Embracing Kindness
Podcast #22 — Aired April 3, 2014

Can kindness change the world? This week on BetterWorldians Radio we’ll talk about a mission to unite and empower people through kindness. Our guest this week is Orly Wahba, the founder of the non-profit Life Vest Inside. Wahba will tell listeners about the potential they have to affect real and positive change in the world through kindness. Tune in every week to hear new guests share how they are making the world a better place and to learn how you can become a BetterWorldian!

 

 

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Orly Wahba
Founder, Life Vest Inside

Orly Wahba is an educator, entrepreneur, and community activist passionate about inspiring and motivating people to be the best that they can be. Orly began her career in Kindness as a Middle School educator at the Yeshivah of Flatbush in Brooklyn, NY, teaching the children to embrace unity, build their self-esteem, and use the power they have to influence the world for good. Yearning to make a larger impact with her philanthropic work Orly founded Life Vest Inside in 2011, a non-profit organization with a mission to encourage people to embrace the incredible power of giving and recognize that in times of hardship, kindness, like a life vest, keeps the world afloat.

Episode Transcript

Raymond Hansell
Joining us today is Orly Wahba, founder of Life Vest Inside. Orly is an educator, entrepreneur, and community activist, passionate about inspiring and motivating people to be the very best that they can be. Orly began her career in Kindness as a Middle School educator in Brooklyn, New York, teaching children to embrace unity, build their self-esteem, and use the power they have to influence the world for good. Yearning to make a larger impact with her philanthropic work, Orly founded Life Vest Inside in 2011, a non-profit organization with a mission to encourage people to embrace the incredible power of giving and recognize that in times of hardship, kindness, like a life vest, keeps the world afloat. So, Orly, it's so great to have you with us today on BetterWorldians Radio. Welcome aboard.

Orly Wahba
Thanks you so much. I'm really so honored to be here.

Raymond Hansell
Well we are honored as well. So I have been reviewing a lot of the things about your work, as we all have here on BetterWorldians Radio, and it seems that you have dedicated your life to spreading kindness and helping people build self-esteem, but you say that you weren't always so self-assured yourself. So can you tell us a little bit about the house fire that you claim changed your life?

Orly Wahba
Yes, of course. As a kid I had actually very, very, very low self-confidence. I was extremely, extremely shy. I would never be on a radio show, that's for sure. And, really, kindness has always been a part of my journey since I've been a little kid. So, like you mentioned, a big change happened to me when I was 15 years old. Fifteen years old, as it is, is already a hard age where you're kind of questioning who you are and your place in the world. You don't really feel that confident about yourself. So when I was 15 years old we had a fire in my house and, thankfully, everybody was okay, but we kind of lost everything in the house and it set this sort of feeling that, you know, your security kind of is wiped out. It was like somebody just kind of erased you and that if you weren't here the next day, you know, you wouldn't even know. You know, pictures, you know, videos, that, you know, those sort of things you can't replace. It's like I said, thankfully, everybody was okay. I was a very, very positive person, always believed that everything happens for the best, and I kept that attitude when, you know, when the fire happened. We were living - my grandparents had a really small apartment, my family kind of was separated. I'm one of five siblings so we weren't able to all actually stay together. So my two older brothers, who were kind of like my support system, they were, you know, living by other relatives. And, you know, when you kind of see your parents break down it really gets to you in a very, very strong way. So I didn't want to kind of be an additional burden to my parents, so I didn't want to talk to them about what's going on, so I kind of kept everything in and tried being really positive in the beginning. Oh, everything is for the best, everything is for the best. And then even when I'd try to speak to my, you know, my friends about it, they would kind of change the subject. And now, you know, looking back I understand. At that age, what do you kind of say to somebody that's going through something like that? What happened to me about a few months into it is I basically fell into a really scary dark depression. Went to sleep one night after coming back from a school seminar and I just didn't wake up the next morning. And I was in this state of sleep for two months. It was a very, very, very scary period in my life. But the thing that kind of hurt me most was, during that time, not a phone call, not a person that came to visit. And that got to me in a very, very bad way because I was the kind of kid, you know, I was very, very shy but I really did want people to like me. If someone was absent from school, you know, I was like copying notes for them. And when I didn't kind of get anything back in return in terms of having anybody reach out to me, I felt like it didn't really matter whether I was here or whether I wasn't. And so, like I said, I fell into a very scary place, very, very scared, and I didn't want to go back to school. I wasn't in school for a few months, and I didn't know how I was going to get myself out of it, and it just continued to get worse and worse and worse. And then a big shift happened for me when I was, you know, about a couple of months, three months or so into it, woke up one morning, I was in the bathroom and looking at myself in the mirror and the scariest thing happened. Looking back and the reflection back at me, I didn't see that, you know, little kid, that 4-year-old kid that wanted to change the world and that dreamed of making the world a better place. And that scared me more than anything, that that dreamer was gone. I said I can't let this happen to me. Now I had no idea how I was going to pick myself back up but I knew that I had to, and so I made a promise to myself. And it's really that promise that rides every single day of my life. And I promised myself to be there for people the way that I had wished somebody would have been there for me. And I didn't know how I was going to get back out of it, but little by little and faith had a really big part in it, had a very big part in it, little by little I started picking myself up. And, actually, that period, that year of being alone, really alone, was the greatest gift in the entire world because it gave me the opportunity to get to know Orly, to get to really know me, and to feel that validated from within myself. It wasn't about what other people necessarily were telling me, but the validation was coming from within me, to really get to love myself. And a lot of people really don't have...they don't take that opportunity, you know. Society tells us what actually gives us that validation, but the truth of the matter is, validation can only come within you. You can only bring that happiness to yourself and it has to come with loving yourself. And so little by little that kind of continued to happen and a big shift happened. The following year I was on this school seminar, and like I said, I was the shyest kid in the entire world. I would never ever raise my hand, ever, and we were talking about obstacles. We were sitting in a circle with all my, like, my peers and talking about obstacles and I had something to add to the conversation. So I raised my hand and I actually...and I spoke, which never happened, and the craziest thing happened is my peers started listening to me. And even more than that, people started coming up to me afterwards and asking me for advice, and I started speaking to them and the craziest thing happened. The more I gave, the more I healed. And the more I gave, the more I healed, the more I gave, the more I healed. I became obsessed and in love with giving. And so that's kind of when I came to my own and I started actually using my voice and speaking and mentoring kids, at-risk kids, and getting involved with, really, with every single community activity, every single school activity, after-school activity, that I could possibly get involved with. And that's when I started actually becoming the person I am today. So it was, looking back, that fire was probably the greatest gift that ever happened to me.

Raymond Hansell
Well, it's been a great gift to all of us. I'd like to skip ahead a little bit in your life because I want to get to the Life Vest Inside issue. So it seems like that's a very interesting name for an organization. I'd like you to just recount a brief story about how being on that airplane, how you came up with that name.

Orly Wahba
Oh, boy, okay, so this happened back in 2007 and this is while I was teaching, so I was a middle school teacher, as you mentioned, for 7 years. And, basically, at the time, it was January, we were going away, I was going away to my family on winter vacation and, at the time, there was a young girl in my community who was very, very ill. And when I got off the plane, we had a stop-over, and I listened to my messages, I got the news that she just passed away. It was extremely, extremely devastating for me. I didn't know her personally but my thoughts and wishes were with her and the entire community knew about what was going on. But the first thing I thought about was my 7th grade students back at home. See, they lost a classmate of theirs 3 years prior when they were in 4th grade. And, literally, right before winter vacation they started opening up to me about it for the very first time and asking really tough questions, you know. Why do certain things happen, you know. Why do bad things happen to good people? And it would be the hard questions to answer. And I just started being able to get through to them and at least give them a little bit of comfort. So what am I going to do when I get back home? I know that they're going to hear about this and it's a girl within our community. How am I going to be able to explain how yet again something so tragic and devastating happened? How do you stay afloat in a world that sometimes seems to be pulling you downward? How do you find the order in the chaos? And so I get onto the plane and all these thoughts are going through my head and a stewardess actually sat me in a seat I wasn't supposed to be in. But, like I said, everything happens for a reason. And I'm so happy that she did. And these thoughts are going through my head and I literally had tears in my eyes. How do you stay afloat? And I looked to my left and right there on the wall of the plane there was a small sign with three words on it that ended up changing the course of my life. And it said life vest inside. And so the message I took is, what's a life vest? No matter how much you push down on it, right, it pops back up. So the message I took was, Orly, your life vest, your ability to stay afloat in this world, it's inside of you. It's through the kindness that we bestow on others and through the kindness that others bestow on us that we keep each other afloat in this world that sometimes seems to be pulling us downward because we can't prevent the obstacles and the mishaps and the curveballs from coming our way. They're going to come. But what we can do is we can throw somebody a life vest, a lifeline of kindness to keep them afloat. Even though they're still surrounded by those waters, that life vest is keeping them afloat. And it's that small thing that's the difference in a sense. It can be the difference between life and death.

Raymond Hansell
M-hmm.

Orly Wahba
And so when I got back, Life Vest Inside was just simply an inspirational story I told. Little by little I began to recognize and realize where my path in life was headed. I really do believe that everything was a piece of the puzzle to get me to where I am today.

Raymond Hansell
Now you eventually shot a film that really illustrates that sort of power of passing kindness forward. And that video, for our listener's interest, has shot to receive over 10 million views on Facebook. Tell us a little bit about the film and why you think it has been such of an interest to so many people around the world.

Orly Wahba
Well, I got to tell you; Kindness Boomerang also was a big thing that changed my life. That's the name of the film. And, basically, because I was a teacher I had summers off from teaching, and I said I wanted to be able to show people that feeling of kindness and how it has that ability to propel forward. And, again, helping people recognize that who they are matters and makes a difference so that when we realize and we do something small, the impact of it, the ripples, are beyond our imagination. So I sat down, I'll never forget this, school just ended, I said I have only a couple of months before I go back, so I was like, okay, I need to do this. So I sat down and I started writing experiences, kindness experiences, a moment in my life that left an imprint on me. And I had, like, hundreds of them and they were all on Post-its. I had them all across my wall. I said I want to be able to show how this can move seamlessly from one person to the next. And so the script kind of just came to life. Each of the scenes is actually based on real-life experiences that I personally went through that left that imprint on me. And it was the most amazing experience that, you know, to do this film because I had a background in film production, 7 years since I'd done film. We shot the film within one day. It was all done on a Steadicam, showing how one act of kindness goes from one person to the next and then boomerangs back to the person who set it into motion. And I remember telling, you know, the cast that day, I said we're about to do something that is truly going to change the world. And, honestly, I hadn't even put all the phases to motion for Life Vest Inside but I felt this energy, like what we were doing was going to be awesome and it's very powerful. And they all felt it too. So that following year I was still in school kind of organizing what the organization was going to be, and then I decided, you know, if I believe in this enough I've got to go all in. So I decided to leave my job and then I put that film online. I got to tell you; I knew nothing about social media whatsoever, like zero, but I said who knows? Maybe this film will inspire at least one person. I got to put it up there. And I couldn't believe what happened when I did. It spread so rapidly and I didn't even realize that that was a big deal at the time because I really didn't understand social media whatsoever. I was like, oh, okay, this is what happens. I had no clue. Well, it reached over 30 million people globally and the amount of responses and messages that were coming in from people all over the globe, everyone speaking the language of kindness, regardless of the language, religion, ethnicity, background. And I think that the reason that it touched so many people's lives is because when a person watched that film, what they're really seeing is they're catching a glimpse of their own potential and their own value. They're seeing themselves up on that screen and realizing it's not the big things, it's not the big things, it's not about being, you know, on the front cover of a magazine, or, you know, all the money in the world that you have, or popularity, it's not about that. Everybody sings in their right. Everyone is special. Everybody is unique and it's the small things that set us apart. And so when people watch the film, the reason they connect is because they see, they catch that glimpse of their potential and recognize just how valuable they are. And that's really what's needed in today's world, is helping people realize that they matter, that they have a purpose, regardless if they're known out there in the world or how many followers they have, that stuff doesn't matter, that's not where our real validation comes from. Our real validation comes from within ourselves and it's the small things that we do that make such a significant impact. So if I retell you the stories that come in and continuously come in, because we answer literally every message, on a daily basis of people who've been touched by this film, and not only just been touched by the film but have taken action in their lives, it's beyond amazing. I mean, I would love to share a story with you if there's time.

Raymond Hansell
Yeah, we're going to take a break shortly but I just want to remind our listeners before we go any further, they can see this film on YouTube with Kindness Boomerang. That's the name of it. We're going to take a little break right now but when we come back we're going to talk a lot more with Orly Wahba about the Life Vest Inside, about the film, and some of the other things that she's doing in her amazing journey with this passing kindness forward and this entire mission about kindness. In the meantime, I'd like to offer this challenge to our listeners. If you know someone whose small acts of kindness, no matter how small, are making a big difference in the lives of other people, we'd love to hear about them. Send us an email at RADIO AT BETTERWORLDIANS DOT COM and we'll be right back.

Raymond Hansell
Hi, you're listening to BetterWorldians Radio. We're speaking with Orly Wahba, the founder of Life Vest Inside, about her mission to unite and empower the world with kindness. And now let's welcome back Orly and my co-host, MarySue.

MarySue Hansell
Hi Orly.

Orly Wahba
Hello. It's very good to be here again.

MarySue Hansell
Oh, we're so glad to have you back. I wanted to pick up on your Kindness Boomerang YouTube video that you said you had a wonderful story about. We were very moved hearing the whole first part of the show so I can't wait to hear the story.

Orly Wahba
You know, there are like hundreds of stories and I'm actually going to tell you a story that's probably the first time I'm ever telling this story, and it happened just about, I would say, a couple of months ago. So I have people reaching out from all over the place and my, you know, my whole thing is no comment gets left behind, so I really love answering people because that's what this is all about. I love people. And so one person had reached out and he basically said to me, you know, I've been following you for the past couple of years, I really would love to, like, schedule a call with you. I was like sure, let's do it. So we got on the call and we had the most amazing conversation and we were talking for about, like, an hour, hour and a half and, you know, he wanted to get more involved because I've been, you know, following you for so long and I really want to get more involved. I'm like for sure we're going to get you more involved and become a group leader for our event and I was telling him about this representative program that we had going on. And before he got off the phone he goes, you want to hear the story about how I found you? And I said, yeah, of course. So he's like, about two years ago said that he was in a very, very, very bad position in his life. He was being tormented by people, things were going wrong in his life in all aspects; personal, you know, career-wise, his school; everything was kind of taking a turn for the worst.

MarySue Hansell
Hmm.

Orly Wahba
And he said if the belt hadn't broken, I wouldn't be here today.

MarySue Hansell
Oh dear.

Orly Wahba
He tried to commit suicide.

MarySue Hansell
Oh my.

Orly Wahba
And right away when I heard that it kind of hit me in my heart because I was in that position when I was 15 years old when the house burnt down. He said to me, a week after a friend of mine sent me your video. He said I watched that video and I was crying. He said when I saw it, it gave me hope and I realized that I can be a better version of myself and I'm going to be. He said from that point on, from when I saw your video, I started giving back and I realized that when I - and he said it to me like this, that when I gave, I healed. And when he said that I couldn't believe what he was saying. I felt like I was speaking to myself.

MarySue Hansell
Yes.

Orly Wahba
And he said, you don't know the kind of impact that the film had had on me and I've been following everything you guys are doing and getting more involved, but now I want to take it to the next level. I can't tell you what it felt like to hear him say this. Anyway, I'd like to just announce that he is actually right now one of our LVI representatives, one of 12, we're actually 9 countries. It's the first year we're starting it but he is actually going to be representing Life Vest Inside in Colorado over this year. He's such an amazing person; I can't even begin to tell you on how many levels.

MarySue Hansell
Oh, that's -

Orly Wahba
And the fact that he shared that story with me just completely blew me away and touched me on so many different levels. And so I realized what the power of this film has.

MarySue Hansell
You know, that's wonderful. It's a gratifying story and I imagine for you, too, that had that similar experience that you talked about, for him to echo those exact words back to you.

Orly Wahba
It was something else. I mean, and then I told him my story and it was a very, very touching experience. And I can't tell you how many stories like these, connecting with people that really have been touched by it and have made major changes from it, because I think what it does, if anything, is it shows people that there is another choice and that they, and like I said, that they do matter in this world and that they can be better than what they think that they are, you know. And it's something as simple as kindness because, you know, when a person is involved in an act of kindness, again, they get that sense of who they really are and how valuable they truly are in this world.

MarySue Hansell
You know, you mentioned that LVI representative program. Now would be a great time to tell us a little bit more about that.

Orly Wahba
Oh, so this is really awesome. I mean, this kind of started - so we have a worldwide event called Dance for Kindness. It's a worldwide kindness Freeze Mob Flash Mob that happens. November 13th is World Kindness Day, in case you didn't know, so to kick off World Kindness Week we have this worldwide event. This past year we had it in 25 countries, over 40 cities, with over 5,000 participants. And it's a kind of Freeze Mob Flash Mob, so people freeze in kindness poses and then it turns into a flash mob, we give out acts of kindness cards. Anyways, the people that are those group leaders are simply our fans, people that connect to us and that, you know, registered to become a group leader, and they go through the process, and they go through the handbook, and I kind of train them in how to get the event going. And what happened was, after the second year of the event a lot of people were coming to me, they said, Orly, we want to get involved in Life Vest Inside on a regular basis. We want to bring Life Vest Inside to our country and our city and we want it to be here all the time, you know, on the ground. I said, awesome, let's create a representative program. So, literally, in January, with a few of the group leaders that were excited and a couple of new members, like the boy I just told you about, we started getting together and we created the representative handbook and the representative program so this gives people an opportunity to represent to be the official representative of Life Vest Inside in their country, in their city, and to actually run events throughout the course of the year. And I basically go through - they go through a training program to understand what Life Vest Inside is about and so that they, themselves, can speak about it and go into schools or companies and be able to run events and spread that message of kindness and awareness about the organization. So this year we've closed the registration for representatives and we have 12 representatives spanning across 9 countries, so it's really exciting because it's the first year we're doing this.

MarySue Hansell
Oh, wonderful. Now how did they get involved? How would someone - if one our listeners wants to be an LVI representative, what would they do?

Orly Wahba
So, basically, the best way to do that - so in order to become a representative, the qualification is you have to have been a group leader, Dance for Kindness group leader at least for one year.

MarySue Hansell
I see.

Orly Wahba
You know, for one event. So what I would recommend, if somebody is interested in the representative program, the best thing to do is to register to become a Dance for Kindness group leader. Registration for that is going to be opening up in May, so they can actually register right on Life Vest Inside's website to become a group leader and then they get the group leader handbook to explain to them the event, I schedule a Skype call with them and we get them set up. If they'd like, they can also email me directly at LIFE VEST INSIDE AT GMAIL DOT COM or ORLY AT LIFE VEST INSIDE DOT COM and let me know that they're interested and I'll get them set up right away.

MarySue Hansell
Sounds good. Now you also mentioned one of my favorite programs, the Dance for Kindness Movement. As you mentioned, it's a worldwide event in celebration of World Kindness Day in November and groups from around the globe join together to perform a kindness flash mob to the same song, to the same dance, all happening on that same day. Tell us more about that and where the idea came from.

Orly Wahba
Oh my goodness. This was an amazing thing. So this past year was our second year. So when the idea first came, I actually, I know this is going to sound really funny, but I really did, I had a dream about this event. I had a dream about this event. And in my dream, seriously, and in my dream I was envisioning people from all over, you know, holding flags of their own country and everybody dancing. And the idea is that regardless of our differences, regardless of our background and our religion, everybody can come together and unite under the banner of kindness. I said I got to make this happen. And so when I found out about World Kindness Day I said, what an amazing opportunity to do a Dance for Kindness, a global Dance for Kindness, and get people involved in each country dancing to the same dance, the same song, on the same day, all under the banner of kindness, and so we began putting it in motion. The first year we really did it through social media because we didn't even have our, you know, our website up and running. And the first year took place in 15 countries and 30 cities, and we had video footage from all the locations, and we put together one big montage of the event. And then this past year it grew so much more and it was in 25 countries and over 40 cities.

MarySue Hansell
Wow.

Orly Wahba
Absolutely unbelievable. And the whole purpose of dance, number one, it's a lot of fun, and number two, the idea is that dance is also a universal language. Because, you know, Kindness Boomerang, the film Kindness Boomerang, there's no dialogue in it and that was purposeful because I don't want to, you know, kindness is not for one specific language or one specific people, it's for everybody, and dance also has that very much of a universal language. And so the idea is if we can all join together under this banner of kindness, just imagine how powerful that could be. One of the most amazing, you know, one of the most touching things that happened last year, at last year's event, during the freeze mob, because it starts off with a freeze mob, so people freeze in kindness poses for 3 minutes, much harder than it sounds, and the idea is to give people the opportunity to see what it looks like if we stop our day, if we pause for a second and look around us, we would see so many kindness opportunities. So in Australia, as part of World Kindness Australia, they organized the event there and they had a Muslim group and a Jewish group actually take part in the event together and embrace during the event. It was the most touching thing. And I think that what it showed is that kindness has the ability to take down even the strongest, hardest world because it's just about creating that dialogue and helping people see. We all believe in the same exact thing, you know, at the end of the day. We're all part of the human race.

MarySue Hansell
Now you say they freeze for 3 minutes and then just do any kind of dance they like?

Orly Wahba
Yeah. So, basically, everyone - there's two songs, so people first - the music comes on and then all the people that are involved freeze into position in various kindness poses. You know, let's say one person's on the floor, another person bending down to pick them up, and then after the freeze mob, the flash mob song goes on and then it turns into a flash mob. Everybody, you know, goes into dance, it's really awesome, and then after that they distribute Acts of Kindness cards just to the people that are around. And we have those cards in various languages. Basically, Acts of Kindness cards each have on them a different act of kindness, something simple, and it basically prompts a person to perform the act and then pass the card onto someone else. And on our website, actually, people can get the cards, decks of 26, and they can even, you know, type in their story with their experience with their card, and that's at, you know, LIFE VEST INSIDE DOT COM SLASH AOK CARDS, Acts of Kindness cards. And, you know, these cards are made in different languages, and in our flagship location, which is here in New York City, we did it in Times Square. It was absolutely amazing the amount of people that came out, and everybody was all decked out in orange and we had the entire billboard - it was given to us, you know, compliments of American Eagle, you know, during the entire event - all showing up on the billboard all messages of kindness and of unity and, you know, of compassion.

MarySue Hansell
What are some of the messages on those AOK Kindness cards?

Orly Wahba
Oh my goodness. Oh, they're so beyond awesome. So, they're really, I mean, there are hundreds of different Acts of Kindness cards but just to give you, you know, an idea. So they can be something as simple as, you know, take 15 seconds today and look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself just how beautiful you are or bring back breakfast to work today. There are just a couple of them. Surprise your co-workers with some treats, it'll make their day that much sweeter, you know. Or hold a door open for someone. The idea is kindness, as a term, is very broad, so when you say be kind, okay, so everybody understands, okay, to be kind. But when you give it something specific, when you're able to put something specific to it, suddenly our awareness of it becomes much greater, and that's the whole purpose. It's not that people don't know that it's important to be kind, but sometimes it's in our head the crazy everyday life, we fail to see certain things because our awareness isn't there. But if I gave you a card, for example, that said hold a door open for someone, suddenly you're going to start seeing doors everywhere that day that need to be opened. It's not like those doors weren't there yesterday, they were there, it's just that your awareness becomes increased because suddenly you're looking for those opportunities, and that's the whole purpose of the cards.

MarySue Hansell
Hmm. What's a favorite story that you might have from someone who either gave away a card or received a card?

Orly Wahba
Oh my goodness. Okay, this -

MarySue Hansell
Oh, you probably have a million of them.

Orly Wahba
There's so many but this story -

MarySue Hansell
Yes.

Orly Wahba
Actually showed me the power of the cards.

MarySue Hansell
Ooh.

Orly Wahba
This is while I was still teaching because I started these Acts of Kindness cards with my students. And the purpose of the card was to show them that who they are matters and that when they put something out into the world the kind of ripples it will create will be endless.

MarySue Hansell
M-hmm.

Orly Wahba
So my students were graduating 8th grade. It's always hard for me when they leave because I love them so much. So I basically wrote each of them a letter, which took me a very long time obviously, and I made each of them an Act of Kindness card. I said when they move on to high school people tell them what's right is wrong, what's wrong is right, to remember that who they are matters and to, you know, continue remembering that their small acts do make a big difference. So, I mean, I thought I made enough cards for the kids in the grade but I had a few extra. I was like, all right, I guess I miscounted or whatever, you know, what am I going to do? So I get back into my car, it was June, it was really hot, June in New York City is boiling, and I get back to my house and I'm parking in my driveway and I see on the street there were these guys that were cleaning the streets. So, basically, as part of, you know, sometimes they take people that are, you know, inmates and they have them clean the streets. So they were there cleaning the streets. I was like, wow, what an awesome opportunity. I run in my house, I get like a pitcher of water, I get food, I get some cups, and I come out with all these items in my hands, and I'm like, hey guys, you want something to drink? They looked at me like I was crazy. They were like, what do you want from us? I was like, I don't want anything. I said, it's hot, right? They're like, yeah. I was like, you're thirsty, right? They're like, yeah. I said, well this is for you. They look at me like, come on, what do you want? I said, really, I don't want anything. We started talking, we're laughing, 20 minutes, great. I head back into my house and I'm taking out my stuff from my bag and I see what? The cards. I'm like, wait a second, everything happens for a reason. So I start counting the cards, 8 cards. I ran, seriously, ran to the window, started counting the people outside, 8 people. I was like, oh my gosh.

MarySue Hansell
Wow.

Orly Wahba
So I go outside, they're like, hey Orly, what's up? I was like, hey guys, what's doing? I'm like, you know, there's something that you can do for me. They're like, sure, what? I said, well, I'm teaching my students about kindness and that it's not just something that you do, but it's something that you live, you know, and I have these Acts of Kindness cards, I'll never know whether you did them or not but can I give them to you guys? They're like, sure. So I start handing them out. One of the biggest guys there, he grabs a hold of his card and started screaming and he started tearing.

MarySue Hansell
Oh.

Orly Wahba
And he said, how did you know to give me this card? How did you know to give me this card? And I fell silent. I said, I didn't know, what happened? And he said, for the past couple of weeks I've been thinking about calling my parents. It's been 10 years since I've spoken to them.

MarySue Hansell
Oh boy.

Orly Wahba
And on my card it says call your mother and father to tell them how much you love them.

MarySue Hansell
Oh boy, that's great.

Raymond Hansell
Oh my gosh.

Orly Wahba
That was the moment that I realized the power of what the cards are. It reminds us of the things that we know but we have a hard time doing. And suddenly it becomes clear to us how we can actually make those things happen. But it's something so simple. That was a huge moment for me.

Raymond Hansell
Yeah.

Orly Wahba
In understanding and recognizing what the potential of these cards can be.

Raymond Hansell
I can't believe it; that is beyond awesome. I hope our listeners can clue into that and actually take advantage of that by reaching out to Orly's website. We're going to take another break right now. When we come back, we'll be talking more about Orly and also some of the other ways in which her mission is making a big impact in the world. By the way, you can also ask Orly a question after the break. You can do that in several ways. First, you can call us at 1-866-472-5788. That's 1-866-472-5788. Or you can send us an email at RADIO AT BETTERWORLDIANS DOT COM. Or tweet us a question at TWITTER DOT COM SLASH BETTERWORLDIANS. We'll be right back.

Raymond Hansell
Hi, we're back live with Orly Wahba. We'd love it if you'd call us with a question for Orly. As I said before, you can call us at 1-866-472-5788. Again, that's 1-866-472-5788. Or if you prefer, you can also email us at RADIO AT BETTERWORLDIANS DOT COM or tweet us a question at TWITTER DOT COM SLASH BETTERWORLDIANS.

Gregory Hansell
Hi Orly, this is Greg.

Orly Wahba
Hey, Greg.

Gregory Hansell
Hey, listen. I have to say first, before I continue, I've never heard my father use the words beyond awesome before. That's a first. So that just shows you how blown away he and we are with these amazing stories and I'm sure the listeners feel the same way.

Orly Wahba
That means more to me than you know, I have to say.

Gregory Hansell
Oh, very cool. That makes me happy. You know, just looking through, we have so many amazing initiatives of yours that we can talk about. I'm kind of the tech geeky product guy here, so I want to mention one cool thing I saw on your website you have coming up, a mobile app for Life Vest Inside. What are you guys doing on mobile?

Orly Wahba
Wow, so this is something, actually, when the organization first started, you know, a couple, 2 to 2 and one half years ago, it started all with Acts of Kindness cards. You know, that was a concept I started with my students and then I said, you know, how amazing would it be if people can actually - because the idea is, all right, great, so you did an act of kindness, you gave it over to somebody, but the problem is, you know, what happens when a person is having a really bad day or feeling like, you know, I'm just one in 7 billion, do I really make a difference in this world? How do we help to keep that momentum, to keep that feeling of empowerment going?

Gregory Hansell
M-hmm.

Orly Wahba
I said, imagine if you could actually track your card. That even after you passed it forward you could see all the people that had it prior to you, and as it continues to move on, you could see all the subsequent people that have it after you. And so that's where the inspired concept came from is that it would be awesome to create a mobile app that is actually a social network for kindness, that doesn't only have features of being able to keep track but where people can actually connect with each other about acts of kindness that they're doing, that they're witnessing, and creating a really fun and cool system and games with acts of kindness through this mobile app. It's actually been much harder to get this, you know, this specific piece, the mobile app, running, out of everything else. It's been a bit tough. I'm not going to lie. It's been really, really tough.

Gregory Hansell
We know a bit about that being tough.

Orly Wahba
Yeah, I know. I've been trying to connect with people that are really passionate about this and that would be interested in actually going through the development, because we've done design but it's just been very hard to get it to that next place. But I really am a firm believer that everything happens in its time so I really do hope that that's going to be coming sooner than later. And there's a lot of exciting things with that because it's really going to be, in a sense, a really cool social network for kindness that empowers people even when those cards are not necessarily in their hands, and giving people tools also to work on things within their own life and helping them get to that next stage.

Gregory Hansell
Sure. I think it's a really cool idea.

Orly Wahba
Oh yeah. I can't wait for that. I mean, that's something that I'm extremely excited and passionate about.

Gregory Hansell
Very cool. All right, you know, I think the thing that blows us away, just looking at, you know, this was something that you just started only a few years ago, you've accomplished an incredible amount in such a short amount of time. What do you hope that the future holds for Life Vest?

Orly Wahba
Wow, that's a really great question. I mean, the possibilities are endless, that's what I will tell you. The amount of ideas that I have on a daily basis is beyond understanding. Probably one of the greatest struggles and one of the things kind of holding the organization back is just, you know, like sustainability, funding. Because I, basically, I left my job about 2 and a half years ago as a teacher - which was hard to do, I love teaching so much - and invested everything I had into this starting the organization. And Wahba Organization has made leaps and bounds and it's been absolutely phenomenal. Truly, the way that people want us to grow is even faster than we're actually able to. My hope for this is that we're going to be able to have Life Vest Inside representatives in countries throughout the world; but more importantly, really being able to make an impact through education. That's a very, very, very big thing for us. We've actually developed an educational curriculum, a kindness curriculum that aligns with the Common Core State Standards and Bloom's Taxonomy and brings kindness, compassion, and empathy into the classroom. So in a classroom of language arts for right now, so K through 5, we have a curriculum that students are still obtaining the same skill-sets that they'd be obtaining, you know, in their language arts class but they're doing it through the lines of kindness. And the whole purpose of it is not to just, you know, not just about teaching the facts and figures but actually bringing up a really well-rounded individual, and as opposed to some of the, you know, topics right now, you know, the anti-topics I call them. I don't like using that word because it's negative but, you know, people call that anti-bullying or anti-substance abuse. People are trying to fight against something negative with using negativity. That doesn't work.

Gregory Hansell
Yeah.

Orly Wahba
The idea is why don't we actually prevent those issues from coming into existence? And the best way to do that is through empowerment, it's through kindness. And so that's exactly what the educational curriculum is about. My hopes are to be able to get this out in a huge way, not just within the U.S. but within other countries. But my eventual goal, what is like my ultimate mission of the organization, is really to be able to create dialogue between people of different backgrounds, races, religions and ethnicities, to be able to show that we all really believe in the same thing. We do. We do. And that there are bad actions maybe but there are no bad people. People are awesome. And if we just help people see that within themselves, so much can change. And I've already begun to see a lot of the breakdowns of things. Through the organization I've already begun to see how this is going to become a possibility. And I know a lot of people call me crazy and naive or a dreamer, but I believe in it so much because I really believe in people so much.

Gregory Hansell
You know, I think it's so important. It's something I talk about a lot, actually, here at the office and on my own Facebook and things like that. You know, everyone right now has decided to kind of double-down on their bias and their way of thinking, and what is really needed instead are dialogue and empathy and understanding. It's so sorely needed, what you're doing, so I thank you. I wanted to underscore something you said that I think is really important for the listeners, which is that you need donations to help make this happen. Tell people at home how they can help.

Orly Wahba
Wow, we definitely do. I mean, there are various ways to get involved and to offer your help. One is you can donate on the website. That's LIFE VEST INSIDE DOT COM SLASH DONATE and we use Network for Good for our donations so everything is extremely secure. You can donate there. Also, in addition, you can also go to our store on the website and you can purchase Acts of Kindness cards, which are really awesome. You know, we have various products; t-shirts and folders and the Kindness Boomerang DVD, so there are various things on the website that you can, you know, purchase as well. And then we also have really great opportunities for sponsors or people that are interested in being, whether it be corporate sponsors or individual sponsors, for our Dance for Kindness event, which is a huge event. We have other various events also that go on throughout the year, so people can come onboard to actually sponsor, so not only to help promote, not only to help us continue to, you know, doing what we're doing, but will also benefit them in a tremendous way.

Gregory Hansell
M-hmm. Let me just tell everybody at home that there is really some cool stuff on the website. I was looking at it again just last night. And also some really cool downloads. You can see one on my Twitter background right now. It's stuff you can do to support Life Vest and show, you know, that they matter and that you're happy that they're there. You know, I was listening, like I said earlier, to your TED talk again last night, and, you know, you were telling people as you were coming to a close how kindness can change their lives, but then as a throwaway line you kind of said it's certainly changed mine. I was hoping you could say how what you've experienced in only the few years that Life Vest has been around, how this mission has changed your life.

Orly Wahba
Oh my goodness. It has changed my life completely. I mean, like I said earlier, really, this concept of kindness has been part of me since I was a little 4-year-old kid, seriously. I mean, at 4 years old I remember my dad tucking me into bed and, you know, my dad is a very firm believer, he's a dreamer also, and so he allowed me to kind of dream of being able to do anything in this world. And it was always a big part of me. Like, I felt in my heart that there was something big I was supposed to do in this world. I really did. And what I wanted it to be is I wanted to be able to bring the world together so much. I know it sounds like, you know, like a little kid, but you know what, I hope I always remain a little kid, you know. My family calls me Peter Pan. I have like the Peter Pan syndrome. I'm still like 9 years old in my head. But it's always been a part of my journey and I feel like as my life has moved on, I've gotten pieces of the puzzle, you know. Teaching was a very big part for me. I would never be where I am today without those years and experience teaching. My students did more for me than I can even begin to tell you. There's not a day that goes by, not one day that I don't think about my students. I love them so beyond much and they actually got me to this point. And throughout this journey of Life Vest Inside, what it's really done for me is no matter how much I think I love people every day, I realize just how much more I love them. It's changed me in a sense that I don't care how different anybody is. I love people so much, it's also helped me to not judge anybody, to do away with judgements, but to actually understand and be really sensitive to people. So it's really changed my whole entire perspective of everything in life and it's actually allowed me to believe, in these past couple of years and through the messages that people send, that real lasting world change is so possible within our reach.

Gregory Hansell
Yeah.

Orly Wahba
You know? And so, yeah.

Gregory Hansell
And you know, that reminds me, I wanted to ask you, in addition to what, you know, this has meant to you and how your life has changed, what have you learned about people in all of this? You know, you were saying just a couple minutes ago about, you know, people are really awesome, you know, and if they just can empathize with each other and see past these divisions, you know, what do you think about that?

Orly Wahba
Wow, I mean, like I said, I've seen the beauty within people, people that don't see the beauty that's within them. I remember telling, you know, very often telling students of mine or people that I met also through the organization, that I only wish that one day they'd see themselves through my eyes. Because people are really amazing but they don't see it, they don't see their value, they don't see their potential. People need to be reminded of just how special they are. And if there's anything I really would, you know, tell people in general is to believe in yourself. I think that the reason why a lot of animosity and aggression in the world and wars happen is not because people think that they're better than others but it's that people don't actually realize how special they are. They don't actually believe what's in themselves. If a person really believes in themselves, really believes in themselves, then they don't feel threatened that someone else is going to take away what they believe in. They feel so secure in what they believe and so if they understand their value they now recognize the value in all other people and realize that each person is a piece of the puzzle; every piece, different shapes, different colors, but all the same size, and every piece is just as important as the next one. No one's going to hang up a puzzle on their wall with one piece missing. And it's just one small piece but that's the point. Even one piece makes a difference. And that one piece is each and every one of you.

Gregory Hansell
Well I ask every week this last question to all our guests, which is, I think it's an easy one for you, which is, how does their work help to make it a better world? So let me just give you, I only have, unfortunately, about 2 minutes left. Tell us, how do you really believe in your heart that if we all focus on kindness we can really make a huge difference in the world?

Orly Wahba
Wow, okay, 2 minutes, I'm going to go really quickly here. What I would say is, when you do something small for somebody, and if you watch Kindness Boomerang you'll actually see it, it's perfectly understandable when you see it, when you take one small thing on for yourself, and again, it's something small, it's not big, don't worry about making a big huge difference, realize that something small will make that big huge difference. If you take on something small and obtainable and achievable for yourself and actually implement it into your life in terms of kindness, in terms of reaching out to others, the ripples that you will create, the lives that you will affect will be endless. Because when you put something good out there into the world that person feels that energy. And so you're giving them, actually, that feeling that now they're going to take it and actually pass it onto someone else because kindness spreads through 3 degrees of separation, so just imagine the amount of lives that can be changed.

Gregory Hansell
Yeah.

Orly Wahba
And it all starts with something small. And if you want to test it, definitely sign up to become a Life Vest Inside kindness ambassador. We have that on our website also and you get a weekly kindness task that's short, it takes 2 to 3 minutes to complete, and you get to connect with global ambassadors from across the world that are sharing their experiences and their stories of acts of kindness. It's not about changing our whole world around. It's just about taking something small into our life that we're going to implement. One small thing will create, like I said, ripples that are endless.

Raymond Hansell
Wow, that's an amazing piece of advice. It's Ray, Orly. I'm back and we need to wrap up at this point but I just want to make a couple comments here for our listeners. You mentioned that one piece makes a big difference, and believe me, based on your life story you're making that piece a big difference in the world. I got to tell you, we interview a lot of people but you are truly one of the great BetterWorldians that we've talked to.

Orly Wahba
That really means a lot to me and I really do believe that every person is so great, every person. I mean, I wouldn't be able to do this without each person, you know, comments, just seeing all the comments that people send to me, that's what keeps me going. So when they're like, oh, I can't really do anything but I just wrote this nice comment, I'm like, you don't know what you did, you just inspired me for the next whole year because with that comment you energized me in a way like I can't begin to explain. So you can never make a mistake when it comes to kindness.

Raymond Hansell
No, no you cant. And, you know, you're certainly not making any mistakes with all the work that you're doing. As Greg said earlier, I've now picked up a new expression, it's called beyond awesome. This show, this experience, and the work that you're doing truly is beyond awesome. So I'd like to congratulate you for the work that you're doing. For our listeners, I'd like to also mention that you can find out more about Orly Wahba and Life Vest Inside by going to LIFE VEST INSIDE DOT COM. Please also watch the amazing video, Kindness Boomerang, on YouTube. Orly, once again, we'd all like to thank you for joining us today on BetterWorldians Radio.

Orly Wahba
Thank you so much. I hope you guys connect through our social media channel.

Gregory Hansell
Definitely.

Raymond Hansell
We'll definitely be connecting with you. It sounds like we have a lot of parallel paths and we may be on a very similar journey. For our listeners, please join us next week. We'll be talking about the Lessons Learned from Mister Rogers. We'll have two great guests who will talk about what their personal relationships have meant with them with the late Fred Rogers and what it's taught them about life. We also have an excellent line-up of guests coming in the weeks ahead, and if you know an unsung BetterWorldian who would make a great guest on our show, please send us an email at RADIO AT BETTERWORLDIANS DOT COM. Once again, we'd like to thank everyone today for listening and please join us on the BetterWorldian community at BETTERWORLDIANS DOT COM. Until next time, everyone, please be a BetterWorldian.