel.  It’s just about my most personal thoughts.  Maybe it’s not going to get me closer to publishing a book, but maybe it will.  In any case, this is me, making the decision to go to Haiti with no vaccinations, and praying that I see something as fascinating  as a parade of elephants from the deck of an artist’s studio.