Vest-Gradient-1Population of New York City in 2014: 8,491,079

A needle in a haystack would have been easier to find.

Some months ago, I watched a video which came across my Facebook feed.  It was a very professional, very well done, one shot video; meaning that the movie was done in one take, with seemingly no editing.  It began with one person and moved from person to person in a short film about spreading kindness.  I was riveted.  Such a clever idea and so poignant.  I watched it, and like so many others, smiled, and then went on with my life.

Fast forward to September 11, 2015.  My wife and I went to New York for a wedding.  Actually, a renewal of vows for some very dear friends who, although not from New York or even America (they’re from England) have a very personal and real connection to the date of September 11th.  They decided that upon their tenth wedding anniversary they wanted to renew their vows at the Trinity Church, closest to Ground Zero.

This wasn’t about competing for attention with the remembrances of the tragedy from 2001, rather it was a statement.  They wanted to express in their own way that love triumphs over hate, over evil, over…. well… everything.

The bride and groom are extraordinary people.  They are the gentlest, kindest, people I know.  They live with their hearts on their sleeves and have picked up the mantled of ‘Random Acts of Kindness’ in the UK, spreading and espousing acts of kindness both with their own actions and with their words and deeds in helping to convey this most basic message of being kind to one another.  It’s no great surprise that this embodiment of how they live their lives connects them to people of like minds and deeds.

After their amazing renewal of vows, in this historic church with a wonderfully present, yet ‘in the present’ Father Mark presiding, the small intimate wedding party moved down to a park by the water for a picnic.  A friend of the Bride and Groom had arrived early and was setting up an incredible array of sandwiches, pastries, drinks, and fruit all laid out in a wonderful area of the park for the ‘Newlyweds’ and their family and friends to enjoy.

We arrived just as she was finishing her preparations.  There were boxes everywhere, this was no small picnic basket of food, this was a buffet big enough to feed an army.  She had spared no expense nor effort to make this picnic the best it could be for her friends.  She was a pretty young lady with long dark hair and deep brown eyes who was working tirelessly in the mid-afternoon sun and then talked passionately of her work to help people embrace the power of giving.

Of course, it made sense, she was a kindred spirit to the Bride and Groom.

I watched as she fretted about making sure everyone had plenty to eat, always serving, never relaxing.  This was her gift to her friends and to the family and friends of her friends.  It had to be just right.

It wasn’t until the picnic was coming to an end that my wife and I had a chance to talk to her.  It was then, that I found that needle in the haystack.

This was no ordinary ‘kind’ friend.

Her name was Orly Wahba.  She was the creator and director of the video I had watched months ago.
This was the person who founded Life Vest Inside, a non-profit organization with a mission to encourage people to embrace the incredible power of giving and recognize that in times of hardship, kindness, like a life vest, keeps the world afloat.  Orly is an Executive Member of the World Kindness Movement, and a renowned speaker at TED among a host of many other accomplishments.

But as we talked to her she was just a friend doing something kind for her friends.  A humble servant helping her friends celebrate their wedding vows.  You would never have known she was such an incredible person with such great accomplishments behind her and doubtless more to come, she was just living the kindness she espouses.  But ‘kind’ to Orly is on a whole different scale than most people.

As one wedding party guest said to me quietly later “I’m speechless. She really puts what’s important into perspective, and not in a make you feel guilty kind of way.”

To say that I was blown away by this incredible soul would be an understatement.  She embodies kindness in every manner imaginable.  Her presence, her manner, her demeanor, her very essence is wrapped in kindness, and yet her story is amazing in the challenges she has overcome in becoming the amazing soul that she is.

I could go on but I have no words to describe how touched I was. How amazing the impact of watching the power one human being had on us that day.  We were just a small group and yet I know the impact she made would have been the same if we had been thousands.

Oh, and that video I mentioned that was Orly’s idea?  It’s called “One Day” and it’s been viewed over 21 MILLION TIMES.

Her organization Life Vest Inside has ambassadors in over 120+ countries and growing.

Of all the people in New York City the bride and groom could have befriended and who could have organized a picnic for them that day… of all the almost 8 1/2 MILLION people, I met an angel; I met Orly.

It was an honor and a privilege I will never forget.

PS-
To learn more about Orly and the amazing work she does with Life Vest Inside: http://www.lifevestinside.com/
And if you haven’t watched the video you should.  While you’re there, check out Orly’s TED talk.