An Ordinary Person…Trying to Do Something Extraordinary


I just saw this video on Design Mom (it’s from the “I’m a Mormon” video series) and I just melted.  It’s the perfect example of what can happen when you try to do something extraordinary.

Oh man, I think it can be really difficult to figure out how and when we can go out and do something extraordinary in our lives.  There are so many logistics to consider.  And it might seem like a miracle to actually pull off something we’ve dreamed of doing.  But I’ve also learned that as I’ve sought after the “extraordinary” even in small ways in my daily life – even in some of my most mundane or unfavorable situations – that miracles have still happened.  MIRACLES!  πŸ™‚  It’s amazing!

I’ll tell you a quick story.  (Even though nothing seems to be quick with me on this blog.  goodness. πŸ™‚

I’ve had a few jobs in New York and most of them have just been incredible experiences.  But I had one job that happened to be in one of the most toxic work environments in New York City.  I actually knew that going in – but I also felt I could handle it.  And you know what?  It was a good experience.  I decided to seek after the extraordinary in that job – and amazing things still happened.  For example, I used the job and environment as an opportunity to practice the way I reacted to things.  And I used it as an opportunity to develop compassion for those around me, even if they weren’t doing too well at the time.  Somehow, making this job a part of my spiritual practice resulted in one of the best experiences of my life.  And one of the best miracles was forming an amazing friendship with the woman who sat next to me.  We had some of the most meaningful conversations of my life during our time together, when we could hunker down amidst the negativity.  And those are some moments I’ll hold near and dear forever.

Is there anything extraordinary that you would love to do in your life?  Big or small?  (Anyone who knows me knows that I think big, too πŸ™‚  haha. 

Write your thoughts in the comments and perhaps as readers we can all share encouragement or even resources & ideas for how you could pull it off.  There’s such an amazing community of readers here – and I’m sure something good could come of this.  I’ll start off the comments with something big that I would love to do.  πŸ™‚

With love,


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  1. mara October 18, 2012 at 6:04 am - Reply

    -Danny & I would love to meet more of you somehow. Every time we meet up with readers, it's just an amazing experience. Perhaps we can host some retreats or just lunch get togethers in different cities. And I'd also love to document more of your stories somehow (there are just so many amazing ones it just blows our minds.)

    -We'd love to go on a service mission abroad. Maybe a year or two. We could rent out our home in Brooklyn and focus on working in an orphanage or working with anyone in need.

    • Leanne Rees October 21, 2012 at 5:10 pm - Reply

      Come to South Africa Mara! I would love to meet you and Danny and learn from you guys and work with you somehow. I live in Johannesburg and Tembisa is very close to the town that I stay in – the poverty there is heart breaking and my heart bleeds for the children there. Keep us posted! Love, Leanne

    • Miggy October 22, 2012 at 12:28 am - Reply

      San Antonio/Austin? We're in SA, but I know Austin is much cooler. πŸ™‚ And they're only an hour apart. Of course you can crash at our pad. πŸ™‚

  2. Sarah October 18, 2012 at 12:25 pm - Reply

    What a beautiful video. Thanks so much for sharing! My husband and baby and I got to volunteer with my parents and eight siblings in a foster home in China this past summer and it's amazing how much of a need there is through out the world. Thanks!

    • mara October 18, 2012 at 4:28 pm - Reply

      Oh my goodness, Sarah – that's amazing. How cool to be able to do that with your family – and you had a baby in tow, too! I've wondered how that would be to take a baby along on a service mission in a foreign country. Any thoughts on that after having done it?

    • mara October 18, 2012 at 4:41 pm - Reply

      Also, Sarah – did you guys work through an organization of some kind? Is it one you would recommend?

  3. Sara Estis October 18, 2012 at 2:04 pm - Reply

    Mara, I am currently in a toxic work environment and I would love to be able to use it more as a learning experience instead of as a foundation for my complaints. I know that there's an end to my job (I'm going back to school at nights now and will be student teaching this winter – thereby ending the job by the new year!), but I wish that I could find the positives in the day to day now. My office is small, only 4 people including me, and as the bottom of the chain here, each day is not always pleasant. Thank you for the reminder to try to make more pieces of my day count – I am going to try harder to turn the bad into the good (and to not complain so much!). Thanks, as always, for the inspiration!

    • mara October 18, 2012 at 4:36 pm - Reply

      SARA! Oh man – I'm so excited for you to try it. If you think of the whole thing as a spiritual practice and an opportunity to tap into something greater (in my case, I try to maintain that alignment with God)- it's almost as if those mundane or toxic moments can be fulfilling. I know that sounds crazy, but that's what I experienced and I've heard many say something similar. There is a book written by a 17th Century French monk called, "The Practice of the Presence of God" by Brother Lawrence. It's about a humble man who washed dishes and what not but experienced the Divine while doing so. I just ordered the book and I can't wait to read it – it came very highly recommended from one of my spiritual guru friends.

  4. Angie October 18, 2012 at 2:46 pm - Reply

    My husband and I are certifying to become foster parents.

    • mara October 18, 2012 at 4:40 pm - Reply

      What? Oh, I love you. That's amazing. I'm so touched by that. You two must have hearts of gold – no doubt some kids will be influenced for the better. xx

  5. Julie J October 18, 2012 at 4:16 pm - Reply

    What a great post (again!)! I am currently in a less than inspiring job and am determined to learn all the lessons here, so I can move on. Thank you for the reminder of a couple of those lessons I get to still learn! I am blessed to have a difficult relationship with my former husband (the father of my 2 boys) that is a constant opportunity to seek compassion and forgiveness. Some days I am not sure I'll ever fully learn those virtues- especially in that particular relationship- but I'm so grateful I have a Heavenly Father who believes in me enough to allow that challenge in my life!

    • mara October 18, 2012 at 4:47 pm - Reply

      Julie – you can do this!! πŸ™‚ Above I shared a book – it's a compilation of letters written by a 17th Century French monk. He talks about accessing the Divine, even in life's most undesirable moments (for him it was stuff like being a dishwasher). It's called "The Practice of the Presence of God" by Brother Lawrence. It came highly recommended to me and I just ordered it! All the best on your journey – good things will be ahead – just being up for the challenge, as you are, will lead to some miraculous moments. xx

  6. Emily October 18, 2012 at 6:39 pm - Reply

    i would love to be some sort of advocate for women loving their bodies. what a challenging world we live in currently– so much is placed on the physical instead of all the beautiful and wonderful facets of what human beings are made of. plus, i'd love to find some way to get stores like banana republic, j.crew, gap and anthropologie, etc. to open plus size lines! (what a dream.)

    also. i'd like take a walk in the park (might be too cold?) with you + your husband when i'm in NYC in December this year.

    • mara October 21, 2012 at 1:42 am - Reply

      Emily, you HAVE to look at this free podcast. I think it's so so good and it's all about women's beauty. Also check out the speaker's website at They're doing some amazing stuff over there.

      And, good for you – I love this topic. And if you ever want to do a guest post about it, let me know.

      About the walk, we can try to make it happen! πŸ™‚ Maybe a cafe w/ hot chocolate will have to do.

  7. au October 18, 2012 at 7:07 pm - Reply

    Love your blog. It is so inspiring and fits with how I like to live my life. I am a High School English teacher / ex seminary teacher and like to use everyday in my class as an opportunity to look for the good. I try to see each child/teenager how Heavenly Father sees them, and that means loving them regardless of how annoying they might behave :). This is a crucible for me personally, a true change of heart. I like my classroom to be a place where they (at least once in their day) get a smile just because. It is a powerful thing to be connected that way to my students and helps them want to learn. Your posts are always a great reminder of how to live with love and compassion for others. Thank you!!

    • mara October 21, 2012 at 1:44 am - Reply

      Beautiful. Just beautiful. I think trying to be a conduit of love – God's love – is the way we can have the most influence for good. You're making that happen in such a powerful way. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Tiffany October 18, 2012 at 7:15 pm - Reply

    Even thinking about answering this question makes me feel very vulnerable. I've actually dedicated the month of October to trying to figure out what I want out of life, amongst a few other questions. I don't have any answers yet but there is still time in the month. There are some things I know I want, marriage and kids, but I'm not having much luck in that area so what do I want most beyond that?

    I am in the career of my choice (non-profit) and I do fill fulfilled by my job. I have absolutely no doubt that I make a difference yet at the same time I am in a toxic environment. How do you let go of something that you are so deeply tied to and have a great passion for yet makes you miserable at the same time? I've also never been a career driven individual, a balanced life is extremely important to me. However at this point in my life I feel like if I am not married and don't have kids the main focus and passion in my life should be my career yet I am struggling to get myself to be aggressive about it.
    I've always wanted to live internationally but am hesitant to do it on my own. My parents are both gone and I question if it is wise to move so far away from family. You really do feel like an orphan when you parents die, at times you can feel completely alone and abandoned. In addition, maintaining familial ties is all on you, there is no longer a bridge keeping all of you together and informed as to the happenings of the family. And it’s not just with siblings, it's aunts, uncles, my grandma (whose 92). We are a family that loves each other but don’t necessarily communicate often, moving away would make it even more of a struggle. When all you want is family is it wise to move to a foreign land all on your own? That is just the tip of the iceberg, I have a ton of questions, just trying to find some answers.

    • mara October 21, 2012 at 1:55 am - Reply

      Tiffany – wow – so many options. Here's one little thing that changed my life when things otherwise would have felt hugely uncertain – and it came in handy no matter what turns my life took: I decided to OWN my very basic identity, which is being a woman here on a journey, with the potential to tap into the Divine through my daily interactions, through the thoughts of my soul, and through the state of my heart. Dedicating my life to that purpose gave everything else meaning. Anyway, as you face all these decisions, know that there can be great meaning & joy in all things and in all stages of life – and I think deciding to dedicate your life to a higher calling can help a ton! πŸ™‚

  9. Amanda October 18, 2012 at 9:01 pm - Reply

    I loved this post and its a good reminder to me that I'm living too small. I need to think bigger. I've set a goal to do one humanitarian trip abroad once a year and have let school get in the way of that goal.

    I have an engineering mind, I'm strong and a hard worker so I've always envisioned one of those vacations (or every single one of them) going to places that need help building schools, digging wells, or other projects that would improve the quality of life in the community.

    The woman in the video is living a life I wish i had the bravery and means to live myself. What an inspiration.

    • mara October 21, 2012 at 1:57 am - Reply

      Amanda – GO FOR IT! You can make it happen! Good things ahead. Do a little fundraiser if you need to – maybe you could earn some money for a trip? Maybe you could find sponsors? Good luck!!

  10. Sindee Savage October 19, 2012 at 2:34 am - Reply


    Thank you for posting that fabulous video! I'm definitely passing it along. I hold a very special place in my heart for orphanage children and those who are in need. I was also in an orphanage before I was adopted by my family at four months old.

    I have the most wonderful opportunity to help and support an orphanage in a township called Tembisa in South Africa. For the last couple of years myself, my daughter, my family, friends and strangers have come together to help feed these darling children of Tembisa. We call them our Tembisa Tots!

    My parents just got back from serving an LDS welfare mission in Johannesburg. Upon their arrival they were introduced to Regina "Mama", a 68 year old women who ran an orphanage all by herself. Mama is just like Mother Teresa. She has been doing this since 1989. After skyping and hearing stories of Mama and the children's needs, I knew I had to help. My 8 year old daughter (at the time) and I started our very own grass roots fundraiser and have been busy ever since.

    I have been fortunate enough to go visit two times now and am making it a goal to visit once a year. After meeting these precious children, Mama, and seeing the need, it's so hard to stop helping. Their needs are so great compared to what we have in the United States. We are so blessed. It's hard to articulate my experiences because their lives are so different from ours. It's something people have to visually see and experience for themselves.

    Making sure these children have two meals a day is the biggest concern. Housing, proper bathrooms/plumbing, security, education, clothing, and toys are all on the list as well. They are getting there and with the help of family and friends; we are doing what we can from the States to help.

    I love reading everyone's posts and hearing their stories, goals, experiences. It makes me so happy to know people's hearts are softened and are so caring. It is very inspiring and keeps the fire burning in my heart!

    • mara October 21, 2012 at 2:01 am - Reply

      Sindee – I dying over this story. How amazing. I kinda want to get on a plane right now and go see "Mama" and those kids. Not even kidding. I have some medical stuff over the next few months. But maybe I could go over there soon. I've been thinking about it a lot. I may be writing you for more info.

  11. Rose October 20, 2012 at 12:14 pm - Reply

    I just love those "I am a Mormon" videos. They truly are inspiring and uplifting in every way, and teach us to be a better human being. It shows how the gospel changes people in doing something extraordinarily great with their lives. Whether great or small.

    In my case raising four children, and being in the Relief Society Presidency where there is so much need takes a lot of my time. Time in which some of us don't have, or are willing to give. Sometimes it's easy to just hand over a check than to give of your time in servicing others. I have interacted with sisters who have felt so troubled, lost, and unloved. Through my letters they are truly uplifted, and just showing up at their door instead of calling first puts a huge smile on their face, and they can see that God is good.

    I have learned to develop compassion throughout the past 20 years of being a christian, and giving more love to my family as well as others because it wasn't given enough to me as a child. The wrong kind of affection was given which has made me the strongest mother ever. My story may not be as extraordinary as those changing the world by building orphanages, or going to China for a year to help those in need, and being a foster parent, but I know that at this moment in Jersey I am needed as a friend with a good listening ear to both my family, my neighbors, teens, people in my community, and my fellow sisters in the church.

    I know that when my better half and I are older that we will go on mission after mission. That would be something extraordinary for me because I wasn't raised with the church, and I LOVE sharing the gospel! I was 21 when I converted, moved to Utah, and found my true love. So I didn't have that opportunity, but I will!

    Thank you for sharing! xxx

    • mara October 21, 2012 at 2:03 am - Reply

      Carry on, my dear! Sounds like you're doing some amazing things in Jersey! Thanks for the inspiration.

  12. Sindee Savage October 21, 2012 at 8:40 pm - Reply

    You and Danny would love South Africa! Meeting Mama and the tots would just a high light. I can send you my website, fb, and YouTube so you can see how precious they are! Maybe we can plan our trips and go at the same time next year!

  13. Anonymous October 22, 2012 at 7:43 am - Reply

    When I was in high school, I became very concerned for all the poverty in the world. I read Mother Theresa's biography. I had about $1500 in my bank account to save for college, and I considered sending it abroad to help some families. Then it occurred to me that if I save that, get an education, and earn money, then I could really help exponentially. Honestly, it has been 13 years, and I still have yet to visit a 3rd world country. My husband and I are squeaking by raising our 3 children. But I have dreams of doing great things. We are very smart with our money, and I hope, hope that one day we will have enough to make a big impact. I know you don't need to have a lot to donate, and we do donate some. But I would love to do something like this lady. And that takes money. Money can be so bad, but it can also be so good. Thanks for the reminder why I am frugal. Sometimes I forget.

  14. KelliO October 23, 2012 at 10:08 pm - Reply

    Your comments about work came just in time. My job is rough right now. It's brand new, it supports us well, and I kind of hate it. I've finally started getting over myself so that I can figure out why, and then work on fixing it. Find a new job, or be better at the one I'm at? Am I playing the blame game? Do I just need to step up to the challenge? I may re-read your thoughts and the comments you got on it over and over while I figure it out. Thanks for mentioning that.

  15. ashley October 24, 2012 at 3:13 am - Reply

    PLEASE NEVER STOP THIS BLOG. That is all. πŸ™‚

  16. Heather November 16, 2012 at 8:12 pm - Reply

    I just tried to look at this video because I wanted to show it to my son…and now unfortunately it's marked as private. I'm hosting a pre-Thanksgiving party this weekend, and am having all the kids create gift boxes for an organization called Samaratin's purse. The gift boxes are sent all over the world to children. Here's a link if you're interested:

    I thought the video would help my son, who is 4-1/2, see how some children really don't have anything, and that story was so uplifting.

  17. Anonymous January 2, 2013 at 1:23 am - Reply

    I'm a little girl with big thoughts and all I want to do is say them, but I don't know how.

  18. Anonymous March 21, 2013 at 9:14 am - Reply

    Hi everyone, I found this amazing story, trying to look for a good example or advice to be able to answer the question, why did you get terminated from your previous job? and I don't know how I ended up here, when you are clicking everything online looking for answers, it just happens.

    I won't mention the company but I was working in the middle east where such regulations were curfews even on your days off. I went back home 20 minutes late on a normal day off, so I got terminated for braking one of the countless rules, that right now people can't still don't believe we all had.

    I've never worked in such conditions ever in my life as Mara mentioned above, that she was working in a crazy environment, I don't like to compare but I think this situations when companies deprive you from your freedom are extreme.

    Anyway, the point is that I still managed to have wonderful times, meet wonderful people, two years of a totally different experience ever in my life, helped me to treassure my freedom and my family, as I was far for two years.

    Later I will attend an interview for another country in the middle east and I would like someboy to give me an advice about how to manage the answer from the question: why did you get terminated? I know is funny and so many people don't believe the reason, but believe! me it is true.

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