lara-blog

Lara Heller is a multi talented screen actress for films including The Cut, Ben Hur and The Odyssey. All these films are natured based-shooting in beautiful majestic locations like the hills of the Badlands in Canada, Snowdonia in the mountains and the jungles of Thailand. Nature is a sanctuary for this family throughout all aspects of their life.

And here’s the really exciting part… (sssshhhhhh….) In May I was honoured to be able to tell Lara’s story of her father’s perseverance and kindness towards their community in Life Vest Inside’s The Kindness Flash.  I discovered what started out as a simple act of planting a few flowers turned into a statement of kindness that would last season after season.

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I hope you enjoy Lara’s Everyday Kindness Story, Sowing The Seeds Of Happiness

Lara remembers how how her father always loved nature. Lara and her siblings grew up in the tiny mountain village in Germany that had a grand total of 100 people. Upon moving to Brighton her father missed the wild flowers he’d enjoyed so much in his homeland. He was sad that little children passed on the street every day and the trees were bare. He decided to take it upon himself to make a change and proceeded to plant daffodils under one tree.

The children all looked at the pretty little bed of bright yellow. The tree stood out. Elderly people smiled walking past. Children stopped and showed their parents. It was amazing and beautiful how a single tree decorated with flowers could attract so much attention!

Sadly, one morning the Town Council put out wood shavings on all the trees including the one with daffodils crushing all the little flowers. Devastated, the family ran out and asked why. The reply was also devastating,  ‘Council orders-it looks different to the others. They need to be the same.’

Lara’s father chose not to become angry. Instead he proceeded to plant daffodils under all the trees! The next spring the whole street looked the same, each tree an explosion of yellow flowers. Children laughed again and neighbours sent Lara’s family letters as a thank you.

Lara reminds us beautifully that,

quote-openDaffodils like kind deeds multiple. Every year there are more little yellow trumpets waving in the wind. And our neighbours have planted more flowers under their trees. Kindness isn’t always encouraged but that doesn’t mean we give up. As my father taught me-plant enough seeds and suddenly they’ll all blossom.quote-close

reprinted from The Kindness Flash #14 May edition ©2017 Life Vest Inside

Where there is a will, there is likely a way. If there is not a way there is a lesson.

What a beautiful reward, the ongoing multiplication of kindness and blossoms. Bloom and grow. Remember you can check out Lara’s work here.

 

©2017 JFries/Rise Like Air

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photo courtesy of Megan and Ruby

Megan Rose Taylor is one of our favourite people. Her smile is infectious. Her determination is inspiring. Her candour is refreshing and her resilience is motivational.

One moment Megan was living life like any 15 year old and the next she was a teenager learning to live with a head injury that caused her to faint up to 50 times a day, without warning. That tends to change life just a wee bit.

Megan began the process of learning how to balance risk with simply living. It impacted everything, school, work, shopping, simply taking a walk or catching the underground (subway) became an exercise in managing risk and trusting complete strangers to help or protect her when she would unexpectedly collapse anywhere at any time.

Of course there were the kind people who did their best to assist. And then there were the “others”, those that walked by or even worse spat at her or judged her to be an addict or intoxicated without bothering to stop and see (and I have to ask, even if that were the case, why would you not stop and help?! A topic for another time). Her parents and friends were concerned, but Megan refused to be treated like some china doll.

Enter Ruby. The puppy that started out as a “simple companion” has become so much more. Megan shares how Ruby has become her companion to achieve independence again. My mother seems to be right when she says sometimes the greatest gifts come in small packages.

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photo courtesy of Megan and Ruby

When I reached for a hand, I found your paw.

The little dog who changed my life forever.

My name is Megan and I am 21 years old. I first met the dog who would go on to change my life forever back in 2010, whilst visiting the Snowdonia National Park with my family.

We stayed in the guest house on a working farm. It didn’t take me long to make friends with the resident sheep dog, Bonnie, and her litter of 8 week old puppies. We were never planning on getting a dog, but found ourselves coming home with a beautiful Border Collie / Kelpie puppy, who we later named Ruby.

We had no idea back then just how important this tiny pup would become, when a year later I would suffer a severe head injury, and be left with a permanent disability.

After fainting during a Remembrance Sunday parade in 2011, I hit my head on the curb behind me and my skull was fractured in three places. Five years since this accident I now suffer with a number of cardiac, neurological, and vestibular disabilities. This causes me to: faint on a regular basis, lose my balance, have frequent dizzy spells, episodic blindness, and unilateral profound hearing loss.

Ruby, was just 1 year old at the time of my accident, and was a great comfort to me in the recovery process. She was calm, gentle, and never failed to make me smile; even though I was in immense pain.

After realising just how much comfort and strength she gave me with her presence alone, I decided to become a volunteer with Pets As Therapy so that Ruby could help others in need too.

I had to wait until my 18th birthday to become a volunteer due to the age restrictions, and Ruby was four years old when I was finally old enough! We began visiting a local nursing home immediately after my 18th birthday, bringing joy and friendship to hundreds of people.

Ruby and I still enjoy our visits today, and have been volunteering for three years now. As well as spreading joy in our local community, Ruby also has a brand new job as my disability Assistance Dog. She helps me to do things that are difficult or unsafe because of my medical conditions.

In March 2016, Ruby and I were accepted as clients with Dog A.I.D (Assistance In Disability). Dog A.I.D are a unique UK charity, who with the help of volunteer trainers, enable adults with disabilities to train their own pet dogs, of any breed or cross, into registered Assistance Dogs.

Ruby joined the scheme aged 5, so already had a good understanding of basic obedience. She completed her training in just 13 months, qualifying as my Assistance Dog on the 19th April 2017.

Ruby has halved the amount of dizzy spells I have, by learning to pick things up for me and untie my shoe laces; so that I no longer need to bend down. Thanks to Ruby, I no longer risk fainting into oncoming traffic when waiting to cross the road as I am able to stay back whilst she presses the crossing button for me with her nose.

Ruby has also learnt how to use her very own ‘K9 phone’ to call for help when I have fainted; a potentially life-saving action!

She activates the phone by pressing a button worn on my wrist with her nose. Once activated, a text message is sent to my emergency contacts with my current GPS location.

A voice alarm is also triggered on my phone, to reassure concerned members of the public. This alarm makes it very clear that I have a genuine medical condition, and am not just ‘another drunk teenager!’ as I am sadly often mistaken for.

If my emergency contacts do not hear back from me within 5 minutes of receiving the alert, this means I am still unconscious or injured, and they are able to send help to my location immediately. Ruby is able to answer the front door for me when paramedics arrive.

Previously, if I were to injure myself at home it may be several hours until anyone found me. Thanks to Ruby, I am reassured knowing that help will always come when I need it. I am finally safe in my own home.

Anyone who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks is clearly mistaken!

Ruby amazes and inspires me every single day. To learn all of that in just 13 months at the age of 5 is truly remarkable. Anyone who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks is clearly mistaken!

As well as keeping me safe and spreading joy in our local community, Ruby and I spend a lot of time having fun together. We love going for long walks, and hiking in the British countryside. As well as learning fun new tricks, and playing agility in our garden.

With Ruby by my side I am proud. I am independent. And I am not ashamed of my disability anymore.

Ruby gives me a reason and a purpose to get up each day, and live life to the fullest. With Ruby by my side I have climbed mountains. I have graduated from university. And I have learnt that it’s okay to ask for help.

With Ruby by my side I am proud. I am independent. And I am not ashamed of my disability anymore.

I believe that her outstanding acts of devotion truly embody the contribution that animals make to peoples’ lives. I am forever thankful to have Ruby in my life, the little sheepdog from Wales.

Megan Rose Taylor ©2017

Take a moment to share a bit of a day with Ruby and Megan in the video below

Assistance and Service animals are unsung heroes – they are trained working dogs doing a very important job – they give the gift of independence at an otherwise unattainable level. And they give that gift unconditionally with love and kindness everyday all day.

So make sure you check out Ruby’s FB page because in truth, we’ve barely touched the surface.  We can’t leave out her K9 parkour skills, her talent for abstract painting and her educational contributions. Here is a link to a video Megan has done to help explain the misconceptions about assistance dogs and their roles in the lives of their people.

And please remember, when you see an Assistance or Service animal at work, let them work and treat their people with kindness and respect you’d appreciate too.

 

©2017 JFries/Rise Like Air

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An amazing piece by one of my favourite writers. So relatable. So good. So sit down and enjoy.

 

“Do you ever feel like you are too many different people?” I asked.

 

Source: When 25 Years Met Each Other Over A Cup Of Coffee

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So #sing. Make #music. #Dance. #Smile. #Laugh. #Bekind to yourself and others and… #love #live #believe

Really it’s our destiny.

As Mike Dooley from tut.com reminded me this week

I distinctly remember the conversation, Jewel. We were having triple-chocolate brownie fudgesicles, listening to Beethoven’s “Fifth” before he even was Beethoven, overlooking the galaxy, when you mentioned how neat you thought it would be to one day have dreams you didn’t know you’d inevitably manifest, to have challenges you didn’t know you’d inevitably conquer, and to have friends you didn’t know you’d inevitably meet.

And as I leaned forward in total awe, all agog, wanting to learn more of your genius and courage, I almost fainted when you added, “And should it ever appear as if I could use your help, before I even begin helping myself, back off or you’ll ruin everything.”

You memory-maker you,

    The Universe

 

I ask…

 

So…..   I ask……

  • What memories are you going to make?  
  • What choices will you  dig deep to make?
  • What leaps will you take?

All we have is moments. Make each moment count. Don’t look back don’t look ahead. Just look at this moment. Live it. Love it.  Be it.  You memory maker you.

Thoughts become things… choose the good ones!

Love

Peace

Hugs

Cause we all need those…

 

©2017 JFries/Rise Like Air

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Monday dawned sunny and bright. I was fortunate to awake to the sound of waves lapping at the lakeshore and the sun peeking over the hill top.

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(sunset shot the night before)

There was already a lot of ugly and sadness I could have focussed on if I had let myself. And I admit the temptation to let it swallow me whole was palpable, but I put my big girl panties on, pulled up my positive pants, threw on a great pair of shoes, straightened my tiara and topped it off with bright lipstick and mascara! Well in truth, I took a deep breath, threw back the covers and made a CHOICE to CHOOSE beautiful; to see it, believe it and channel it. And I made that choice over and over when the temptation to doubt tapped me on the shoulder.

Later in the day the headline on my news feed about Manchester appeared.  Manchester – a place from far away that I’ve always associated with sports and music for some reason until that head line. The choice to see beautiful became even more difficult. My shoulders slumped, I just felt heavy.  I felt raw and numb all at once. I think a lot of us did.

Tuesday morning Huffington Post reported “explosion killed 22 people and injured 59, many of them teenagers.”  at an Ariana Grande concert. I witnessed the feelings come out through social media and in the news.

A friend posted, “Tears for those who just went to a concert. Tears for the world.”

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A cousin asked,

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And then I read my friend Michelle’s eloquent and heart felt Facebook post and am honoured that she gave me permission to share her words with you. When things happen which are impossible to make sense of, in the end all we really want to do is keep our precious treasures, those we love, safe.

Bubble wrap.
I need so much Bubble Wrap.

You know… The stuff you use to keep the things that are most precious to you, safe from harm. We wrap them up so they don’t get broken.

Bubble Wrap… Safe, dependable Bubble Wrap.

It may give one peace of mind, but there isn’t enough bubble wrap in the world on a day like today. On any kind of day in a world like the one we live in this day.

“Prayers for…”
“Our hearts and thoughts…”
“We stand with…”

These phrases are like labels now. Words we use to tape together the Bubble Wrap that we place around our hearts and minds to help keep us sane enough from locking our children in their rooms and nailing shut our windows and doors to keep out all the Bogeymen outside that lurk within a world that keeps getting smaller, from stealing their innocence, our naivete, and our collective sense of normalcy.

There is nothing normal about any of this. Even though this insanity is quickly seeming to become the norm. Padded rooms were once for the insane and yet, here I am, wishing I could wrap every precious being in my world in Bubble Wrap. How insane is that? And yet, Bubble Wrap was my first wish… My first “logical to me” thought while my heart screamed “Why?” and it’s echoes throbbed through my head.

Just as “There are no words…” is heard echoing thoughout the world.

But there are words…
“Please.” and “Stop.”

And there are so many echoes.

Because there will never, ever be enough Bubble Wrap.

©Michelle Laing Hoffman 2017

 

But until that plea is answered, in amongst the tragic and terrible burns the eternal flame of human kindness and compassion.

Huffington Post reported, “Public transport shut down, and taxis offered to give stranded people free rides home, while residents opened their homes to provide lodging.”

As the BBC noted, Then there are people like this young man who says “We can react in a lot of ways. We can react in anger. Or we can react by doing. This city is a community.”   The news outlets are capturing more than the devastation and carnage, they are capturing the humanity, compassion and resilience as well.

I think Grande summed it up for many of us with her tweet, “broken. from the bottom of my heart, I am so sorry. I don’t have words.”

“When someone says, “There are no words,” it is there I will find them and we will meet in the silent language of grief.” Benjamin Allen

While I have no words left, I do have kindness and compassion, and with those I will continue to shine my light more brightly so the darkness has no place to grow.

Please.  Stop.

Shine Brightly.

 

©2017 JFries/Rise Like Air

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A few days ago I got a message from fellow blogger Vaibhav Gupta saying a mutual friend had passed on my name and he was wondering if I’d be interested in being interviewed for his blog  TalkBack Tuesday.   (Stay tuned… for news when it will be available)

I was in complete shock, but after reviewing what was required I jumped at the opportunity. A little outside my comfort zone, how perfect is that?

But seriously, how could I not.

Talkback Tuesday is a feature for and about everyday people. It is always inspirational to look into the life of another person, and realize it is just as complex and large and confusing as your own.

Everyday people…. life as complex… large… confusing…  Ok, that’s sounding about right.

So early in the morning I was at my key board on FB messenger answering unprepared, refreshing and thought provoking questions. It was  really a unique and enlightening experience I will treasure for a long time to come. Afterwards, I messaged my friend Soumya who had recommend me and I said, “Thank you so much for giving Vaibhav my name.” She responded with a brief but breathtaking message,

Your are one of the most amazing people I know.

I got teary, because I’ll be honest, I seldom, feel like I’m an amazing person. As another friend of mine would say, “I’m just me, just a guy.” Well in my case, “just a girl”. And that really is how I see myself.  Just me, full of flaws and idiosyncrasies.  Lots and lots of cracks – that let the light in, maybe get filled with gold now and then. Truly a work in progress, hopefully a masterpiece at the same time? Pretty much like I see everyone else to be honest. I mean, I have some really lousy days and on those days I don’t always do amazing things. I started to think about all the everyday people I know who really are amazing, at least to me. Like people I know recovering from brain surgery, quickly growing families, couples picking up shards of marriages or just trying to make relationships better, parents with a hole in their hearts that can’t be filled, people letting go of their past, embracing their futures, tenants uncertain about security and shelter, people just trying to honestly figure out life, I mean REALLY figure it out.. AMAZING people.

Then it hit me.

Amazing, everyday people struggle too

I realized that struggling, and bad days, even feeling overwhelmed doesn’t ever stop us from being amazing; just maybe from recognizing it ourselves.

We struggle. We struggle to find our smile, to find our confidence, to find time, to be real, to get it right, and to just be ourselves. We struggle, to find words, to connect the dots, to achieve what we think we want. We can make it easier or harder on ourselves or we can cross our fingers and hope for the best. But through all of that, we can be and are amazing, in so many incredibly magical jaw dropping ways.

So we struggle. There is purpose.

And we succeed. 

So go out there and be AMAZING; just be YOU!

Soumya, just so you know, you are with out a doubt one of the most amazing people I know. Thank you for being you.

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Dedicated to all the amazing people I know and there are so very many of you. Thank you

©2017 JFries/Rise Like Air

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It’s Sunday!!  We have made it through another week and another one is beckoning us. Take a moment for a deep breath and a personal high five!

For some of us it was an amazingly fantastic week. For some of us it was hell on wheels. Some were able to Rise Like Air and others teetered on the precipice edge.

There were tears of joy, success and happiness. Tears of frustration, pain and fear.

That’s what life is. Amazing ups and downs and lessons and perspective. It’s about choices and learning and trying.  It encompasses falling down, crawling and getting back up. But today I think it’s most about simply living and loving and liberating.

Today I’m making one choice. To smile. Maybe it will make a little difference. Maybe a big difference. Maybe someone else will notice, maybe they won’t. But I will notice.

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Have a fantastic Sunday. Make it yours. Do it your way.  No regrets, no apologies. No shame, no blame, no guilt. Just love, light and living.  And of course….

Rise

Like 

Air…

See 

Beautiful…

It’s

All 

Good…

 

©2017 JFries/Rise Like Air

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I wrote this blog a year ago. It’s time to rise.

Source: Out of the Ashes We Rise

“I have learned kindness, patience and unconditional love can make all the difference in helping people. ”

Seven years ago today the world lost a brilliant smile, a quick wit, a loving parent, a humble brother, caring son, hard working, got your back kind of guy.

Mental Illness has stolen too many people from us. It’s time to change that. And the best part is, we can. Together.

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I’m reading Brené Brown. I recently finished The Gift Of Imperfection and immediately ordered all the rest.  So now I’m on I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t) .  Guess what?

She’s right!!!! It isn’t just me!!! Spoiler alert – the glow of that realization only lasts so long.  I’m glad I’m not alone. I’m glad I’m so abnormal and dysfunctional I’m completely normal.  Doesn’t change a dang thing about the process though… Still gotta walk the walk, talk the talk and get moving. Sigh. Note: Always read the fine print which says something like “I never said it would be easy, but it will be worth it.”  Oh Fine!

Shame. It’s something we’ve all experienced numerous times in our lives. And it’s something most of us would really rather not talk about it seems. So I’m grateful that Brené Brown has removed the stigma from the topic.  She defines shame as,

the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection. I don’t believe shame is helpful or productive.

While discussing Shame Screens, those screens we put up to protect ourselves when we feel that burn of shame creeping into us, – which another spoiler alert –  don’t work by the way (to be honest, I’d already figured that one out… ) Brené references the work of Dr. Shelley Uram, a Harvard-trained psychiatrist.

“But Dr. Uram points out that we tend not to recognize the small, quiet traumas that often trigger the same brain-survival reaction. After studying Dr. Uram’s work I believe it’s possible that many of our early shame experiences, especially with parents and caregivers, were stored in our brains as traumas.  This is why we often have such painful bodily reactions when we feel criticized, ridiculed, rejected and shamed. Dr. Uram explains that the brain does not differentiate between overt or big trauma and cover or small, quiet trauma – it just registers the event as “a threat that we can’t control.”

In her work on “remembering the wound” versus “becoming the wound,” Dr. Uram explains that most of the time when we recall a memory, we are conscious that we are in the present, recalling something from the past.  However, when we experience something in the present that triggers and old trauma memory, we reexperience the sense of the original trauma. So, rather than remembering the wound, we become the wound.  This makes sense when we think of how we are often returned to a place of smallness and helplessness when we feel shame.” page 89  I Thought It Was Just Me – Brené Brown

That was a little mind blowing for me. And it made perfect sense.

My first thoughts were about empathy and compassion. Maybe there  really is no scale for trauma at all. Trauma just is – regardless of what caused it, or how “big” or “small” we may think our own or someone else’s trials and tribulations are, the size of the emotion we feel, the reaction we have – are the same.  That’s it. It’s the great equalizer for me.

It…

wait for it….

Changed my perspective and perception.

Yup it did. Here’s the thing, it made life a whole lot simpler. No analyzing or measuring required.  We’re equal.  We are in it together. It hurts. It’s painful. Its frustrating.

And that’s the catalyst for me to build my resilience. There are tools to do it. As Harriet Lerner, author of The Dance of Anger reminds us, “Shame is a profoundly debilitating emotion. It drives our fears of not being good enough.” And here’s the kicker, we are good enough. So let’s start moving toward believing it and living it. I’m worth it. So are you.

Rise on.

©2017 JFries/Rise Like Air

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“Remember there is no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.” Scott Adams

When Orly Wahba was four years old she told her parents she dreamed of changing the world with kindness. Years later as a middle school teacher, after receiving devastating news about the death of a student, she became motivated to make that dream a reality. Inspired by the life vest inside sign she saw while waiting on the plane for take off, the plan that  would see her four year old self’s dream materialize began to take shape.  Orly’s amazing vision would  eventually lead to the making of The Kindness Boomerang video, forming the non profit Life Vest Inside, including the Dance For Kindness movement and now, most recently, the release, January 3rd 2017 of Orly Wahba’s book, The Kindness Boomerang – How To Save The World (and Yourself) Through 365 Daily Acts.

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Orly has always believed, without a doubt, that small acts of kindness perpetrated by everyday people change the world. She often quotes Margaret Mead,

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

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Orly Wahba, Author and founder of LVI

Six years ago when she started Life Vest Inside I was fortunate enough to come across the video The Kindness Boomerang. That eventually lead me to getting to know Orly and volunteering at Life Vest Inside. I was also fortunate enough to enjoy being part of the experience seeing this book become a reality. I recently picked up a couple of copies and on January 19th I opened the book. I couldn’t help but smile at the entry, my favourite topic,

PERSPECTIVE!

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After giving one of my former students an Act of Kindness card that read, “hold the door open for someone,” I received phone call the very next day with loads and loads of excitement coming through the other end. “You won’t believe what happened after you gave me the cards yesterday!… Everywhere I turned there was a door that someone needed to be opened! It was crazy!” I smiled, chuckled, and said, “Those doors were there yesterday and the day before – but it’s only now that your awareness is heightened that you’re really seeing them!” You’d be surprise by the endless kindness possibilities out there. It’s all about increased awareness. Let’s start seeing the world through the lens of kindness. – Orly Wahba – The Kindness Boomerang

And that, my friends, is the crazy thing about perspective! Once you shift it even slightly and you relax with it all of a sudden you see the world completely differently!

I hear it all the time.  I see it for myself. The world changes, sometimes subtly, sometimes dramatically but it almost always always always changes.

As Orly’s surprised student discovered, what we see was always there, just waiting. Waiting oh so patiently for us to see it, to become aware. To bring it beyond reality, but instead to embrace it as our own very personal reality. Our own world.  And then, oh my, our lives change. And the lives around us change. And the world changes. And life is very very good.

Here’s the thing. One of my biggest frustrations in life right now is realizing how many people just do not get this concept. My second biggest frustration is trying to help others recognize it.

Like most things, I’ve come to understand all I can do is plant the seed and patiently water, nurture and yes, wait. There is nothing like the feeling of seeing someone else’s eyes get wide and watching them connect the dots that bring them from coincidence to how many doors needed opening to “Those doors were there yesterday and the day before – but it’s only now that your awareness is heightened that you’re really seeing them!”

I get the biggest emotional high when I’m fortunate enough to witness those magical, dare I say almost spiritual moments. They do more than touch the mind, they touch the heart and most importantly, they reach deep and touch the soul.

Here’s the thing.  The Kindness Boomerang holds 365 opportunities to make that connection, to touch minds, hearts, souls and lives. And when you finish the first 365 days, you can start all over again.

So are you ready?  Are you ready to throw the boomerang and have it come back to you? Heads up, because I guarantee you it will. You just never know when it will happen – so be ready.

Interested in being part of the movement to change the world simply by living the Kindness Lifestyle? Then consider picking up a copy The Kindness Boomerang today. It makes the perfect gift for anyone and the best place to start sharing a little kindness is with yourself.

Consider becoming a Life Vest Inside Kindness Ambassador and meeting, inspiring and being inspired by like minded people from around the world.

If you’re interested in watching the short film that started it all please enjoy “The Kindness Boomerang”

 

Orly and Life Vest Inside sharing the Kindness Boomerang in NYC

 

©2017 JFries/Rise Like Air

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