For the Greater Goods

A lifestyle blog for the conscious consumer

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Inspiring Individuals: Malala Yousafzai

This month’s Inspirational Individual is Malala Yousafzia. If you haven’t heard yet, last week ten people were sentenced to life in prison for their roles in the 2012 attack on Malala. And in other news, by some crazy coincidence, last week I also finished reading Malala’s book, “I Am Malala”. Honestly, it took me a while to get through this book. Not because I didn’t like it, but more because I dedicated most of my time this winter to watching Netflix instead of reading and being a real person. Over time I picked away at the book and learned something new each time I picked it up.

Malala 3

For those of you unfamiliar with Malala’s story, get your head out from under that rock. No, just kidding. I’ll give you a little background. Malala is from Pakistan’s Swat Valley, which she describes as a “land where rifles are fired in celebration of a son, while daughters are hidden away behind a curtain, their role in life simply to prepare food and give birth to children”. But Malala’s father was different than most and raised her just like he raised his son. He strongly encouraged his daughter to go to school, study hard, and plan for the future.

As you can imagine, many girls in Swat weren’t given the same opportunities as Malala. Many dropped out of school because they couldn’t afford it, their parents’ beliefs, or they were forced to get married. Things became worse for the girls in Swat when Talibanization spread through the valley and girls were told they should be forbidden at schools. The Taliban began bombing schools, killing teachers, and threatening students.

Although many girls became afraid to go to school, Malala never let fear get in the way of her education. She continued to go to a secret school with her books hidden under her shawl. She began giving speeches, radio interviews, and writing a blog for BBC about her experiences in Pakistan and the importance of accessible education for everyone. The Taliban later targeted and shot her for speaking out against them.


Her book gives you a firsthand experience of how war and radicalized religion can sweep through and destroy a region. Malala also gives you a look at the culture of Pakistan. She has great pride in her country and openly shows you the good, bad, and everything in between. One thing that really struck me was how ‘normal’ she seemed. She reads “Twilight”, likes to sleep late, has fights with her younger brother, and gets stressed over exams. She also won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, but besides that, fairly normal.

There are also times throughout the book when it’s hard to believe she is just a teenager. Her book is so clearly articulated and promotes profound wisdom.  It is hard to believe she is only 16 when she drops incredible knowledge such as: “I’ve always been a daydreamer, and sometimes in lessons my mind would drift and I’d imagine that on the way home a terrorist might jump out and shoot me on those steps. I wondered what I would do. Maybe I’d take off my shoes and hit him, but then I’d think if I did that there would be no difference between me and a terrorist. It would be better to plead, ‘OK, shoot me, but first listen to me. What you are doing is wrong. I’m not against you personally, I just want every girl to go to school.’“. Her book is filled with inspiring tidbits like this.

There are so many lessons embedded in this book. Malala’s exuberantly positive outlook on life and sincere mission to promote accessible education are incredibly inspiring. I look forward to seeing what the future holds for this incredible young woman.

Malala 1


Inspiring Individuals: Shane Burcaw

Inspiring Individuals is a new series in which I will write about… inspiring individuals. These are people who are doing awesome things to make the world a better place. My goal is to show you (my wonderful readers) the incredible impact that one person can make. If you know of any inspiring individuals that you think deserve a post, let me know if the comments below!

Today I’d like to introduce you to Shane Burcaw. He’s basically your average 22 year old. He graduated college, has a girlfriend, wrote a book, started a company… Okay, maybe he’s a little more accomplished than the average 22 year old. Shane also has muscular dystrophy and has been in a wheel chair since he was two.


Muscular dystrophy weakens the musculoskeletal system, which results in a loss of muscle mass and impairs movement. There is no known cure. Not all forms of the disease affect lifespan, but it can if there are heart and breathing complications.

Although the disease sounds far from funny, Shane created a blog called Laughing At My Nightmare where he uses his sense of humor and positivity to poke fun at his daily struggles. He quickly caught people’s eye and amassed over 500,000 followers. After that Shane realized how important humor is and he made it his mission to help people laugh.

Basic TruthsIn 2013 Shane won an Emmy in the Human Interest category for a short documentary he produced titled Happiness is Always An Option. It’s available to watch here anytime you need a pick me up. Then in 2014 Shane published a book, which I just recently added it to my reading list. Rainn Wilson even recommends the book and Rainn Wilson is hilarious.

laughing at my nightmare memoir

Currently Shane is working on a project called No More Nightmares to end the “nightmare” families’ face when they can’t financially afford basic muscular dystrophy needs. The project helps get wheelchair accessible vehicles, ramps for houses, and other adaptive technology that helps people who have been diagnosed with muscular dystrophy to live healthy, productive, and comfortable lives. Shane also started a Positive Outreach Program, which includes speaking at schools, businesses, and events to share the message of using humor to overcome adversity.

About LAMN

I encourage you to click around the Laughing At My Nightmare website to learn more about Shane’s latest initiative, watch some of Shane’s funny videos, read his blog, and donate to LAMN if you can. Shane is truly proof that humor improves lives. It is said that “a day without laughter is a day wasted” and some days it is easy to forget to laugh, but Shane is there to remind you.

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An Inspiring Summer Read: Six Months in Sudan

Yes, I know summer is still over a month away, but with the weather finally getting tolerable up here (above 50 degrees), I have already begun planning my summer reading list like the nerd that I am. I wouldn’t quite consider myself an avid reader, but I sure do love a good book. So whether you’ve started your own summer reading list or you didn’t plan on picking up a book this summer, I’ve got a book you should consider throwing in your beach bag. I assure you that this read is as entertaining as it is enlightening.

The book is called Six Months in Sudan and is about a doctor volunteering with the organization Doctors Without Borders in, you guessed it, Sudan. The book is based off blog posts written by James Maskalyk while volunteering in the small Sudanese village, Abyei. He began the blog as a way to bring readers closer to his experiences and the lives of the locals in the war-torn village. And I think he does a great job of that. He breaks down the distances (geographic, emotional, and cultural) that often times hinder people from understanding and helping one another. He explains that it is these distances, not our indifference, that hinder action.

I will admit that there are times when this book is very hard to read. There are a few excerpts that would be labeled “viewer discretion advised” if it were a TV show. I mean a majority of the book takes place in a hospital. Not always pretty, if ya know what I mean.

I hope you take a moment to enjoy this book. If you live near me, you’re welcome to borrow mine! But you better give it back!

Six Months in Sudan cover