Vietnamese born Toan Lam scours the globe for the “street corner” heroes of stories he produces. A long-time resident of the US, he is the founder of GoInspireGo (GIG), a multimedia platform using social networking for social change.
Allowing himself to “dream crazy”, Toan Lam’s stories have now inspired millions around the globe, shared by news organizations such as Good Morning America and The Huffington Post.
Here is one of his stories I found inspiring – the story of Jorge Munoz.
I met a real life Angel recently…
After work and a quick coffee break at home in Queens, New York, 46 year old school bus driver and “Angel” Jorge Munoz heads out to collect food donations from the community and to buy groceries from local stores. He spends more than half his weekly salary of roughly $700 on this food. Back home with the rest of the team -his mother, sister, 5-year- old nephew and a friend – they multiply whatever they’re having for dinner into 140 home cooked meals, packed with love and care in a tiny kitchen in a shoebox of a flat. His living room is like a pantry, full of fresh food ready to be cooked and bags of cleaned clothes and blankets, ready to be given out.
His stove no longer works properly because it’s been overused to cook food in bulk so he carries huge vats of food up to his sister’s apartment to cook so he can make his daily deadline. Even with an injured back, he never complains instead doing this service with love.
Every night (bar one), for four years at 9:30pm, Munoz and his family have cooked, packed his pickup truck with coolers full of hot drinks and food and hit the road. The one day he missed, a snowstorm had shut down all lines of transportation, including the subway and buses.
Toan Lam watched him at work, at the Roosevelt Avenue subway stop, where the line quickly multiplies from seven to a crowd of over a hundred when Munoz’s truck pulls up. Passers-by clutch their purses as they walk by the neat line of people, politely waiting for food.
By the tone in Munoz’ voice, you can feel his passion for compassion. He’s happy to have a paying job, so he can continue doing this second (unpaid) job. “When they smile, that’s how I get paid.”
Munoz says the idea came to him when he was waiting to pick up students at a bus stop. “I saw people throwing away food at a food factory”. He asked if he could pick up the fresh food and take it to the hungry strangers, whose faces are now familiar. “If you change the life of one guy, that’s enough “, Munoz says. “Since I was little, my mom has taught me to share, and that’s what we’re doing here.”
This story about a man, who truly lives love, is a lesson in compassion and humanity. Choosing to stop turning his cheek to a growing problem, he has taken action through a daily selfless act of kindness.
Inspired by Jorge Munoz, Toan Lam says he once utterly disliked homeless and hungry people. He was jaded by having given food to a hungry person, to be turned away and instead asked for money. Coming from an immigrant family that worked hard and pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, he questioned why they didn’t work.
He now realizes that they have hopes, fears and dreams just like he does and feels very grateful that his amazing support system of family and friends have helped him avoid their situation.
After arriving in America, Toan remembers feeling despondent, uninspired and powerless in the communities filled with violence, hookers, liquor stores, drive-by shootings and drug dealing that were the neighbourhoods of his childhood. Books were his passport out of these bad neighbourhoods. Now Toan is a determined voice for the voiceless, through a career as a TV reporter, college professor and his passion: GoInspireGo.
Believing that everyone is inspired by someone or something, Toan Lam has created his own dream job title, “Inspirator” – someone who helps people discover their powers to help others.
Wow, quite a story!