A Young Boy Asked For A Pencil And A Global Nonprofit Was Born

A few years ago, Adam Braun gave up a job in high finance and said goodbye to the land of men in fancy suits because of one of those random moments that tends to nudge a person’s life down the road less traveled.  Braun, in his mid-20s at the time, wanted to temporarily hop off the spinning hamster wheel of his daily grind, so he put a promising business and finance career path on hold and launched a personal expedition to go overseas. He joined a program called Semester at Sea, and what happened next set him on the course to becoming the renowned philanthropist he is today.  One of his greatest endeavors is founding a nonprofit that’s built more than 200 schools around the world, which he describes in his new book called The Promise of a Pencil that lays out his extraordinary life and opens with a starry-eyed promise.

“Every person,” Braun writes in the introduction, “has a revolution beating in their chest.”

(Source:SheKnows)

Part of The Promise of a Pencil is a travelogue that takes the reader along for the twists and turns that come with someone like Braun traversing the globe for the first time. But marking points on a map and absorbing stunning vistas aren’t the point of these recollections.  The lane changes we make in life aren’t always preceded by bright flashing indicator lights that make us stop what we're doing and pay attention. Braun, likewise, was unaware of the inflection point he was approaching. For the trip, his story goes, he decided that rather than stuff his backpack with the typical souvenirs of a tourist like T-shirts from the places he visited, he would instead approach a child in each country he visited and ask this question:  “If you could have anything in the world, what would you want most?”  He expected to hear replies of modern extravagance – a TV, an iPod and the like, with the collection of answers painting an interesting cultural topography of the world. But he got something more.  One young girl in Hawaii, who approached him and asked if they could be friends, thought about Braun’s question – What if you could have anything, what would you want? – and she confidently answered: “To dance.” During a stop in Beijing, he asked a girl near the entrance to the famed Forbidden Temple the same question. “A book,” is what she said she wanted most of all. In Kowloon, Hong Kong, a young boy told him he wanted “magic.”

While visiting the Agra Fort, in view of the Taj Mahal, Braun pulled away from his traveling companions and approached a boy he’d seen begging. The response the boy gave Braun to his question especially floored him: most of all, the boy said, he wanted “a pencil.”  Braun happened to have a No. 2 yellow pencil in his backpack. He took it out and gave it to the boy.

(Source: TheNextWeb)

“As it passed from my hand to his, his face lit up,” Braun writes. “[T]he boy had never been to school, but he had seen other children writing with pencils...For me, the pencil was a writing utensil, but for him it was a key. It was a symbol. It was a portal to creativity, curiosity, and possibility. Every great inventor, architect, scientist and mathematician began as a child holding nothing more than a pencil.”

And thus was Braun’s epiphany. Making a difference didn’t have to entail writing a large check to someone, he thought. This is what he would do, right here. He would give children he encountered on his travels pencils and pens.  Braun eventually headed home to New York. His life settled back into the familiar rhythm of predictability. One night, while attending a performance of the New York Philharmonic, he closed his eyes and listened to the pianist expertly perform a piece by Rachmaninoff, and he was moved.

“I thought, if I could feel as strongly about any one thing in the world as this man feels about his piano, I know that I would be fulfilled,” Braun writes.

The phrase suddenly came to him.  Pencils of Promise.  He stayed up all night that night sketching out a plan for the organization. Pencils are a symbol of education, and from there he landed on what would be the purpose of the organization he decided to launch: building primary education schools in poverty-stricken areas in developed nations.  The rest of his new book talks about the hard work of setting up the nonprofit. The exhilaration of its work coming to fruition is evident in things like the group’s first Facebook post, in January 2009: “We will be breaking ground on our first school in Pha Teung, Laos in March 2009!”

In a recent interview with Forbes, Braun waxed philosophical about meaning, fulfillment and the purpose of existence.  “Make your life a story worth telling,” he told his interviewer. “One day, when you’re gone, the most important thing you’ll leave behind is the legacy of the life you lived.”

(Source: Rossier Online)

In the hopes of inspiring others to do that, he wrote his down in the form of a book.

Dance Gave Her Love, a Community, and an Identity

At 2 1/2 years old, Shaina Schwartz and her Mom went to see the Nutcracker. Even though this was the first time she had ever seen any kind of a dance performance, as soon as it was over she excitedly said, "Mommy, that's what I want to do!"

Keep reading...

A Wedding Story: Love & Marriage After 50 Years Apart

Do you remember your first love? Unless you are still with them, it most likely ended in heartache. One couple knows this feeling all too well.

When they were together at Occidental College in 1961, Janice and Prentiss fell in love. It all happened fast but they knew they wanted to be together forever. They got engaged and wanted to be married! But Janice's father had other plans. He forbid the two from seeing each other and threatened to cut off her tuition. There, in college, they ended their relationship. They both went on to live their lives separately. Though they never lost the love for each other, they both married other people. But fate wouldn't let those relationships last.

Keep reading...

Youth Starts Organization That Transforms The World

Young people are deeply plugged into their immediate surroundings and they are quick to recognize ongoing problems in their local community. What can be challenging is amplifying and transforming that awareness into meaningful effort that makes a difference. 18-year-old Joshua Williams is that catalyst for action in his Miami Beach neighborhood and his Joshua's Heart Foundation is making significant inroads into addressing the poverty and hunger that he sees every day.

Keep reading...

Meet Netta Jenkins! - Netta, D.I. (E1)

"Every single person feels a sense of exclusion throughout their life."

Even as a kid, this observation struck Netta Jenkins as a universal truth. As the newly elected president of her freshman class in Johnston High School in Rhode Island, she knew she had found a core emotional theme that any student could relate to. Netta then rallied students and teachers to discuss and address their feelings of exclusion, and together they were able to make meaningful changes in the day to day life at their school.

Keep reading...

African American Coast Guard Officer Proves Anything is Possible

Sometimes life can be completely random - the most important choices, made in a moment, that set your direction for decades, are decided by chance. So it was for Dr. Vince Patton who, as a teenager, dead set on a path for his future, ended up on a new course that led him to become the first African American Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard.
Keep reading...
Series - Beauty Redefined

After Dudeoir's Photoshoot Goes Viral He Marries His Photographer! (Beauty Redefined E4)

Wedding bells are ringing! In this very personal episode of Beauty Redefined, we join Tami Bears and Josh Varozza at Hagen Ranch, in Plattsville, California, as their families gather to celebrate the joining of this unique couple and the start of their lives as husband and wife.

Tami was the photographer and Josh was the subject of an offbeat calendar of light-hearted photos that struck a chord with people across the country. Josh, a big guy with tattoos and an incomparable beard, struck "seductive" poses for the camera clad in patriotic attire and this series of "dudeoir shots" quickly went viral. Josh became a role model for people struggling to love themselves and Tami became much more than just a friend...they fell in love and got engaged!

Keep reading...

Young Woman's Recyclables Fund Life Changing Surgeries

Sonali Ranaweera was a young girl when her parents gave her $100 and told her, "Use it to make a difference." At this time, she was learning about the economics of recycling in her school science class in San Jose, California and the pieces of an idea began to fall into place. Sonali decided to use her $100 to launch Recycling4Smiles, a recycling-focused charity organization that would allocate the money collected for bottles and cans to a worthy cause.

Keep reading...

Young Inventor Helps Kids Find Comfort in Hospitals

The only good part of a hospital stay is the end of it – the moment you go through the doors and know you are heading home. As stressful as this can be for an adult, it is exponentially worse for a young child. Ella Casano was one of those kids suddenly plucked out of normal life by an unpronounceable diagnosis and thrust into a daily routine of painful treatment, fear-stricken parents and the prospect of long periods away from home. Though she was really scared, she saw her situation from a kid's "how do I beat this" perspective and envisioned something that could make the experience just a little bit easier for herself and others like her.

Keep reading...
Watch and Subscribe
It's a Positivity Movement
OnlyGood TV on YouTube

mailbox

Get your Only Good TV Newsletter