I had the honor of speaking on stage with The Third Wave author during a recent lecture series/fundraiser at Our Lady of the Elms in Akron, Ohio.
Alison, who in The Third Wave writes about her Third World disaster relief efforts, looks like the sun is shining on her all the time. She glows.
Her thick blonde hair and the way she scrunches her nose and concentrates her gaze on you when she talks makes her appear to sparkle, to pop off the landscape in front of you. Strangers, in her presence, feel they know her, and even more, somehow they have earned her love. It it feels magical.
And yet, the native Australian is utterly approachable.
Alison, a filmmaker, nurse, writer, traveler, humanitarian, and former Wall Street investment banker, was awarded Alison the Order of Australia, the highest civilian medal awarded by Queen Elizabeth, for her work during the 2004 tsunami and her contribution to mankind.
Hearing her story changed my life. I’m not the first to say so. The glowing, magical part of her is not the most interesting. She is an ass-kicker. She's eaten spiders. She carries a Japanese sword on her back when she walks at night in the slums of Haiti. And, striking as this is to us, it is nothing more for her than simply plodding forward on her mission to help people.
As a filmmaker, Alison co-directed a few episodes of Law & Order, but made her name with the film version of The Third Wave, which was released in 2007. Following the release, she traveled with Sean Penn to Cannes. (Penn worked with Alison to organize and operate a displaced-person camp in Haiti). She counts Donna Karan among her friends. Once, when no one could hear her calls for help as she lay at death’s door in her tent, sick in Haiti, she Tweeted “help” and her friends in NYC made the phone calls and got aid to her, saving her life.
But she is not afraid of death. When she has money, she gives it away. She said that she learned about unconditional love from a dog in Sri Lanka after the 2004 tsunami, and from the time Mother Teresa had dinner at her home when she was young.
She works alone but collaboratively with other organizations. She needs your help.
In her new book, The Third Wave, Alison writes about what her life has been like for the past 10 years. It begins with her rollerblading from her apartment on 9-11 to Ground Zero, just after the attack. Her stories are at once horrifying and inspiring. She ended up staying 9 months at Ground Zero, supporting the workers.
The book continues in Sri Lanka after the 2004 tsunami where she intended to go for two weeks to help, but ended up staying two years. She treats children, pulls bodies from rubble, finds towns where help would never arrive and settles there with a few people she met along the way. She gets up early, stays late and never slows down.
When she returned from Sri Lanka, and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti happened, she jumped on the plane. Amidst the screams from the mountainside from women being raped, and her days spent comforting children who were having life-saving amputations with nothing more than Tylenol, she keeps focused on now, and tomorrow in order to get through it all.
In doing so, she reminds us that, dreams are meaningless without actions. It's what we actually we do right now that matters more than anything else.
Read The Third Wave. You’ll feel like a new person. Then find a place that needs you and get to work.
“The future needs your help”, Alison told me. “Governments can’t take care of all this. Money can’t take care of all this. It takes people.”
In central Ohio, you can start this week, which is Local Foods Week, by volunteering at Local Matters to help get food to food deserts in Columbus: neighborhoods without access to fresh, real food, or teach kids in their Food is Elementary program.
I'm sure there's a program you can contribute to wherever you are in the world. Haiti by the way, Alison says, needs you, be it seven days or seven months. “Get a tan and lose weight," Alison says, "Come down and help."
Every month we put the spotlight on a Magnificent Man and a Laudatory Lady. They work in ways we really admire. Suggestions? We're all ears.