Are you a Changemaker?

turtle whisperer

I’ve been with my job for three years now. Health, prevention, youth, and advocacy, are just a few words that describe what I do. Each year has been a struggle as funding has been cut, which ultimately led to the demise of the grant in June. Luckily, I work in a city that values my position and they saved me…literally. I now work for the city instead of the state, doing the exact same thing as before. Apparently our governor doesn’t believe in the power of prevention, go figure.

A colleague and myself, along with five other youth, attended the Ashoka Youth Venture Summit here in D.C. last weekend. I had never in my life heard of Ashoka, and now I can’t stop thinking about the organization. Or talking about it. Or dreaming about it. Or…

You get the picture. Please please please, for the love of god check out their site here. Watch “The Story of Ashoka” video here.

Empathy was the main topic. And if you would’ve asked me what empathy was a week ago I probably would’ve said something like this, “Uhhhh, It’s that thing…where you kinda feel bad for someone…because of the situation they’re in…..I think.”

Sounds pretty legit, right?

I thought so too.

Until the facilitator asked that very same question to the entire assembly, and a teenager answered with words so beyond your vocabulary that you would’ve swore he was a 6o-year-old man.

Damn kid.

Teenagers have this innate ability to make me feel so smart yet so dumb, all at the same time. That’s probably why I like working with them so much. They keep me on my toes, and make me realize that just because I’m an adult doesn’t mean I know everything. Not to mention teenagers, and kids, are much better at thinking outside the box than most adults. For some reason us adults begin to lose this ability, until something kicks you in the ass and tells you to snap out of it… 

adorable calf

For those of you who need a refresher, empathy is…

The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated.

With out empathy there is no compassion.

With out compassion there is no passion.

With out passion there is no drive.

And with out drive there is no change.

We live in a changing world, and for anyone to say otherwise is in denial. Or they choose to ignore the clear signs all around them. You know who I’m talking about.

My whole life I’ve had a passion for helping people, and animals. Now more than ever, I’m realizing that one of the main reasons I am a vegetarian (almost fully plant-based) is because of my feelings towards violence and the inhumane killing of animals. My passion for animals has driven me to make a significant change in my life, which ultimately impacts the rest of the world. What started as empathy, has transformed into something bigger than me.

helping hands

So what were my revelations?

1) I’m realizing my lifestyle is about more than health. That for me, being a vegetarian has become a spiritual journey. I’ve found that I’m more empathetic towards people and their situations, and I’m not as quick to judge.

2)  I can’t separate work and life anymore. What I do in my job is part of my life and who I am.

3) My greatness is that I’ve always influenced others through action. It’s not always the one with loudest voice who makes a difference, but the one who shines the brightest. 

4) The only person who gets in the way of what I do in life, is myself.

5) The Dalai Lama has his shit together.

6) I am no closer to figuring out the meaning of life, even after all of my revelations. Insight was shared over the weekend which eluded that the reason we spend so much time looking into the future is because we are trying to avoid being in the present. Shit…did I just say that? This was a tough one for me to accept about myself.  

7) Empathy is something we teach our children. If you have children, please do them and the rest of the world a favor by giving them this skill.

8) Parents, and even significant others, can project their own fears onto their children and loved ones. Stop it. It’s exceedingly irritating. If you are not a changemaker yourself (and are not willing to be), please get out of the way so those who want to be one, can. Don’t let your fear and negativity drown them. 


To end on a positive note, and to avoid dragging on longer than needed, here is a quote from the Dalai Lama himself…

Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.  

dalai lama

Ever since I can remember, I get a physical feeling in the pit of my stomach when I know I should speak up or take action. Too often I’ve pushed that feeling aside. I realized I need to give up my own comfort and fear to help others find their voice. By doing this I’m allowing a generation (and beyond) to let others see how bright they shine.  


What have you had to give up? Was/is it worth it?



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  1. excellent advice.
    keep the confidence!


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