Inspirational News ArticlesExcerpts of Key Inspirational News Articles in Media
William Swing, head of the Episcopal Church in California for 27 years - he retired in 2006 - is hardly letting up. His latest endeavor is nothing less than uniting the religions of the world. "For this, I have been called the Antichrist, New Age, nuts and an apostate," Swing said with a smile in his office in the Presidio of San Francisco. United Religions Initiative, marking its 10th anniversary this year, is in 78 countries, bringing together Christians and Jews, Hindus and Muslims, missionaries and animists, and Mormons and Mennonites. The organization has taken orphans off the streets of Pakistan, brokered peace talks in northern Uganda and integrated child soldiers back into their villages, and drawn Palestinian and Jewish women together in the Middle East. The idea for United Religions Initiative came about in 1993, when Swing was asked to host at Grace Cathedral the 50th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations. "I said, 'Sure,' and went to bed that night thinking the nations of the world have met every day for 50 years, yet the religions of the world have not spoken. So I figured if there is a United Nations, there has to be a United Religions." He and his wife set out in 1996 on a global tour to meet religious leaders of the world, including the Dalai Lama at his palace in India. It took an additional four years of planning, debating and writing the organization's charter for United Religions to be founded.
Before Alex Taguchi proposed to high school flame Jenny Lee, the 26-year-old decided to liquidate about $11,000 in credit card debt, provided he could find a payment plan affordable on his salary as a software support specialist. His bank offered him a debt consolidation loan at 16.5 percent, but the Mountain View man decided to get a quote from a new online financial service that matches borrowers with lenders to give each better deals than are otherwise generally available. Today Taguchi is paying $380 a month on a three-year, 13.88 percent note issued through Lending Club.com, one of two Bay Area firms pioneering a new industry called peer-to-peer lending. The other is Prosper.com. Lending Club of Redwood City and Prosper of San Francisco have figured out how to perform [the] two-fisted function, of taking money in the one hand and lending it with the other, in a way that allows aspiring borrowers to specify how much they want, and for what purpose, and also gives them an overall risk profile - comparable, say, to a search engine ranking. These two online lending rivals then give potential investors the option to fund some of these loans at fixed rates and fixed terms - and interest levels designed to compete with bonds, stocks and other financial instruments.
Note: This exciting development may eventually change the face of banking, allowing us to lend to and borrow from each other directly without the need of intermediary bankers.
It’s striking that the most innovative activists aren’t necessarily the ones with the most resources, or the best tools. Maggie Doyne epitomizes this truth, for she began her philanthropic work as an 19-year-old financed by her baby-sitting savings. Yet she has somehow figured out how to run a sophisticated aid project in a remote area of Nepal. She took a “gap year” after high-school graduation and ended up in northern India, working with needy children. “The first little girl I met was Hema,” Doyne remembers. Then 6 or 7 years old (few children know their precise age), Hema spent her time breaking rocks and scavenging garbage and had no chance to go to school. Doyne, who decided to take Hema under her wing and pay for her education: “I knew I couldn’t do anything about a million orphans, but what if I started with this girl?” So she took Hema to school and paid $7 for the girl’s school fees and another $8 for a uniform so that she could enter kindergarten. “It became addictive,” Doyne said. “I said, if I can help one girl, why not 5? Why not 10? And along with scholarships, they needed the most basic things: food, shelter, clothing.” Doyne ... telephoned her parents with a strange and urgent request: Can you wire me the money in my savings account? Doyne returned to New Jersey and began to take odd jobs and proselytize for her shelter. People in her hometown thought that she was nuts, but in a benign way — and they wrote checks. After a few months, when Doyne had raised $25,000, she moved back to Nepal to oversee construction of the shelter, called the Kopila Valley Children’s Home.
The White House is going solar after all - a home improvement that carries modest energy benefits but much larger symbolic importance. It isn't the first time the White House has used solar energy. President Jimmy Carter put 32 solar panels on the roof in the late 1970s, but President Ronald Reagan removed them in 1986. Two grass-roots campaigns have recently been lobbying President Obama to restore them as a sign of his commitment to renewable energy. The roof of the White House residence will get solar panels and a solar water heater, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and the White House Council on Environmental Quality's chair, Nancy Sutley. A campaign launched by Oakland, Calif.-based Sungevity called Solar on the White House and another by 350.org founder Bill McKibben tried to get Obama to reinstall solar panels. "The White House did the right thing, and for the right reasons: They listened to the Americans who asked for solar on their roof, and they listened to the scientists and engineers who told them this is the path to the future," McKibben said in a statement. "If it has anything like the effect of the White House garden, it could be a trigger for a wave of solar installations across the country and around the world," he said.
Violent crime declined 5.3 percent last year, the third straight annual fall, the FBI reported [on September 13]. The drop was accompanied by a 4.6 percent drop in property crime, marking the seventh consecutive year that nonviolent crime has dropped. The figures challenge theories among some criminal analysts that crime tends to rise in times of uncertain economies. In the 1970s and early 1980s, when the economy went south, crime rates went up. Inflation was high then, which could account for the different reaction. James Alan Fox, a criminologist at Northeastern University, said that although the downward trend is encouraging, the economy “could come back to haunt us’’ because of a nearly 10 percent drop per capita in police budgets in the past few years. “There is a connection between the economy and crime rates, but it’s not that when the economy is bad, people go out and commit crime,’’ said Fox. “When the economy is bad,’’ he said, “there are budget cuts. Less is spent on youth crime prevention and crime control on the street.’’
Note: Robbery and violent crime rates have dropped over 50% since 1994. Take a look at the graphs on the US Department of Justice website available here. Why isn't this highly inspiring news given top headlines?
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, a heart-broken couple in Australia cradles the body of their newborn baby. The doctor declared the little boy dead saying that he had no vital signs. But then something remarkable happened: a twitch, a blink and what some people are now calling a miracle. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) This is Jamie Ogg, a tiny little boy born at just 27 weeks, weighing just one kilo; a little boy who has defied all medical odds, whose survival can only be described as miracle. He should be dead. In fact, the doctor who delivered him pronounced him dead. Overwhelmed with grief, Kate and David were given Jamie for a cuddle; to hold and say good-bye to the son they believed it was dead. It's normal practice, but what happened was far, far from normal. Although Jamie had no visible signs of life, he was occasionally gasping for air, a reflex the doctor had told the new parents to suspect. The couple did everything they could to soothe Jamie in his last minutes. This video taken by a midwife clearly shows Jamie's movements, but, still, there were doubts. So in one last ditch attempt, Kate gave Baby Jamie some breast milk on her finger. To her amazement, he took it.
Note: To watch a video of this highly inspiring story, click here.
Let's say you were at Trader Joe's Menlo Park, Calif., and you saw a woman standing at the checkout counter who couldn't find her wallet. Would you pick up the tab? Well, that's what Carolee Hazard did last summer. When she saw that Jenni Ware wasn't able to pay the bill because her wallet was missing, a knee-jerk reaction inspired her to hand over $207, the exact amount Ware needed for her groceries. The next day, Hazard received a check for $300 in the mail and a thank you card from Ware suggesting that she use the extra $93 dollars to get a massage. Uncomfortable with keeping the money, Hazard asked her Facebook friends what they'd do. Several suggested giving it to charity, which Carolee liked a lot, and she decided to match the money with $93 of her own. Again, she turned to her Facebook friends asking to whom should she donate the $186. Given the food connection, she decided to donate the money to her local Second Harvest Food Bank. To her great surprise, a friend added another $93. So did another and another and another! Soon the story was being posted and reposted on Facebook, inspiring others to donated as well. Thus was born the 93 Dollar Club. In just one year, the 93 Dollar Club has raised a whopping $100,000 for Second Harvest.
Note: For lots more highly inspiring articles from the major media, click here.
Many of our leaders have a tendency to see the Islamic world as a single, terrifying monolith. Feisal Abdul Rauf of the Cordoba Initiative is one of America’s leading thinkers of Sufism, the mystical form of Islam, which in terms of goals and outlook couldn’t be farther from the violent Wahhabism of the jihadists. His videos and sermons preach love, the remembrance of God (or “zikr”) and reconciliation. His slightly New Agey rhetoric makes him sound, for better or worse, like a Muslim Deepak Chopra. Such moderate, pluralistic Sufi imams are the front line against the most violent forms of Islam. In the most radical parts of the Muslim world, Sufi leaders risk their lives for their tolerant beliefs, every bit as bravely as American troops on the ground in Baghdad and Kabul do. Sufism is the most pluralistic incarnation of Islam — accessible to the learned and the ignorant, the faithful and nonbelievers — and is thus a uniquely valuable bridge between East and West. The great Sufi saints like the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi held that all existence and all religions were one, all manifestations of the same divine reality. What was important was not the empty ritual of the mosque, church, synagogue or temple, but the striving to understand that divinity can best be reached through the gateway of the human heart: that we all can find paradise within us, if we know where to look. In some ways Sufism, with its emphasis on love rather than judgment, represents the New Testament of Islam.
Death rates in children under 5 are dropping in many countries at a surprisingly fast pace, according to a new report based on data from 187 countries from 1970 to 2010. Worldwide, 7.7 million children are expected to die this year — still an enormous number, but a vast improvement over the 1990 figure of 11.9 million. On average, death rates have dropped by about 2 percent a year from 1990 to 2010, and in many regions, even some of the poorest in Africa, the declines have started to accelerate, according to the report [in] The Lancet, a medical journal. Some parts of Latin America, north Africa and the Middle East have had declines as steep as 6 percent a year. Health experts say the figures mean that global efforts to save children’s lives have started working, better and faster than expected. Vaccines, AIDS medicines, vitamin A supplements, better treatment of diarrhea and pneumonia, insecticide-treated bed nets to prevent malaria and more education for women are among the factors that have helped lower death rates, said Dr. Christopher J. L. Murray, an author of the report [from] the University of Washington, in Seattle.
Geeta was 9 when she began wearing makeup, staying up until 2 a.m. and having sex with as many as 60 men a day. The daughter of Nepalese peasant farmers, Geeta -- now 26 -- had been sold to a brothel in India by a member of her extended family. It was not until Geeta was 14 that a police officer rescued her and brought her to a safe house compound run by Anuradha Koirala. The 61-year-old woman and her group, Maiti Nepal, have been fighting for more than 16 years to rescue and rehabilitate thousands of Nepal's sex trafficking victims. By raiding brothels, patrolling the India-Nepal border and providing safe shelter and support services, Koirala and Maiti Nepal have helped rescue and rehabilitate more than 12,000 Nepali women and girls since 1993. According to the U.S. State Department, some 10,000 to 15,000 women and girls from Nepal are trafficked to India and then sexually exploited each year. The group has facilities throughout Nepal and India, but most of the rehabilitation work takes place at its main campus in Kathmandu, Nepal. Koirala said girls from the brothels arrive empty-handed, sick, in many cases pregnant or with small children, and "psychologically broken." "When the girl first comes to Maiti Nepal, we never, never ask them a question. We just let them [be] for as long as they need. We let them play, dance, walk, talk to a friend," Koirala said. "They are afraid at first, but eventually they will talk to us on their own." The group also takes in rape and domestic violence survivors, as well as abandoned children. "I cannot say no to anybody," Koirala said. "Everybody comes to Maiti Nepal."
Note: For lots more on the work of this brave and caring woman to stop sex slavery and support the victims, click here.
"Green" no longer just symbolizes money at business schools. So-called green MBAs - master of business administration programs that focus on sustainability - are a fast-growing part of the academic landscape, incorporating sustainability into all coursework. The [San Francisco] Bay Area is home to two pioneering programs that grant green MBAs - the Presidio Graduate School (www.presidioedu.org) with a campus in San Francisco's Presidio, and the Green MBA program (www.greenmba.com) at Dominican University in San Rafael. Other local MBA programs increasingly are going green, too. Stanford ranks No. 4, and UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business No. 6 in "Beyond Grey Pinstripes," a biannual ranking that spotlights MBA programs that integrate social, environmental and ethical issues. Green MBA programs say they teach students to pay attention to the triple bottom line - people, profits and planet. Graduates of local green MBA programs [are] trying to use their degrees as a force for positive change.
Note: Click on the Chronicle link above to read the interviews with successful "Green MBAs".
Scientists are taking a new look at hallucinogens, which became taboo among regulators after enthusiasts like Timothy Leary promoted them in the 1960s with the slogan ďż˝Turn on, tune in, drop out.ďż˝ Now, using rigorous protocols and safeguards, scientists have won permission to study once again the drugsďż˝ potential for treating mental problems and illuminating the nature of consciousness. Researchers from around the world are gathering this week in San Jose, Calif., for the largest conference on psychedelic science held in the United States in four decades. They plan to discuss studies of psilocybin and other psychedelics for treating depression in cancer patients, obsessive-compulsive disorder, end-of-life anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction to drugs or alcohol. Scientists are especially intrigued by the similarities between hallucinogenic experiences and the life-changing revelations reported throughout history by religious mystics and those who meditate. These similarities have been identified in neural imaging studies conducted by Swiss researchers and in experiments led by Roland Griffiths, a professor of behavioral biology at Johns Hopkins. In one of Dr. Griffithsďż˝s first studies, involving 36 people with no serious physical or emotional problems, he and colleagues found that psilocybin could induce what the experimental subjects described as a profound spiritual experience with lasting positive effects for most of them.
Note: For key reports on health issues from reliable sources, click here.
For three years, little Cameron Mott’s life was a nightmarish succession of violent seizures that consumed her days and threatened her life. Finally, doctors told her parents there was a way to stop them: All they had to do was remove half of Cameron’s brain. “It was very scary, because you just can’t imagine what your child will be like after such a dramatic brain surgery,” Shelly Mott, [Cameron's mother, said.] Doctors put a name on [Cameron's] condition: Rasmussen’s syndrome, a condition that causes the destruction of one side of the brain. The solution was radical. It’s called a hemispherectomy, which means the removal of half of the brain. Since the left side of the body is controlled by the right side of the brain, doctors knew that Cameron would be paralyzed on her left side when she awoke. But they also knew that the brains of children have amazing abilities to rewire themselves. Cameron was immobilized for the first two days after the surgery to allow her brain to stabilize. Then she went into an intensive physical therapy program. Four weeks after the surgery, she walked out of the hospital. The agonizing decision the Motts had had to make turned out to be right. Cameron was able to return to school, where she is now in the second grade and a good student. Her physical therapy sessions have just recently ended, and she can run and play. “I want to be a ballerina when I grow up,” Cameron said.
Nearly 21 years ago, Patty Webster landed her dream job as an adventure tour guide in the Peruvian Amazon. But as she shared the area's beauty and culture with tourists, she realized there was a darker side to the rainforest paradise. "I saw how poor they were and realized that people were dying because they didn't have medical care," Webster said. She started sharing her supplies with the locals and soon began waking up to find people waiting outside her mosquito net to ask her for medicine. At one point, Webster -- who had no medical training -- gave someone stitches, following instructions from a book. Since 1993, Webster has been bringing medical relief to some of Peru's poorest and most remote areas through her nonprofit, now known as Amazon Promise. Webster ... and her volunteers have provided free health care and education to more than 55,000 people. Today, she runs Amazon Promise from Iquitos, considered the most populous city in the world that can't be reached by road. It's in the northeastern corner of the country, in the middle of the rainforest, and is the capital of Peru's largest and most remote region. She organizes several expeditions to these underserved areas every year. Each trip is staffed by adventure-seeking medical volunteers from the West -- often from U.S. medical schools -- and Peruvian health professionals. A traditional shaman, or healer, frequently accompanies them.
Before the words "whole grain" and "organic" became part of Americans' everyday vocabulary, Bob Moore knew the importance of healthful eating. In 1978, he started Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods, as a small family-run business in Oregon selling stone mill-ground whole grains. The company has since grown into a multi-million dollar business that sells more than 400 whole grain products including flours, hot cereals, and organic and gluten-free products. Moore's work is a way of life and his employees are a second family, which is why he announced this week that he's handing over the keys to his 209 employees. Moore said he's gotten countless buy-out offers over the years, but he couldn't envision selling the business to a stranger. "It's the only business decision that I could make," he said. "I don't think there's anybody worthy to run this company but the people who built it. I have employees with me right now that have been with me for 30 years. They just were committed to staying with me now and they're going to own the company." The company will now be run by an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) -- the idea being that a company's stock is put in a retirement plan for its employees, but the stock is never held or bought directly by individuals. When a vested employee retires, he can pull out money from the trust.
Do people prefer to spread good news or bad news? Would we rather scandalize or enlighten? Which stories do social creatures want to share, and why? Now some answers are emerging thanks to a rich new source of data: you, Dear Reader. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have intensively studied the New York Times list of most-e-mailed articles, checking it every 15 minutes for more than six months, analyzing the content of thousands of articles and controlling for factors like the placement in the paper or on the Web home page. According to the Penn researchers, Jonah Berger and Katherine A. Milkman, people preferred e-mailing articles with positive rather than negative themes, and they liked to send long articles on intellectually challenging topics. Perhaps most of all, readers wanted to share articles that inspired awe, an emotion that the researchers investigated after noticing how many science articles made the list. “Science kept doing better than we expected,” said Dr. Berger, a social psychologist and a professor of marketing at Penn’s Wharton School. “We anticipated that people would share articles with practical information about health or gadgets, and they did, but they also sent articles about paleontology and cosmology."
David Docter and his neighbor on Capitol Hill share a lawn mower and a pressure washer. "Why should we have two pressure washers when I use it twice a year and he uses it twice a year?" asks Docter, who applies similar logic to the mower and to an Oregon Coast cabin he and his wife, Alicia, share with a dozen other families. Two decades ago, when they bought into the cabin, it would have been tough to afford alone. Now, each family gets to use it several weeks a year for minimal expense. These sharing arrangements are small steps. But through them, each family has lightened its footprint, freed up cash and fix-it time, and found confidence in cooperation. Which leads to a logical question: If sharing stuff is so environmentally and economically sensible, why don't more people do it? Why do so many of us have hedge trimmers languishing and taking up space in our garages? Why are huge RVs parked in driveways and boats sitting in slips for 50 weeks at a time? Because sharing is scary. Ask anybody. There's a reason why Nolo Press' recent book, The Sharing Solution: How to Save Money, Simplify Your Life & Build Community, includes "agreements and forms." Long chapters discuss such issues as responsibilities and conflict resolution.
It played like a scene from a holiday movie – a mystery couple, who didn’t leave their names or numbers, walked into a restaurant, finished their meal and then set off a chain reaction of generosity that lasted for hours. That’s just what employees at the Aramingo Diner in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia said a man and a woman did during their breakfast shift Saturday morning. “It was magical. I had tears in my eyes because it never happened before. I’ve been here for 10 years, and I’ve never seen anything like that,” said Lynn Willard, a waitress. “I could not believe it. And it continued and continued,” said Willard. “They asked us not to say anything until they left, [and only then to] say, ‘Merry Christmas, that person picked up your check.’” For the next five hours, dozens of patrons got into that same holiday spirit and paid the favor forward. The diner’s manager said not one person was concerned about price of the check – which ran between $12 and $30. “It was a surprise to all of us,” said the diner's manager. “Those who took the check also tipped the waitress. So nobody had to do anything other than pass it on, and that’s what they did. They just passed it forward.” It’s a true holiday story that proves how a small gesture of kindness can create some magic.
In many ways, nothing has changed at the SAME Café in mid-town Denver. A week ago, we brought in the NBC News camera and recorded a typical Friday lunch rush. We were there because a viewer had e-mailed Brian Williams [about] the couple who run the café. Brad and Libby Birky serve great food, but accept in return only what the customer can afford. Some pay nothing, while others, who still have jobs and paychecks pay something, sometimes double or even triple what the meal would cost anywhere else in town. A week after we visited the SAME Café, some things have changed. Within 24 hours, the café's web-site -- www.soallmayeat.org -- was hit with over 4000 e-mails. The messages came from Maine, Alaska, California, and all points in between. They were overwhelmingly warm and supportive. Contributions poured in. So far, the figure is about $13,000. The money is coming in small amounts, primarily from people who will never taste the pizza at the SAME cafe. Brad says they are "flooded" with offers from people from the Denver area to help prepare, cook, and clean up the café. More volunteers than could fit in the café. Brad isn’t turning anyone away, "We'll just schedule them in a few weeks down the road, when the rush is over." After more than two years running the café, Brad knows "the rush" will slow down.
Note: Founded in October 2006, this incredibly inspiring cafe has not gotten nearly the press coverage that it deserves, though you can find a couple major media articles at this link and this one. For a great, five-minute video on this most inspiring cafe, click here.
A grateful shoplifter has returned the favor to a New York convenience store owner who showed him compassion during an attempted robbery earlier this year. It all started in May when Mohammad Sohail was closing his Shirley Express convenience store, about 65 miles east of New York City. A man wielding a baseball bat came barging into the store and demanded money. Sohail had a rifle and quickly pointed it at the robber's face, forcing the man to drop the bat and fall to the ground. What the robber didn't know is that the gun was not loaded. Sohail says the man started to plead with him tearfully saying, "I'm sorry, I have no food. I have no money. My whole family is hungry. Don't call the police. Don't shoot me." The store owner felt bad for the man and gave him $40 and a loaf of bread. He went to get the man some milk but when he returned, Sohail says, the would-be-robber had already fled with the money and food. On Wednesday, the shoplifter made amends with a $50 bill and a thank you letter for saving him from a life of crime. In the letter, the man apologizes for his actions in May and said it was out of desperation to provide for his family. The man, whose identity remains unknown, also said his life has changed drastically and that Sohail's acts inspired him to become a "True Muslim."
Note: To watch a video of this most unusual act of compassion, click here.
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