Sheryl WuDunn is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. Together with her husband, fellow New York Times journalist and Pulitzer recipient Nicholas Kristof, she’s the co-author of the best-selling books Half the Sky and A Path Appears. Kristof and WuDunn spoke to Society Members as part of the Speaker Broadcast series. Her essay below was written exclusively for Society Members:
We all want to make a difference with our lives, whether it is at school, at work, with family and friends or the other communities we care about. Some of us want to become leaders, and in order to become an effective leader, you need to know how you can make a difference in people’s lives.
How do you make a difference? In A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity, we show how it ultimately comes down to understanding people enough to know how to encourage them, help them soar and open up greater opportunities for them.
In A Path Appears, we introduce you to many individuals who are leading the way with their fascinating work that often moves and motivates people and improves their lives. Some take it to a grand scale, lifting communities or discovering long-sought solutions to intractable social problems. Some are simply building close relationships with underprivileged students, transforming one person’s life at a time. Others are inventing services or products that really change lives.
For instance, Elizabeth Scharpf invented an organic sanitary pad while she was at Harvard Business School and won the school’s social entrepreneurship prize. She is now commercializing her pad so she can deliver them to teenage girls and women in Rwanda. Along the way, American pharmaceutical companies have learned of the invention and are now talking to her about working together for the U.S. market. Ultimately, she wants to deliver a product that is common in America but unheard of in Rwanda where girls must stay home from school during certain times each month.
David Olds, after years of top-notch research, has developed ways to help on a larger scale, by spreading opportunities to American children who are born into challenging environments. A leader in his field, he showed that a visit by a nurse to a pregnant woman, soon to be a single mom, can positively alter the life path of that infant.
Scott Harrison spent the first part of his life indulging in the night club life. On a vacation in South America, he took a look at himself and realized he was wasting his time. He wanted to make a difference. He paid several hundred dollars to be a photographer on Mercy Ships to capture photographs of the successful surgeries that doctors were performing as the ship sailed from poor country to poor country. While he did a good job documenting the good work of Mercy Ships, he ended up finding a new life work: Charity: Water, which raises funds to dig wells in parts of Africa where there is no access to clean water. Charity: Water is wildly successful, and Harrison is a leader in his field – and much happier.
Indeed, it turns out that one of the secrets to happiness is helping others, that is, altruism. InA Path Appears, we take readers through the interesting ways that research shows how you can help others — and along the way, also improve your health and be happier.
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