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photo credit: Aeysha Chaudhry
One of my favorite people in the world is my dear friend Salma Hasan Ali. She has inspired me since the day I met her 10 years ago with her kind heart and brilliant mind, and has only impressed me more over the years. Salma is so fitting as this month’s ‘She Believed She Could, So She Did’ honoree as she continually exemplifies strength, like when she came to this country from Pakistan at age seven and didn’t speak a word of English but worked her way to Columbia University, or as she fought breast cancer as an adult. Today she works hard to make the world a better place not only by raising two conscientious children, but through her writing which promotes understanding, and her work with MoverMoms, and her blog 30Days30Deeds.com.
Interview with Salma Hasan Ali
Freelance Writer, Blogger ‘30days30deeds.com‘, Communications Consultant,
Chief Inspiration Officer of MoverMoms, mom of two wonderful kids, and married for over 25 years!
Who or What inspires you?
People amaze me and inspire me. I love hearing people’s stories, finding out where they’re coming from, what motivates them, what scares them, what challenges they’ve overcome. As a writer, I’ve had the opportunity to meet some amazing, talented, passionate, committed people. So many people I’ve met inspire me, from the incredible octogenarian humanitarian in Pakistan named Edhi to the person I met recently in a homeless shelter who was once Mayor in his African hometown. So it’s not just a ‘who’ that inspires me but a ‘what’ – compassion, tenacity, grit, passion, relentlessness. I think we all have some of this inside each of us. When we most need it, these qualities shine. And that’s inspiring.
Favorite STL piece?
This is a hard one, I love so many of Jen’s designs. But two in particular mean so much to me – the gratitude necklace and the tree hugger. My daughter Saanya gave me the gratitude necklace for my birthday a few years ago, and this letter: “When I think of the word gratitude, you are the first thing that comes to mind. Not just because it is a value that you have worked so hard to try and instill in Zayd and me for years, but because there is nothing in the world that I am more grateful for than you.” The fact that Saanya chose Jen’s necklace to share this sentiment with me means the world to me.
I also love my tree hugger necklace, because one of my heroes will always be Wangari Maathai, an incredible woman, and human rights and environmental activist who started the Green Belt Movement and planted millions of trees and changed the world. She taught me so much about doing, never giving up, the power of one, and getting on with it. She used to always tell the story of the hummingbird: When a fire breaks out in a huge forest, all the animals flee except the hummingbird. The little bird flies back and forth, its tiny beak filled with water. The other animals are petrified. When they ask what the hummingbird can possibly do with its small beak, the little bird answers, “I am doing the best I can.” The tree hugger necklace reminds me of my friend Wangari, the values she stood for, the lessons she taught me, especially to always ‘do the best I can’.
I love finding inspiring quotes, and I have many that I turn to. But I think my favorite may be something I came up with during my breast cancer journey that best sums up my life philosophy. I was thinking if I could emblazon a pithy slogan on a plastic yellow wristband, sell millions to raise funds for a good cause, and start a movement, it would be “LiveKind”.
Piece of advice for other women:
I’m not one to give advice, I’m the person who’s always seeking it. As I was going through my breast cancer journey, I wrote a series of letters to family and close friends keeping them informed of how I was doing. I ended each letter with five words: “We’ll get through this, InshAllah.” I think that’s the advice I’d want to share. Whatever your ‘C’ happens to be, “We’ll get through this, InshAllah.”
My favorite cause is:
MoverMoms, an incredible organization that makes it easy for busy families to take part in community service, models the importance of volunteering for our kids, and does so much good in our local and global community. (http://www.movermoms.com) And Pennies for Education and Health, an NGO started by dear friends in Houston, which sponsors children to go to school in slum villages in India. It’s been one of my life’s most fulfilling experiences to be a part of these groups. (http://www.pehchildren.org)
What is the one thing no one knows about you?
As a writer of personal stories, I feel like my life is an open book (literally!). I have to think about this one …
I wish I knew how to …
If you could have lunch with anyone, who would it be and what would you order?
My grandmother, and I’d probably ask her to cook something for me. There are so many things I would love to ask her now, about her life, her dreams, her views, her wishes. I just want to sit beside her and hear her stories.