Thursday, May 30, 2013

#Fitchthehomeless - A Humorous Take on a Very Serious Problem

By this time, I'm sure most of you have come across the #Fitchthehomeless hashtags and references saturating every social media platform we're registered for.

For those of you who aren't a part of the cool kids clique, please stop reading my blog. I kid, of course.

If you haven't had a chance to see what all the buzz is about I encourage you to check out this short video by the genius behind all the hullabaloo, Greg Karber:



The gist: a man so disgusted by the inclusionary business model of a deluded clothing company, decides to hit them where it hurts - their brand image.

If you paid careful attention, you'll catch the fact that this video was meant to be over the top. In a hyperbolic gesture, Karber goes about handing out clothing to the homeless of Los Angeles' Skid Row.

I've been reading articles, blogs, and watching various news reports on this newest of hashtags (#Fitchthehomeless), and have found many vilifying Karber and his actions. I'll admit, I was a little apprehensive when I first saw the video. However, after giving it a few more runs, and studying the references made by its creator, I jumped on board. I only wished I was misguided enough in my previous clothing purchases, to have something of A&F's to donate. I, however, remain as uncool as I did in high school. The coolest thing in my closet was a Sesame Street t-shirt from Target. Needless to say, I was severely downhearted I could not offer any firsthand assistance in this movement.

You have to remember, as terrible as the "rebranding" might seem, it's meant as a poke at Abercrombie & Fitch. It's not about homeless being lesser people because Karber is portraying them as such. He's making a commentary on A&F's perception of the homeless. During the introductory section of his video he shows us a screenshot of an article that states A&F would rather burn clothing than donate it to the homeless, according to an anonymous source within management at the organization.

Check it:
http://elitedaily.com/news/world/abercrombie-says-it-would-rather-burn-clothes-than-give-them-to-poor-people/



Karber didn't say to himself, "Which group of people can I exploit to get the word out on how much I hate Abercrombie & Fitch." He read various articles that showed him the little respect A&F had for those they didn't consider worthy of their brand. He also alludes to an interview with A&F's CEO, Mike Jeffries, which shows just how deluded and full of himself the man at the helm of this clothier is.

The video is a call to action, more so to change the perception in general about exclusivity. There are many other reasons A&F is reprehensible as a company, however, this is the one that has been more polarizing. I'm just calling out the fact that Karber is playing off of their own words and biases. I'm assuming his rationale was, if A&F would rather burn their clothing than donate it to the homeless, then the best way to get back at them would be to give it to the homeless. He wasn't trying to demean anyone. However, there will always be criticism. If he'd gone the overweight angle, he probably would have caught flack for altering A&F clothing and having overweight friends wear it. 

Karber himself urges viewers to push the movement forward, not by following his example and handing the clothing out to strangers on the street. He suggests gathering all A&F clothing and donating it to a homeless shelter. His handing out the clothing on the streets of L.A. was simply a gesture, his movement personified. He didn't intend to bring the homeless down a peg, the pegging was angled towards A&F.

Watch the video, and form your own opinion. At the very least enjoy it for what it is, a funny video. Approximately 7.5 million views can't be wrong. It's got some pretty priceless zingers and a cool reference to my favorite movie of all time. 

It was during this clip I also remembered another touching video about the life of the homeless. 

I'm sure we've all been guilty at some point, of ignoring that homeless person begging at the entrance of some grocery store, or next to some freeway/highway exit.

Please take the time to watch this short interview with Ronald Davis:



Weeks had gone by since I was first exposed to this clip, and I'd forgotten all about Ronald, until my workout at the gym yesterday. I was listening to Pandora when "What It's Like" by Everlast came on. 

The haunting introductory lyrics beg the question, "Have I been guilty of indifference?":

We've all seen the man at the liquor store beggin' for your change
The hair on his face is dirty, dreadlocked and full of mange
He asked a man for what he could spare with shame in his eyes
"Get a job, you fuckin' slob"'s all he replied

[CHORUS]
God forbid you ever had to walk a mile in his shoes
'Cause then you really might know what it's like to sing the blues




I've been guilty of indifference. I've ignored that man, stared straight ahead, sunglasses hiding the fact that I can clearly see him. I haven't gone as far as muttering anything disrespectfully. However, poisonous indifference is sometimes more hurtful than an actual comment, as Davis tells us.

Davis' honesty motivated many to act. Since his story went viral online, he's seen the positive influence of those who care. However, not every story will have a happy ending, or garner a huge following like the stories of Ronald Davis or Ted Williams. (Who can forget the Man with the Golden Voice?)

I remember my childhood in Los Angeles, and the mornings I spent with my father buying McDonald's for the homeless in our community. In hindsight, I probably should have purchased healthier food. Now I have to live with the regret of providing them with poisonous sustenance. But that's neither here nor there.

The point is, we don't all have to try to change the world by handing out clothing or food to the homeless of our city. We don't need to go out with a camera and interview the man with a cup full of change at the nearest freeway exit. We just have to remember to be kind. 

No one knows our story, much like we don't know everyone else's life. It's the gestures, the nods, the smiles, and the acknowledgements (or lack thereof) that make this world what it is. We need to be better for the sake of being better, treat each other with respect, and do whatever we can to have some sort of positive impact on our surroundings.

We may never know what it's like to walk in the shoes of those less fortunate, but we can do our best to ensure they can still walk on with their respect intact.

I'd like to give a special thanks to Greg Karber for looking this post over, and ensuring I didn't take anything out of context!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Big Runner and The Little Runner!

The story of Julie Weiss isn't a new one. I was just late to the party.

A few months ago I came across the story of the Marathon Goddess, Julie Weiss. Hers is the inspirational story of a person determined to make a difference. For those of you who don’t know, Julie’s story started with the loss of her father.  

If you haven't heard her inspirational story, please take the time to watch the short YouTube video below (also be sure to follow her YouTube channel and watch the videos she's uploaded):



Not only did she complete the challenging task of running 52 marathons during the year span she'd allotted for herself, but she was able to raise over $180,000 in the process. 

Though her 52 marathon project ended with the completion of the LA Marathon in March 2013, she's maintained her pace and continued making an impact in the fight against pancreatic cancer. It's a shame I found out about it as she was wrapping her project up. I would have made the trip to my home town to see her cross the finish line on her epic 52nd marathon run. 

Even though she successfully completed this impossible endeavor, she's refused to rest on her laurels, and continued to push herself to do more, because there is always more to do when it comes to making this world a better place. She now has the goal of raising one million dollars to fund research for a cure to end pancreatic cancer once and for all.

Hers is truly an inspiring story. In the face of injury, obstacles, and fatigue she prevailed and conquered the marathon, a feat which (legend has it) killed the man, whose original run inspired the modern athletic event. She did this not once, but 52 times. Not only is she alive and kicking, she's still running, and serving as a role-model to those who are also driven to make a change.

One such person that has taken Julie's example to heart is a little girl, who can't be more than 10 years old by the looks of this picture off one of Julie's Facebook posts:


Julie and Avery stand in the Marathon Goddess pose at the PurpleStride LA event!
One 5k a month?? If this little girl can do it, what's stopping me?

I don't know who this little girl is, save for the name given to her by Julie on this post this last Sunday, but I find inspiration in the fact that someone so young can have the inclination to help. 

Avery is my hero! I wish her the best in her project and hope she reaches her goal successfully! To Avery's parents, we need more parents like you guys in this world! You've raised a magnificent little girl who is a part of a movement of selfless individuals that is changing our world for the better! 

I've got a 5k to look forward to in July, but little Avery has motivated me to start hunting and look for more opportunities to combine my fitness goals with my love for getting involved. Don't worry everyone, I'll train more carefully so that I don't bust like I did for my marathon training. 

I've linked up a thumbnail of the Color Me Rad 5k I'll be running in Saint Louis, July 28.

I encourage you to get involved. You don't have to commit to a years worth of fitness endeavors like Avery or Julie, but maybe volunteering at one of these events near you would be a place to start. The amount of events held yearly throughout the US is staggering. 

To learn more about how you can help the Marathon Goddess, Julie Weiss, in her fight against pancreatic cancer (and also read her blog about her 52 marathon journey), hit the link below:

http://www.marathongoddess.com


To learn about the organization Julie is working with, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, visit: 

http://www.pancan.org


To learn about the PurpleStride events nationwide hit the link:

http://www.purplestride.org

I hope to bump into you ladies on one of my runs! Keep up the good work, and thank you for the inspiration! 




     

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Publicity For a More Than Worthwhile Cause

It's not often I'm inspired by the actions of another.

Wait, that sounded extremely egotistical. Let me rephrase. I don't mean to say that I'm so blinded by my own self-righteousness that I ignore the inspiring, motivational, and selfless actions of another. What I mean to say is that, as is the case with everyone else, I am so busy by the insignificant details of my own existence, I blind myself to the things happening in the lives of those around me. This isn't an epiphany I had. It didn't just dawn on me that I'm busy, and so is everyone else. I'm just mulling over the concept because of something that served as a "pick me up," so to speak, and motivated me to continue after what's been making me happy.

A few weeks ago I came across this status update:
Can't believe this only got 6 likes.

That's right! I made it extra-large so you could see what motivation looks like!

This guy and I go back ages. I still remember when we backed each other up during a junior high school fight. (In hindsight, it wasn't much of a fight to be honest. I got kicked in my nether-parts and Monty had to drag me away from the scene of the crime to avoid getting caught. We were all idiot kids back then. btw sorry Vlad. I deserved that kick to the nads.)

But I digress. In the interest of transparency and full-disclosure, I have not donated. But I intend to. I know, I know, good intentions, road to hell. I know. But that's not the point I'm making.

Sometimes we never know the impact our actions could have on someone else. We carry on in our day-to-day, oblivious to the fact that what we do will affect another. Whether it's by putting the cart back in the rack in the grocery store parking lot, spitting that gum out on the sidewalk, or giving that homeless person that solitary nickel bouncing around in your pocket.

I'm inspired by Monty because not only is he pursuing something selfless for the benefit of others, but he's humble enough to ask those around him to lend a hand in bringing his desires to fruition.

He's getting an experience of a lifetime, you say? Getting a trip paid for, you say? Going on a vacation on someone else's dime?

Hit the link and explore just what exactly the proceeds of this campaign are funding:
http://www.gofundme.com/1x64o4

For those of you who actually visited thank you. For those of you who didn't, let me break it down. How many of you use your down time to provide medical care to those less fortunate. Who here would expose themselves to things like Malaria, Yellow Fever, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Polio, Tetanus, Diptheria, and of course HIV, just to take a few snapshots of antelope in their natural habitat? I'm crazy, and even I'd be slightly on the fence, right before jumping in with both feet.

I don't mean this post to come off as a diatribe. I just want to show that we don't all have to take 4 weeks off and volunteer in Africa to make this world a better place. Just do something positive, something worthwhile, and post it to your Facebook page, send it in an email blast, text it to a friend. Do something positive that makes you feel good, and share that good feeling with another. It's infectious, and will no doubt become a catalyst for someone else.


In a previous post I wrote of the inspiration a complete stranger (Joe Mihalic) gave me, when I read the tale of his pursuit of something seemingly unattainable. Today I share with you how someone I've known years, has surprised me, motivated me, and inspired me to challenge myself and continue being better than I am.


If you find it in your heart, and in your wallet, please support Monty in his endeavor! Let him have an impact on the life of a couple Kenians.


Also follow his blog to keep updated on his trip! 


To learn more about the organization Monty is working with, or find ways to get involved, check out International Volunteer HQ's website:

http://www.volunteerhq.org

Links:

http://www.gofundme.com/montyyoung

http://montyyoung85.blogspot.com


How could you say no to a face like that?




Friday, March 29, 2013

Another delayed update

I know, I should be updating this more often. Don't judge me.

I'm happy to report there are lot's of things happening on the volunteer front!


First and foremost I'd like to give myself some publicity. I'm going to be running in the Go! St. Louis Marathon this year. Actually, I'm running it this Sunday, April 7th. 


I had it in my head to run the full marathon when I first heard about it, but then an honest assessment of my own capabilities had me reassess my decision and opt for the half-marathon instead. I'm all for the whole "mind over matter" mindset, but I'm also a realist. 


To learn more about the marathon follow the link:

http://www.gostlouis.org/about/our-mission.html

I've been involved with a few awesome organizations out here, and have gotten motivated time and time again to get involved in more important causes. As part of a leadership development course I've been attending, the founder of the Saint Louis Language Immersion School came to speak to us and had a truly motivating message. When I saw this organization listed under the ones you are able to run for, I gained an extra incentive to participate. 


To learn more about the SLLIS follow the link:

http://sllis.wordpress.com/faq/

If you want to make a donation and sponsor me follow the link below (PLEASE):

http://www.crowdrise.com/TeamStLouisLanguageImmersion/fundraiser/alvaroarias

I'm more than likely going to die, so how about you do one last nice thing for me and sponsor my run! 


I will also include that even though I will more than likely meet my untimely demise via this run, I have been lucky enough to execute on some good advice I received from a person I've come to admire a lot. If you haven't read Joe Mihalic's blog about his journey to being debt-free DO IT! 


NOW:

http://nomoreharvarddebt.com/

It was my memory that served me when preparing for this run. He'd mentioned a solid pair of shoe and in my research, decided to go for the style he'd listed.


To read the awesome advice in his post, hit the link:

http://nomoreharvarddebt.com/2012/09/08/saving-money-with-my-time-machine/

Not only did I purchase the same shoe, but also found the same great deal. The color wasn't as cool as Joe's, but the comfort was clear as soon as I put them on. In Joe's words, it is one "HELLUVA" good shoe!! If you're reading this, thanks Joe! You're the man!! 


Thankfully, due to my involvement with this leadership course I've been able to branch out in the Saint Louis area and gain some ground on my goal of giving more of my time to things that are worth it. If I survive this run, I've got some good work ahead of me.


Learn about the great things some of these organizations I'm hopefully going to be helping are doing, and see if there is any way you can get involved as well! 


Saint Vincent Home for Children

http://saintvincenthome.org/index.shtml

Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Saint Louis

http://www.hccstl.com/homepage.aspx

Casa de Salud Saint Louis

http://casadesaludstl.org

There is so much left to do, and I'm happy to report the little progress I've made. I hope some of you have been able to find ways to get involved in your communities, and make a small impact to the world around you.


We'll see what the next update brings! 

Monday, December 31, 2012

Hey there, long time no see...

It's been 249 days, or 8 months 5 days, or 35 weeks, or 5976 hours, or 358,560 minutes, or 21,513,600 seconds, since I last wrote in this blog.

Disappointing, I know. Even after being so jazzed up on my first post. After all the support, all the well-wishing, all the pats on the back and all the positive vibes I simply quit.

"What happened?"

That's the question I've gotten hit with so many times since this endeavor took a small detour. And there's no real way to excuse the fact that I lost drive. I guess all there is to say is a line I'll have to borrow from the movie The Words

"Life happened."

I had a few more volunteering experiences after April 27th, but I didn't follow through on documenting it. One skipped day turned into two, then two into 4 and so the gap grew exponentially, so I went on with my life. 

However, it was during the course of that mundane life that I came across a motivator. I got a jolt of inspiration, all because of another blog.

There I was sitting in front of my computer (for those who are wondering yes, it's a Macbook) and by accident came across this website:

http://nomoreharvarddebt.com

If you have nothing better to do, if you should have something better to do, if you need something to do, if you have enough to do and yet need something even more important to do, READ THAT BLOG!

Whether you're into financial responsibility or not, you need to take the time to read the account of Joe Mihalic, a Harvard Business School graduate that decided he wouldn't be defined by his monthly payment towards a $90k student loan for the better part of his professional life. This story is more than just an story of a guy who wanted to be debt free. It's about passion, drive and focus; things I've been lacking.

It was like a good book I couldn't put down. I don't know if it was the humor, or the down-to-earth characteristics of the author. But I read the whole thing in less than a day. It gave me the renewed focus I'd been needing for a long time.

A very wise person once told me:

I think you’re a perfectionist. I think that in this world, perfectionists have a hard time succeeding. There are those who sometimes manage to do it, but only after they’ve gotten their start by doing things in a “good enough” fashion. You’re obsessing with perfection when “good enough” is what you need to be worrying about. Again, I might be reading too far into this, but I remain convinced that you have self-doubt, a doubt about executing flawlessly, when in fact, just executing imperfectly is what you need to be doing.

Talk about hitting the nail on the head! 

It reminds me of Coach Lombardi's famous quote:

"Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence."

So I'm going to chase after perfection, and hope for the best.


So.... What have I been up to in these last 249 days, or 8 months 5 days, or... well you get the idea.

Remember that corp job I declined initially? Well, I ended up taking it.

Do I regret it? Deep down, probably. But if I really meditate on the point, I can't. I'd like to think this relocation has changed me, for the best. I've been living in a suburb a few minutes outside of St. Louis, Missouri. 

One thing I will say, the Beach Boys were right when they sang the lyrics, "the Midwest farmers' daughters, really make you feel alright." The girls out here are gorgeous! Sorry CA girls... just gotta call it like I see it! And that's all I'll say about that.

I know, focus... focus! 

With regards to the message I'm trying to promote with this blog, I have to share that I haven't done much to advance my work in this part of the county. I've had a few opportunities to get involved, however, because of the position I took and the responsibilities I took with it, I haven't been able to allocate any time to volunteering.

After almost 6 months of working here I'm ready to buckle down. I've made a few connections that will allow me the opportunities I need to get back on track. I no longer have the focus of volunteering only for a full year. All I know is that I want to invest my time (the little that I have to myself) in more fulfilling ways. There is so much to do, and here I am watching Lost on Netflix. Yeah, I know... I know.

I know it's cliché, but I think the new year couldn't come at a better time.

Time to do something worthwhile.



Friday, April 27, 2012

Shadow Session

A very quick update, seeing as how I had a preparation day today. I went for my Shadow Session and pseudo-orientation for my participation in the Reading Partners program as a reading tutor.

I got to submit my paperwork and get brought up to speed on the program and what my responsibilities will entail.

I didn't take any pictures, since I didn't want to be that creepy guy walking around an elementary school campus taking pictures.... not the best way to go down in LA.

I'd like to thank Jourdan and Nicki from Reading Partners Los Angeles for getting me setup!

To learn more about this organization please visit:
http://www.readingpartners.org/


Reading Partners is dedicated to transforming struggling young readers into confident readers who are excited about learning.
How we do it:
  • Focus on children from low-income communities.
  • Give one-on-one instruction at the student’s reading level.
  • Recruit and train community volunteers to work with children.
  • Partner with high-need elementary schools to offer an effective program on campus.
  • Provide a way for volunteers to give a small amount of their time to make a huge difference in a child’s life.
If you would like to volunteer or donate please visit their website and learn more about how you can do it. 

You can also follow them on Twitter @ReadingPartners or the location I'm involved with directly @RPlosangeles

And tomorrow I get to meet with the director of The Eli Home in Anaheim to see how I can be used there.

Goodnight everyone!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Let's fill that boot again!

What a day!

Another day with Fill the Boot turned out to be pretty awesome! It was a pretty busy day for the firefighters of Firehouse 58! They worked pretty hard. I had a ton of fun and even though I am fighting to keep my eyelids open at this point, it was all truly rewarding!

If you ever get a chance to volunteer with this program you will never regret it!


How could you say no to a face like that?
see more pictures at:
http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.364997786869575.71904.351718844864136&type=1

I hope that all the events I'm involved with over the next year have volunteers that have the energy of the men and women of the LAFD and the people of the MDA. I could not have asked for a more awesome Wednesday.

Even though Channel 4 Weather said it was going to be col with off-and-on showers, it turned out to be a pretty sunny day, much to the dismay of everyone involved. I got a pretty nice sunburn, even though I was using sunscreen.

Special thanks to Soda Pops (http://sodapopsla.com/) and Domino's (http://dominos.com/) for providing sustenance for all those involved today!

I have to repeat this from Monday's post:
I'd like to thank the MDA (specifically Whitney M. of MDA Los Angeles for coordinating this and setting me up with today). To learn more about the MDA and how you can help please visit:
http://www.mda.org/

You can also follow the LA MDA on twitter @mdalosangeles Follow all the updates over the next two days by searching the hashtag #filltheboot

To get more updates on the LAFD follow them @LAFD

Also, to get more info on the event please visit:
http://lafd.blogspot.com/2012/04/help-firefighters-in-los-angeles-fill.html


As you may now be aware this was only a three day event, however keep an eye out for anything else that may come up to support the MDA. If you can please get involved! YOU WILL NEVER REGRET IT! Visit the sites and see if there are any upcoming and local events near you.

Well, tomorrow is my shadow session with Reading Partners LA. Time for bed.