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Life Lifters (282 posts)
Wielding a pair of pliers, 14-year-old Shawnda (not her real name) carefully reconnects six wires to the headlight of a black 2002 Harley-Davidson. The bike's light—not to mention its fender, seat, and saddlebags—has been badly mangled in an accident. But when Shawnda pushes a button on the handlebars, a bright beam appears. Now Shawnda, too, is beaming.
Along with the 12 other girls gathered around the bike, Shawnda is a resident of the Abbott House, a treatment facility for troubled teenagers in South Dakota. She's never ridden a motorcycle, let alone fixed one. But Laura Klock—co-owner, with her husband, of a local bike shop—believes they can teach her confidence and help her "discover things about herself she didn't know were there."
As a teenager, Klock found refuge from her parents' divorce in a Suzuki bike."My motorcycle was always something I could control, even when everything else was out of my control," she says. Her bike later helped her weather a struggle with addiction. She passed on her passion to her daughters, now 18 and 21—who, like their mother, have set records in races at Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats. "I used motorcycles to teach them things I couldn't have otherwise," says Klock. "To challenge themselves, to work as a team."
Klock's daughters—and her own troubled history—inspired her to start the Bike Rebuild Program. "If kids can learn to repair a damaged motorcycle," says Klock, "maybe they can also repair their lives."
After hearing this summer about OWN's Thank You Game, reader Fatiha Occhialini wrote in to share her story of gratitude. In 2010 Occhialini learned about vision boards from the Oprah.com Spirit Newsletter. She created her own board, starting with a photo of the Great Wall of China, which she hoped to visit someday. Last year she traveled from her home in Philadelphia to Beijing and brought along her June 2011 copy of O. "The words thank you on the cover of the magazine were a daily reminder of how grateful I was to achieve my dream of walking the Great Wall!" she said.
I know two things for sure about raising a girl to be a strong woman: 1) It's really important and something I'd like to do, and 2) The parenting maxim "Do as I say, not as I do," probably isn't going to work out so well here. So how do you balance being a responsible mother with modeling awesomely brave behavior? Super Chicken has some ideas.
This woman, besides looking good in a chicken suit, wants to inspire people to live without fear. As her indiegogo page explains, "We are all full of fears, we are all
chickens. I used to think
that feeling fear was not a good thing. That
if you had
confidence the fear went away. Although that is not the case...The
not letting that fear paralyze you in life, feel the fear and
anyway." So what did she do? Naturally, she made herself a Super Chicken suit, sold all her earthly possessions, and took off the travel the world. For at least 6 months. With her 17-year-old daughter. Dressed as a chicken.
Super Chicken is looking for donations to help her and her (awesomely sporting, it seems) daughter see as much of the world as possible. But she's also looking to spread the word, to help others conquer fear and embrace risk, adventure, and above all, it would seem, a sense of humor. I'd like to admit that while just reading her description of her project, I think I stopped breathing for at least a minute: But! But you can't! You can't do that! And this is exactly what Super Chicken is talking about. Why live in a world of "But you can't do that"s? As Super Chicken (I imagine) would say, there are plenty of people out there to say "you can't." You must be the one to tell yourself "I can."You can ride a horse dressed as an enormous chicken. You can travel the world if you want to.You can educate your children the way you think they should be educated, by traveling and experiencing and meeting people and learning to live not only safely and well but without the "you can't"s.
Living Without Fear
Overcoming Airplane Phobia
Every Christmas, Marianne Russo bakes muffins for her elderly neighbors. Last week—it's August, mind you—she tweeted that she'd found this in her mailbox:
Russo does a lot of good things for the world—she happens to be the host of a radio show for families with children who have special needs. But how lovely, to see how small gestures ripple out and return, so that if someone comes across a muffin cookbook in the dog days of summer, they think of you. (As an aside, I love pointless presents. I always think I'm going to do this, give someone a present just because I found it and thought of them, holidays be darned, but somehow I forget. Note to self: Do this more.) These moments of neighborliness create a culture of community, a current of generosity, a Christmas-less season of giving.
Either that, or Muffin Lady's neighbors are really tired of her standby muffin recipe. (Kidding! I'm sure it's not that!)
35 Little Moments of Kindness
Performing Random Acts of Chocolate
So I am overwhelmed just reading about Lou Xiaoying, the Chinese rubbish collector who rescued more than 30 abandoned babies over the course of her life. Although she lived in poverty with her husband and her own children, Lou personally raised 4 of the children and found homes for the rest. According to the Daily Mail, Lou said, "The whole thing started when I found the first baby, a little girl back in 1972 when I was out collecting rubbish. She was just lying amongst the junk on the street, abandoned. She would have died had we not rescued her and taken her in. I realized if we had strength enough to collect garbage how could we not recycle something as important as human lives."
She adopted her youngest child when she was 82.
Now, according to the Huffington Post, Lou Xiaoying is dying of kidney failure, and trying to raise money to help support her youngest children after she is gone. She is being hailed as a hero in her community, and no wonder. Any mothering has echoes of the heroic in it, but when you add extreme poverty and an even more extreme altruism, when you think of the children whose lives had no value to anyone but Lou, well, it kind of makes you want to rise to the occasion, to find the bit of Lou Xiaoying in all of us.
(Read the whole article to learn more about how China's policies have likely contributed to the large number of abandoned babies and about how you can contribute to Lou Xiaoying's family.)
The Controversy Over Older Mothers
The Baby You Have to Give Back
Do you ever wonder what your legacy will be? Aaron Collins, according to his mother in this heartbreaking CBS news clip, "wanted to leave the world a better place than when he found it." His family always knew he would do something amazing, something to change the world, to help people. When he died last month at age 30, he left behind reputation for kindness and a peculiar wish: "leave an awesome tip (and I don’t mean 25%. I mean $500 on a f***ing pizza) for a waiter or waitress.” According to Aaron's brother, "Aaron was the type of person that took great joy in unexpected kindness...Of course, the way he lived his life meant Aaron never had much and didn’t leave much. We want to make his wish come true... His hope was clearly that such a random gift of kindness would leave an impact for life."
The family started raising donations and soon they had thousands of dollars to bestow upon unsuspecting waitstaff. Like Sarah, at Puccini's Smiling Teeth in Lexington, who said, "Are you kidding me?" and then, immediately, "I'll share this with everyone." (Just as, one suspects, Aaron had planned.)
The story is a beautiful one for Aaron's kindness, and for his family's devotion to helping his kindness live beyond him. But it also serves to remind us all that our contributions to the world, our own acts of kindness, need not be huge. That sometimes the best way to reach out is in some small, specific way -- making a harried waitress's day, for example -- a gesture that helps to create a culture of kindness. The kind of culture we all want to live in.
Oprah's Pay it Forward Challenge
When Fate Puts You Last for a Reason
One of the most happy-tear inducing moments of the Olympic torch relay was when 13-year-old torch bearer Kieran Maxwell, who lost his leg to cancer and now walks unsteadily with a heavy prosthetic limb, stumbled and fell. Immediately, his family and neighbors hurried to his side to help him. And, as he has with every other setback life has thrown at him, Kieran stood right back up and kept going, with a smile on his face. All across the world, hearts swelled.
Particularly moved were Colin and Chris Weir, Britain's largest lottery winners, who have donated some of their millions to buy Kieran a lighter, state-of-the-art prosthetic limb. Kieran's family had been fundraising to buy him the new leg, as his current heavy prosthetic restricted his movement; his mother told the BBC, "He couldn't believe it. I am still pinching myself...He can go back to being a normal boy. He can be himself. Words cannot describe what they have done."
The Weirs have donated to other causes since winning their jackpot, saying they wanted to "share the luck." And in doing so, they are transforming lives. How's that for a torch to pass on?
Turning a Disability into a Superpower
How a Double-Amputee Becomes a Mermaid
Until, that is, a vacationer recently found the ring on that same beach and returned it to Rafferty; it turns out the ring traveled less than a mile (surviving some major hurricanes) in over three decades. (For more on how the good Samaritan found the ring's owner, read the whole story.) Rafferty says, "It made me think, maybe nothing's ever lost forever." And it makes me think, maybe Planet Lost Thing is a closer, and more benevolent, place than we ever knew.
Message in a Bottle, Finally Delivered
A Ring Saves a Life, and Other Everyday Miracles
This story comes from the City of Big Shoulders itself, Chicago, where a visitor from Alabama made the mistake every rider of public transit fears, and accidentally left her purse on the train. Take a moment to make sure you know where your purse is. I know I had to after reading this, form the Press-Register: "Minutes after exiting Chicago’s elevated train, known as the "L," Nancy Pierce was in a panic. She realized that she’d left her purse with her cash, credit cards, iPhone, even her favorite dangly silver earrings, on the train. " SHUDDER. After a complex ordeal, including some creative ID work to be able to fly home, Pierce settled into her daily life back in Oakleigh, Alabama. Two weeks later, a mysterious UPS package arrived. Yes, it was her purse, sent by the good Samaritan who found it. (Read the whole article for the sender's sweet apology for taking so long to return it.) Pierce said, "I was so excited, and so touched that this woman would do this. It certainly restored my faith in people, and made it even stronger. I know there are really good people in this world." She says she'll visit Chicago again, and even ride the L.
Kind of warms even a city-dweller's crusty polluted heart.
The Ripple Effect of Kindness
Modern Tales of Good Deeds
The Card Game that Encourages Generosity
In the case of Sean Keown, a Vermont man who shipped off a message in a bottle some 35 years ago, the recipient of his letter ended up being, well, himself. A teenager found his ancient bottle with its hidden note intact, and, being a teenager, googled the name and located Keown. He then put the note in an envelope and mailed it to Keown, who then called him to say "he'd been waiting 35 years for someone to find it." Keown also told his local news station that he'd promised a reward to the bottle's finder: "I was thinking maybe a candy bar or a soda, at the time I was in elementary school. Yeah, it's going to be a cash reward now."
More Good News:
Girl Scouts Get Badges For Happiness
Six-Year-Old Finds Rare Fossil