How Bad Do You Want It? Three Remarkable Individuals Inspiring Us To Commit To Making The World A Better Place

Maimah Karmo CEO of the Tigerlily Foundation

Previously published on the Huffington Post blog

Love is never convenient and rarely painless.” – Richard Paul Evans.

I wonder who came up with the idea that love was a constant state of bliss – I.e., running in the fields in the sun, skipping with bunnies and butterflies? That person needs to get five fingers to the face. And who came up with the idea that philanthropy is always a “feel good” experience? Both the state of romantic love “eros” and love for humanity, “charity”, while endorphin-boosting, take commitment, action and sacrifice, defined by Webster’s as “the act of giving up something that you want especially in order to get something else or to help someone“.

As we observe July 4th weekend and our nation’s independence, I marvel at all the sacrifices people have made over centuries, and today – sacrifices of life and limb – so that others could have life and safety; have freedom of speech; so that women could have equal rights; so that there would be an end to slavery; we could have access to healthcare; marry whom we want, regardless of sexual orientation, color or gender; and so that others could be given a “hand up” when they need it most. When we look at the state of the world today, we often see wars, disease, natural disasters and man-made havoc; but, I like to look for the good news…and there is so much more good in the world than bad. I see acts of love and compassion every day, that give me hope and excitement about the future. I see that there are more light-walkers, peacemakers, miracle-workers and lovers in the world, people performing extraordinary acts to ensure that others have better circumstances – people like Cathy Backus, Founder and President of Send Me on Vacation; Tino Anthony of Homeless in DC; and Olivia Stallings, of Blankets for the Homeless.

Breast Cancer Survivors, Vacations and Mermaids. Cathy Backus built an amazing network of colleagues in the travel and hospitality business. After her friend of 29 years, Pam, was diagnosed with breast cancer, Cathy was inspired to create Send Me on Vacation (SMOV), a charity that sends women on vacation after breast cancer treatment, to renew their body, mind and spirit. With hearts of gold, Cathy and her husband Gene, tirelessly raise funds, and have sent hundreds of women on vacation. I recently was invited to join SMOV in Mexico, as part of an extraordinary new program, The Mermaid’s Journey, where breast cancer survivors receive a three-day empowerment workshop, and are transformed into mermaids, as a symbol of a woman who is at ease diving below the surface and finding the pearls of the wisdom in life’s experiences.

Serving in the World is My Church. Jason “Valentino” Anthony was born in Washington, D.C. Known as “Tino”, he is a television, radio, and stage producer. He volunteers with Homeless in DC, to feed the homeless at a Georgetown ministry, and at parks around the city where homeless people gather. “For me, feeding the homeless is my church. I am in these streets every week, rarely taking a week off. My friends and I feed people by pooling our money together. We don’t receive any funding. I am also a work readiness counselor, helping to groom people who want to enter the workplace, by assisting with resumes, clothing, haircuts and more.”

Blanketed in Love. To say that Olivia Stallings, a single mother of three boys has “a lot on her plate” is an understatement. Stemming from her own experience being homeless in 1998, she founded Blankets for the Homeless (BFTH), to ensure that homeless people living in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area have warmth during the cold winter months. Every winter, BFTH supplies homeless people with new or gently used blankets and clothing. Olivia’s commute to work in Washington, D.C., was a constant reminder of how many people are homeless. “With limited resources, providing for three children, I gave up on the idea that I could help.” It wasn’t until the winter of 2010 when she passed a homeless man sleeping on the ground in 20-degree weather, that she figured out how. The next morning she took a blanket with her to work, and when she passed by a homeless man, she laid the blanket next to him. His smile proved to be her catalyst. She looked through her home for more comforters and gave away more than a dozen. She asked friends to help and now hands out blankets every winter.

Many people desire to make a difference, but don’t. As we celebrate our freedoms, let’s not forget that sweat, blood and tears were shed to give us creature comforts. Let’s show gratitude – through our words and deeds, recognizing that love can be inconvenient, requires sacrifice and is sometimes painful, but is so rewarding, and can alter the course of someone’s life. As I often tell my friends, “ Commitment is not conditional.” How bad do you want to change the world? It needs you. Get out there and do it.

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