I had the great pleasure of speaking at the Hillel House in Baruch College this past week. Although I’ve been a teacher for the past 7 years and have spoken in public on countless occasions, I am always extremely nervous before addressing an audience, knowing full well that I may either have the words or I may not.

As a speaker, my main concern is to connect with those in the room and empower them to see their strengths, beauty and the potential they possess to accomplish great things. However, the fear and question always arises – Will I make an impact? Will I get through to even one student? Will I have the words to communicate the message I hold deep within my heart. I believe that these fears are common amongst all speakers.

I have committed myself to Life Vest Inside for one reason – to make a difference! However, in life we always question whether the things we do and the effort we put in truly do make a difference. Then there are those moments when we are able to see first hand the impact we’ve made.

After the event last week, I was honored and touched to receive one of the most heartfelt and powerful emails from one of the students who attended the event. I was so taken aback and her words reminded me of exactly why I do what I do!

So, the next time you have the opportunity to show gratitude to someone in your life – take it! You have no idea just how meaningful kind words can be to the person receiving them. Thank you Aly for making not only my day, but my entire year! I have a good feeling that this is the beginning of a great friendship:)

Below is the email Aly wrote after the event:

“One simple act of kindness” is all Life Vest Inside asks of us. Sounds simple and commonsensical, so why don’t we participate in these simple acts more often? Listen to the founder, Orly, speak and you will be regretting not saying good morning to your doorman or giving directions to a lost tourist.  Her passion for what she does is truly inspirational and her stories prove that “kindness keeps the world afloat”.

So often do the social movements of our generation revolve around ”correcting” inequality and have a cynical view of mankind, such as the various Occupy movements. Life Vest’s message is unique in that it transcends age, race, gender, socioeconomics, as well as language barriers. Kindness is a message that never goes out of style. You are never too poor, too old, too young or too wealthy to flash someone a smile. Who knows, this smile may just be what the recipient needs.

Orly’s message closely resonated with me. I am frequently guilty of placing more value on the destination or achieving success in my own life that I don’t always pay attention to the journey or my immediate surroundings. I text a classmate, facebook message a friend, listen to music, all while somehow managing to email my boss from my desk at work. In this multitasking, it is easy to neglect the person who empties your trash can or cleans the bathroom stalls. A simple thank you may be just what that person needs and inspire them to pay the kindness forward. We all have bad days where we wish that kind someone would have reached out to us to assuage our fears and let us know that everything is going to be alright. It is important to remember those times and do onto others as we would like to be treated. I am a firm believer that the rule is golden, not silver and we should not let it tarnish.

It is easy to be egocentric in a society that places such emphasis on the individual. I use the word “I” more often than I’d like to admit; in fact, this sentence now uses “I” four times. I am cognizant now of ways to correct this selfishness. “I” doesn’t have to be a negative pronoun. Change starts at the micro-individual level; kindness does too. Ghandi once said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” If only he could have met Orly, a walking embodiment of Life Vest Inside’s mission. 

Growing up, I was well acquainted with the idioms “we are all in the same boat,” and “we sink or swim together.” While Orly is not an engineer by trade, she understands that the world we live in has critical design flaws. If we view the world we live in as a boat, it is a sinking ship punctured by injustices. I am now jumping ship. Life Vest Inside has made me a believer in the idea that “kindness keeps the world afloat.” The world can be a scary place but it doesn’t mean we should forget to do the right thing.  It all starts and ends with one simple act of kindness.