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Kings Mountain, North Carolina, United States
"A mind lively and at ease" is a blog by a first-generation Russian-Ukrainian immigrant Maria K. (Maria Igorevna Kuroshchepova). An engineer by education, an analyst by trade, as well as a writer, photographer, artist and amateur model, Maria brings her talent for weaving an engaging narrative to stories of life, fashion and style advice, book and movie reviews, and common-sense and to-the-point essays on politics and economy.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Today I decide... to pay it forward

While many people thought that the movie Pay it Forward with Helen Hunt, Kevin Spacey and Haley Joel Osment was way too sentimental and tried too hard to tug on the heart srtings. The concept, however, is sound in my opinion. Do something nice for someone - no strings attached except the next time they see someone in need, they do the same.

Once upon a time I was in a situation where I could have very much used such a selfless benefactor. I related the experience in my last year's post for Venus Vision Be a Christmas Stranger. Unfortunately, in my case the miracle did not happen. After that experience, I was faced with a choice: I could either become an utterly disappointed heartless individual with no faith in people, or I could remain myself. I opted for the latter. Perhaps, it was fortunate that I went through this when I was only nineteen years old - young enough to retain my faith in bigger and better things, yet old enough to still appreciate the significance of the experience.

In the last two weeks I have heard at least two stories of people in situations where they could definitely use a helpful nudge from someone completely outside of their environments - a nudge that has a potential to change their lives forever. One person is a ten-year old son of a friend who lives in Russia. The entire family is remarkable - each member within his or her own right. This boy in particular is not only a very mature, well-spoken and sensible young man, but someone with an already formulated dream and with the drive to take steps to make it real.

You might snort and say, "Well, all children dream! Didn't we all want to be astronauts or firemen or something?" Yes. But when you dream of becoming an astronaut, did you actually research, what was required to do so? What were the physical fitness tests? What expertise was important? Or did you just say, "I am going to be an astronaut!" and forget all about it, as you went to college to be something else entirely.

This young man wants to be a film director. He is already shooting his first amateur movies and he is already teaching himself to evaluate his own work and judge what is good and what needs to be redone. A ten-year old living here in America might find this challenging. Consider a ten-year old living in Chelyabinsk, Russia, in an apartment with his parents and two younger siblings, everyone doing his and her best to take care of themselves and perform multiple jobs. The kid loves looking professional by wearing a little suit and tie every day. He only has one dress shirt, which his mom (an utterly fabulous woman within her own right) washes and irons every day.

The city of Chelyabinsk does have a private school of cinematography, where children are taught direction, acting and other components of the movie magic. However, being a private school, it costs $400 per month to send a child there - a sum significant even in the United States.

Another individual in search of a hero lives in the United States. She is going through a bitter divorce, her ex having used a legal loophole to leave her without the means to support herself (she was a stay-at-home mom - and anyone who thinks that it's easy and is like "not having a job" should try that). My husband had recruited her into his business and they are now working on a plan to get her licensed and working.

Establishing one's own business is hard enough - and this woman has to do it in the middle of an ugly legal battle, while trying to keep her kids and a roof over her head.

I am sure we have all heard stories like that and continue hearing them on a daily basis, and I, for one, no longer wish to be the one that just passes by. So, here is my personal "pay it forward" commitment. From now on, half of everything I earn from the sale of my books, my articles, my art, jewelry and photography will go to a "pay it forward" fund. My first project is to help send my Russian friend's son to that cinematography school. If there is anything left over in the end, I am sure I can find another project.

Why only half, you might ask? Excellent question. Because I have dreams too, as do people close to me. Establishing myself as an author, photographer and artist is a part of my plan to generate sources of income, independent of my current full-time job. Some of the money I have earned through those additional channels is already going to my family in Ukraine. Money cannot buy happiness - that much is true - but I have learned that it can open many doors and pave many paths leading to happiness, both for myself and for people I love.

I am not even going to be pretend that I don't want to be wealthy - I absolutely do. There are things I want for myself: houses, cars, travel around the world and many more - all of them captured in my vision books. However, in addition to being personally wealthy, I wish to contribute to the lives of others - those who in their turn have the potential of influencing more and more people down the road.

I also do not wish for people to just give me the money - that wouldn't be much of an achievement to just take something and pass it on to someone else without any effort on my part. I want people to get something in exchange - a book, a work of art or a piece of jewelry, as well as the notion that their purchase is more than just a purchse. It is also an investment into someone else's life - a chance to make a real difference. Everyone who knows me is aware of how much I put into everything I write and create - so you can rest assured that I am not just taking your money under false pretense, tryint to tug at your heart strings: I work hard for it.

So... Here are my links, my books, my art, my photography... You are welcome to them all. And long live the "pay it forward" fund!

- Pyrography M - artwork and jewelry store
- 123RF photography portfolio
- Big Stock Photo photography portfolio
- Stories for Anastasia
- Ukrainian Vignettes
- Paris Diaries
- Poems You Have Never Met
- The Ring of Nine

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