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Inspiration in a Small Package

By Roni Wright (originally published 3/18/16)

7/5/2022 | PromoJournal Staff, From The Freezer

Stories about people have always fascinated me.  Stories about people doing the unexpected make me want to find out more.  One day while driving to my yoga class at 4:15 am - yes, that early – I heard a quick news report about an eleven-year-old who launched a book drive.  Not surprisingly, the mention of books and a young girl at the same time piqued my curiosity and hooked me in to want to learn more.

The spotlight of the story was about young Marley Dias. And it’s a great example about how a person of any age can inspire others to act, march with confidence outside the lines, and build upon an idea fueled by a purpose.  Marley’s story goes something like this.

While a fifth grader at St. Cloud Elementary School in West Orange, NJ, Marley, an exceptional student, was simply tired of reading books with characters that didn’t look anything like her. She thought all children should be seeing more than “white boys and dogs” in their school curriculum.  “It doesn’t matter what age you are, you still need a character you can connect with,” Marley says.  “[Then] you remember the lessons you learn.”

One day she tried to explain to her mother that her teacher wasn’t giving her a choice as to what she’d like to read.  This conversation was the turning point and where Marley’s determination took flight. Her mother responded by asking Marley what, if anything, was she going to do about it? How could she make a difference for herself and her fellow students in the classroom?  And do something she did. 

Marley got the motivation she needed from her mother and took action. She decided to collect 1,000 books where the characters looked more like Marley.  Black girls just like her.  But that wasn’t all she hoped to accomplish, she wanted to draw attention to the fact that all children, no matter who they are, should be able to identify and see their reflection in the books and stories they read. Children’s literature should be for all instead of for the few. “Kids do love diversity,” she adds. “You just have to try and figure out what they like.”

In January 2016, Marley launched her book drive to achieve her 1,000 book goal.  I’m happy to report she’s well on her way because she has received so much attention from her community and the media.  Both books and monetary donations have been pouring in. Marley, I can’t wait to see what else you accomplish.

What gives us the determination and ability to grow the seed of an idea, develop it and have it change your life and those around you? I believe we all have the capacity to find this seed every day and yet we don’t always follow through.  We “stay in the lines.” We remain safe and comfortable.

And why do we remain in a comfort zone avoiding or postponing or simply not seeking beyond the boundaries we’ve established? Are we afraid we might fail? Do we think we are not good enough or smart enough to take the leap and pursue something we are passionate about?

I say, be like Marley! 

Decide what it is that you’d like to do and then figure out how to go and do it. Of course, keep it legal and safe, but follow the fork in the road that leads to your passion.  It’s okay to start small because to find personal joy and happiness, many times it’s the little contributions that we make on a daily basis that have the greatest impact on ourselves and others.

Here are a few ideas.  Volunteer at your church or synagogue. Read to children at the library. Buy books and donate them to shelters in your community. Mentor a colleague and share an expertise that you have cultivated over time. Pick up trash in your neighborhood park. Start a book club with your friends. You get the picture.

Coloring books for adults have gained such popularity and it all began with an idea someone had to give cancer patients something to take their mind off of their therapy. Now it’s a worldwide phenomenon that’s giving artists, and more importantly non-artists, a way to express their creativity and time to explore their version of art.

Explore ways to create your own personal expression of who you want to be today.  It’s all right to experiment and color outside the lines. To take whom we are at this moment and find new ways to conquer the world no matter how small that world may be.  Sometimes it takes an 11-year-old to show us the way.

Roni S. Wright, MAS, vice president of supplier The Book Company, is a 30-year veteran of the promotional products industry. In her volunteer and leadership roles, Roni has served on the boards of PPAI, PPEF, the Regional Association Council (RAC), PPAF and YESAA. Roni shares her busy industry life with husband, Chris, and daughter, Devon. They inspire and encourage her to “be all that she can be.” Over the past few years Roni has found a love of yoga.  She’s achieved her 200-hour certification and has journeyed to India to study at the renowned K. Pattabhi Jois Institute.

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