Why Do I Give Back? Because I Have Been There, Done That…

Thanksgiving 2010 marked was my 7 year anniversary since I first arrived in LA. I had no job, no money, no friends or family locally. No, I was not an aspiring actress. I just had no direction and was chasing a dream that was TBD.

Why Do I Give Back? Because I Have Been There, Done That...

Vicious Cycle

Pretty much the only thing that separated me from the homeless was my apartment that came with the baggage of non rent paying aspiring whatevers. And so came the vicious cycle of my rent rolling on to my credit card. I would go days without eating and without speaking to anyone. I realized I was losing weight but had no clue how bad I looked until I started having people come up to me and offer me food. I will never forget the older woman that lived above me. I had never spoken with her before, but one day she knocked on my door and told me she was going to Trader Joes and just wanted to know if I needed anything. I politely declined, telling her I wasn’t hungry. About an hour later she came knocking again. She had brought me a sandwich and said “just in case…

I Wanted to Scream at Them

Of course, being Hollywood, I did have the occasional person come up to me telling me how good I looked, how impressed and jealous they were of my small waist and told me whatever I was doing to keep it up. I wanted to scream at them, “Look at me. Really look at me!” but I didn’t have any energy or focus so my screams became mumbles to myself. I began to think, aside from my apartment, furnished only with a futon mattress, how similar I was to the countless homeless I encountered on my aimless walks. What were their stories? How did they get to where they were now? Drugs…alcohol? Perhaps…but I was a college graduate from a good family and found myself on a similar path.

I Finally Landed a Job

When I finally landed a job that turned out to be the launching platform for my career, I had sold all of my clothes of value and had nothing to wear for my new business attire work environment so I was repeatedly sent home for violating the dress code policy. My boss, now mentor, Matt Difebo, invited me out to coffee one day and broached the subject. He said he saw a lot of potential in me and then shared with me his story. We both teared up and he said his wife would be more than happy to take me on a shopping spree. While I appreciated the gesture more than they will ever know, I declined. Later that night I went to the mall where I prayed I would be approved for a credit card from The Limited. I showed up at work the next morning, he looked at me, smiled and nodded. And though it took me 6 months to pay off that $300 credit card bill, I never got sent home again. I would also later become one of the top sales reps for department.

I experienced many highs and ultimate new lows over the course of finding myself…Most of which I will not speak of here, not because I am ashamed but b/c this is simply not the place. I would only like to say that it is because of the kindness of strangers, some of which I have never seen again and some of which turned out to become great friends, professional mentors and one even my husband that I began to lift myself up to who I am and where I am today.

There are many ways to give back without spending money. This month I challenge you to share. Inspire others! What is your story? What are the ways you plan on paying it forward?

Author: Ash Mashhadi

Ash Mashhadi is co-Founder of the Inspiration Zone. He is also co-Founder of the successful website InPlymouth.com and Partner in the highly successful web design and social media consultancy Design Inspiration. Ash is a popular and lively speaker and frequently trains and mentors owners of small and medium-sized businesses. He is often called The Inspiration Guy, and if you want to discover why, just talk to him.

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