By special permission of Girish Bali, show host of the Back to Basics podcast, we publish their show as a BONUS for our listeners. In this interview Girish connects with Corinna Bellizzi, creator and host of Care More. Be Better: A Social Impact + Sustainability Podcast. He gets her talking about what “Back to Basics” means to her. They talk about doing good, the pay-it-forward concept and human kindness. Corinna reveals her struggle with the concept that there is no such thing as a “selfless act”. and even offers perspective through a confession that caught her by surprise. It’s a thoughtful discussion that we hope you will all enjoy.
About Girish Bali and Back to Basics Podcast: Girish Bali has lived in New Jersey since 1988. For the last 20 years, he’s worked in Cloud Computing in a telecommunication industry to earn a living and lead a comfortable life. As he worked in telecommunications, he began learning about videography and has since been active in capturing life changing moments for people, be it weddings, birthdays, a sweet sixteen, bar/bat mitzvah etc. Now he shares those thoughts and perspectives with everyone through the podcast medium.
Back to Basics: https://www.back2basicsmode.com/
Listen to the podcast here:
Back to Basics Podcast with Girish Bali, a Guest Appearance by Corinna Bellizzi
I had the pleasure of connecting with another podcaster, Girish Bali. He has a show that isn’t too different from my own. It’s called Back2Basics. In the show, he invites people from all walks of life to share what back-to-basics means to them. It’s an informative, hopeful, and inspirational show that I hope you will take the time to check out. In the interview, he and I talk about doing good, paying forward the kindness and what activism means. I even provided a confession that I wasn’t sure I was going to offer until the words were flowing out of my mouth.
We have a guest who’s the same wavelength as me. We are talking about caring people, kindness, paying forward, being activists. We will talk about that in detail. She has her own show and we are going to talk about that, too. Her name is Corinna Bellizzi. How were you doing? Thank you for coming to the show.
Thank you for having me. It’s my pleasure.
The first thing is before we get into all the basics, what is back-to-basics means to you?
I would describe getting back-to-basics as getting back to the root of what makes you satisfied as a being. Whatever that is for you, if you are trying to get back to basics, you are getting back to the fundamentals of what matters.
Is that how your show started? Let’s talk about that of how it is.
I put a lot of thought into the whole pathway of discovering what you want to talk about, what is important to you that you decide you want to launch a show. I look at my show as an invitation. I’m inviting people to care more about a particular issue, a social problem or the environment so we can all be a little better. My focus is on helping people to see that they can be part of the change that they want to see. Take the Gandhi perspective and be the change that you want to see in the world but at the same time, break it down so that they understand it’s not like looking up Mount Everest. You can do small things and make big changes.
If you do enough of them, it can become big. I feature all stories of individuals from all walks of life that have worked to be a part of that change. In some cases, they are entrepreneurs and others are on the not-for-profit side. I look at it as my way of helping to improve their impact. In doing so, I helped them to have a greater impact, and that means that I’m having an impact. I’m helping them to see things become more successful, reach more people, get more people involved and inspired.
Let me explain something to you here and think about this for a while. Big names and complicated names make it too complicated. It could be the simplest thing. If you look at it, the name of my show is Back2Basics. We go to the basics of the root of how you care about the world and yourself. This is how she created her world also. With simple words, Care More Be Better. How simple is that? If you make it simple as a business, like a show or even your life, your life will go smoothly. I read on one of your website paragraphs and it said, “Respond to people’s kindness to oneself by being kind to someone else.” Explain how did that sentence come in because I liked that sentence on the website there.
We all have to come from a kinder place. One of the things that were coming out of that particular show was when I interviewed Genevieve Smith. She is a social change expert. She helps companies to align their purpose with what they do. They say, “Let’s see what matters to us most.” One of our core tenants is that we have a commitment to the individual within our company and we have decided that we want to have diversity therefore as a core tenant. If we are going to approach that, how do we do it in a way that helps everyone to feel like they can be included? One of the ways that can be done is through kindness, through simply offering an extension and asking someone for their opinion about where you are headed in your business. Polling the lower ranks within an organization to allow them to be part of the process.
In doing that, you are being kind to them because you are listening to them, and then you can take a simple act of kindness. I look at the pay it forward style campaigns that we have seen in many cases, like TOMS shoes who came out of the left field and said, “For every pair of shoes that we sell, we are going to give a pair to somebody who can’t afford them.” Bombas socks are doing the same. They are paying forward the kindness. As they do so, the people that they connect with, feel good about what they have done. They perhaps even talk about it to someone else and say, “Did you know that this is an issue? Homeless people don’t get socks because socks are never handed down. They have to get them new and they don’t have the money to buy them.”
A company like Bombas socks came out to help bring awareness to the fact that people are living in such dire straits that they don’t have socks to wear. That’s an issue. You are spiraling that kindness outwards, so that the individual who says, “I was mindful with my dollars and how I spent them. I did this good thing and now I’m also aware of this issue that I wasn’t aware of before. How am I now going to approach my daily life a little differently? Am I going to sit in a Starbucks line, get a coffee and decide out of the blue to buy the person behind me a cup of coffee?” What will the spiraling positive effect be from that? How much more kindness will be spread? That concept is beautiful. When you do good for someone else, you feel good.
The way the world is when I say to people, “Let’s pay forward,” as your example, you are in Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks, and you are paying someone behind you. People will say, “They are not going to do anything back to you.” That’s more of a self-centered person. We don’t think about what you are going to get. It’s what will come to you later on. That’s what you think.
It’s all about the outlook and remaining positive because if you are spending time worrying more about what you are going to get back from someone having given them something, then you are not coming from a positive mindset, to begin with. I’m remembering a lecture from high school. I had this English professor that I adored but she gave this controversial lecture where she talked about no selfish act or no selfless act. She said, “Everything we do on some level is inherently selfish.” I sat with that idea for a while. I listened and I’ve got angrier at the idea that there could be no action that would be selfless. I still struggle with that but I do realize too that there’s something to it.
You do good because it makes you feel good in some way. You help a child climb the steps because you don’t want to see them fall. Most of it makes you feel good that you help them. You hold the hand of an old lady crossing the street, who might have trouble getting across the time that that placard stops flashing the walking sign. These are all small acts that you might do in your day-to-day to offer a little bit of help but you also do them because they do make you feel good. At the end of the day, even if that is true, even if there is no such thing as a selfless act if you feel good by helping someone else, don’t you want to feel good? Wouldn’t you rather have that than this sense of negativity of, “If I bought somebody a cup of coffee behind me, I’m not ever going to get that back?”
If you remember, back in the days, there was a movie called Paying Forward. I don’t know if you remember that. That movie was quite moving if you think about it. Teaching a little kid and the kid says, “Who cares?” How do you change that, “Who cares?” to, “I will do it to make a change.” Not around the world because that will come in ripple effects. We are talking 2, 3 people ahead of you.
When you do good for someone else, you also feel good.
That’s part of the reason I started the show in the beginning, too. It’s like, “How do you reach people? How do you get them to understand issues that may seem too big to even tackle? How do you help them understand the impact they can have?” If you share beautiful stories of individuals who have made a big difference in other people’s lives, it can help. I think about a lot of moments in my life over the last several years. There are a few individuals who stand out who helped me out when I needed it.
One of them was my fifth-grade teacher. His name was Mr. Roberts. I was rather poor. I didn’t have a lot of resources and I was interested in sciences. He chose to pay for me to be in Summer Science Camp himself so that I could engage with other students who had more resources, learn about wildlife, look at pond water under a microscope and do all of those things that over six weeks, helped to open my mind into the role of nature in life.
I think about the impact that had on my scholastics, on my engagement with school, and me choosing to pay it forward later to other kids in similar situations that might not have afforded it. I have funded a couple of $500 scholarships for children that are in similar situations because when the opportunity came up, I’m like, “I need to do that. I need to help another kid like me get the resources they need to open their minds and to get more engaged with their education.”
Was there another reason why you started this show? When we talked about this, there was a reason that you wanted to start this show.
I have spent the last several years working in the field of supplements. I love what I do. I get the chance to build some amazing brands from the Omega-3 brand Nordic Naturals that I work to pioneer and develop into a juggernaut in the natural products industry to some other smaller brands that may be less well known but have some great impact.
I get the opportunity now to choose the types of projects I want to work on, which is great. At the same time, I have always been inspired by the not-for-profit sector, pay it forward style marketing, and cause marketing. I have always had some level of commitment to one or more campaigns like that throughout my professional career.
I’m interested in digging in and helping other companies learn how to do that thing so that they are more focused on impact. Ultimately, I feel like in doing this, I’m drawing a line in the sand and saying, “These are the companies I want to work with.” Maybe if you don’t commit to wanting to build a better world or have some corporate social responsibility programs that relate to the sustainability and measures that you are putting out there, then maybe I don’t want to work for you. Maybe I don’t want to work in supplements forever.
Perhaps I would consider transitioning to working in the not-for-profit sector. I’m looking at it as an opportunity to open my mind, connect with people, build great content, have great conversations, and inspire others to get involved in whatever thing that they are passionate about and do something to make their life more meaningful.
This is why I have started this show, to bring your type of story into this show. There are a lot of people who are passionate about whatever they are doing in their lives. In the previous episodes that I have had, I had a singer. He’s a full-time marketing guy and a musician. Where does that passion come in? Where do that basics come in for him? There is a person that I did, she worked full-time as a humanitarian and a movie blogger. Those type of passions comes out. Your passion shows that’s why you started the whole thing and that’s why you are here. Care More Be Better for Back2Basics. That’s how I look at it. Thank you for that. What is activism for you?
Activism is not accepting the status quo. It’s like, “Here we are, we can do better.” It’s looking at those that are less fortunate and saying, “What can I do to help them out?” It is opening your mind and opening your eyes to the good fortune that you have. Understanding and accepting that other people don’t have those same opportunities, then seeing how you might fix it. It’s noticing that the waterways are polluted and doing something to change it or going to a beach, seeing litter, and choosing to organize a cleanup or it could be about anything. Sometimes it’s as simple as picking up the phone and calling someone you care about to remind them that you do.
We tend to walk on the beach and we see a lot of people litter and spit. How do we tell them not to do that and be clean? That’s an ongoing process if we think about it. You can tell 1 person, 2 people, but then how do you tell the whole world as a ripple effect? How do we do that, from your point of view?
That’s the forever problem. How do we get people to care? How do we get them to notice? I’m going to share an example because I know people sitting in my seat, once you have the resources to pay for your rent and you are not worried about where your next meal is coming from and things like that, it’s easy to become a little complacent.
It’s also easy to forget what it was like to be in the shoes of somebody less fortunate, who didn’t necessarily have the resources to pay bills or whatnot. I smoked for sixteen years. For sixteen years, I mostly chucked cigarette butts out the window. Let’s be clear on that, that’s littering. I littered for a long time while driving around from the age of about 16 to 29. I didn’t use the ashtray in the car because I didn’t like the way it made the car smell.
Did I create wildfires by doing that? Possibly. Did sea turtles eat my cigarette butts? Possibly. Did the litter exist and introduce pollutants to the environment? Yes. I did that for a long time. Was it that I didn’t care about the environment? No. It was that I was a little complacent about the issue. You can help people come away and start to care about something by telling them stories, helping them understand the impact, listening to them, inviting them to be a part of the conversation, and giving them resources.
I live in Santa Cruz, California and we are a beach town in the USA. People come from outside that doesn’t necessarily live here and more often, they are the people that are littering, you can almost tell. People drove in from somewhere else by the droves. They are not thinking about the fact that there’s no one here that’s paid to come to clean up after them, rather than be holier than now and say, “Don’t litter,” step over someone’s shoulder and berate them, perhaps come from a different perspective and say, “Can I take that for you? I’m headed to the trash, can I take that?” so they are invited to be aware and you are not being accusational if that makes sense.
You have to understand, this is my thought process. Maybe everyone’s thought process is different. Before you tell someone else to do the kindness and the paying forward and all that, try to do that inside your home because that’s your immediate family and close friends. If you start from inside your bubble, I’m sure the bubble will start expanding. Teach people in your home that will start and then you spread out. The whole world will understand where this whole ripple effect started. My ripple effect will be starting from home but start in your home and see what happens. You will see that paying forward will work. Believe me, it does work.
Activism is not accepting the status quo and realizing that you can do something better.
My dad, every month, used to pay forward a person behind him whenever he used to buy something. He didn’t care about the charities and all that because he didn’t know where the money was going. At least you know where this money is going. You are caring for somebody, even if it’s a $2 coffee. Think about that. She used to smoke before. Smoking is how much $7 to $8, maybe $12? Take that $12 and spend it on someone else and see how that will happen back to you later. Believe me, it’s a small thought but it’s a huge thought if you think about it.
Something that I have also heard people do is let’s say you are coming up to the parking booth at a park or something like that. There’s a $5 fee to go in and enjoy the park. I have seen it happen where somebody paid forward for the car behind them. The joy and surprise that they had when the ranger said, “You don’t have to pay now.” It’s like a whole car full of people that go, “That was nice.” It uplifts their mood, even if it is only a few dollars.
During Christmas time, we went to Target and we were buying something, whatever we were buying but the person in front bought a whole bunch of stuff but then he was short $12 and he didn’t have $12 on him. He was putting it away because he was buying this for his kid. He put that on the side and told the lady, “Put that away from the bill,” so he doesn’t get charged extra. I told him, “I will pay for it. Can you wait five minutes?” When he’s done with his bill, I paid it onto my bill and I said, “Take it.” It’s not that I’m waiting for him to say anything. It’s Christmas season and you don’t want to discourage the little kid that your dad, uncle or whoever he was, that he didn’t have it. It’s good to pay for it.
When you notice that it’s needed, that’s even more. What you did was you took action when you noticed it was needed. I have seen people in a grocery store having to sort their purchase by category to pay for part of it with the card that they get from the government to support them like food stamps used to, the government assistance. The other that they know isn’t covered by that. I went through a period when I was growing up where my mom had to declare bankruptcy and we were on assistance. I know what that was like and people’s judgment comes through a lot.
For every time that they might encounter a stranger like you who chose to help them out, for every time that happens, they are going to encounter 6 or 7 negative experiences or maybe even more. The impact of that helping hand when it’s needed is big. If there’s anything I could do to encourage for people to be a little kinder at that moment, that would be incredible. That is one way to pay it forward, even through kindness, even just through giving us a smile as opposed to a look of judgment.
We have been binge-watching Criminal Minds on Netflix. It’s all about FBIs, murders and how to solve the crime. There was one episode, the guy was a homeless person. We found out his story was that he was a military guy for the US Marines. He doesn’t have any job or anything. It made me think that even for a person who’s homeless, we are not doing anything for the guy who has fought for the country. It makes you think a little that we have a whole bunch of homeless people out there with that similar background and it’s a shame. I’m not going to blame the government. It’s not the government. It could be anything.
The shame is how we see it and the fact that many people look at it as if they must have done something to deserve to be on the street or they are somehow lesser. When everybody has a story and somebody on the street or stories of trauma, it could be war, terrible home life, drug addiction, abuse and there are many things it could be, we should not assume, in my opinion, that we know. If we are going to see things change, we need to think about ourselves from more of a humanitarian perspective.
This is another person and these are the struggles they are facing. I don’t know how many people are homeless in America. I don’t think that statistic is easy to grab hold of but we are all seeing that it has gotten worse. It got worse before the pandemic arrived and it’s not getting any better now. How can we collectively help to change our perspectives so we can create a more possible and open future for those people who have been through what they have been through?
It’s a separate episode but his journey, when they explained it, it was quite touching on that part. Maybe I can digest it because it’s an awful story if we think about it but it’s sad how we treat homeless people like that. If you think about it, when we are walking down the street in New York City, we see all these guys. Do I want to pay them? If I pay them, they are going to use that money for something else. It’s tough to make that judgment call. Are they going to buy drugs? Are they going to buy food? Are they going to go and buy clothing? We don’t know.
I’m not saying this is an excuse for you but in my mind, it almost doesn’t matter. The reality is different countries around the world are trying certain projects like giving basic resources to people who have ended up on the street. One of the things that they are finding is instead of trickling out resources to an individual to cover the bare minimum, their likelihood of being able to reenter society doesn’t improve. You don’t have enough to get you through from one week to the next. You are getting barely. When they paid out one much larger lump sum, I want to say it was a few thousand dollars, which sounds like, “What are they going to do with that? We give them $5,000. Do they go blow it all on drugs?”
What they are finding is that that’s not the case. In fact, when we give resources and support to people that is enough to get an apartment, buy some clothes, have some basic foods that you can cook in your own kitchen, that people can reenter society successfully. Now we have a system where that’s not happening. We are eking out resources bit by bit with the hope that somehow this is going to change when the big thing that doesn’t change is that person’s mental state because they are constantly having to suck at the teat of the American Government, as opposed to getting the perception that we have faith that you can succeed.
We are giving you the resources you need to cover 2, 3 months of expenses. You can go out there, have a shower every day, get your meals, have a roof over your head and go get a job. That’s the major shift in our thinking that has to occur. We are not even anywhere close to it, in my opinion, not here in the States anyway.
There’s this one video that I saw on LinkedIn. There is a lady who has been working in this New York City building as a cleaner for many years. These guys have decided to let her go due to COVID. What does that mean? That means that she has no job and money. She can’t pay rent, food and all that fun stuff that we can think of. The employer talked to the realtor guy of the building, saying that there is a penthouse in that building.
They made and signed a lease for two years and gave her a surprise as a gift. I found out that the price of that penthouse is roughly $3,200 per month. If you take $3,200 times by 24, because that’s two years, that’s a lot of money as a paying forward. What she does is going to live in that house for two years while she finds a job.
This woman, after working all those years, is not going to be good at standing still. She’s likely to go out and get a job and be thinking about what happens after these two years is done anyway. She’s going to be able to build savings because she won’t have that rent over her head every month that she can then use if she needs a retirement job, figure out what that looks like.
She’s not going to be discarded from society onto the streets. That’s an important story to tell. There’s one project I feature in my first episode of Care More Be Better and that is the story of Kayra Martinez and her not-for-profit called Love Without Borders for Refugees in Need. They are doing this incredible work in Greece, helping refugees reenter society.
Rather than having a holier-than-thou attitude and berate others, it’s better to understand their perspectives instead.
One of the things they are doing is they are working to buy an apartment now because throughout the last couple of years, they have been running this project where they bring a family or two and get them an apartment and cover the expenses for ten months to a year. At the end of that time, they are typically able to support themselves. Now what she’s choosing to do is make it more affordable for them to do it and begin something to scale where they buy an apartment and use the apartment to do that.
Perhaps they buy another apartment and another after that if they can get the resources that they need, so they can give more people the opportunity to build a life for themselves so that they are not homeless on the streets, sleeping on a park bench with their children and families. We have to think about them that way.
These are refugees in Greece who have often fled war-torn areas where genocide is happening. We have no idea the ravages they have been through. They come to Greece and they are living in camps where they have to wait for two hours for a cup of orange juice and a croissant in line. They don’t have the resources to cook food for their children, let alone give them art supplies to create beautiful art. That’s where Kayra Martinez and Love Without Borders for Refugees in Need have come in.
I was reading that. I wanted to hear the episode. I will hear that.
It’s great to hear from her directly because this is a person that I have known for years. She’s a flight attendant by trade. She chose to use her ability to fly around the world to go ahead and go to Greece every time she was on leave and bring with her suitcases full of everything that people might need, from clothing to art supplies to kitchen gadgets or whatever. Showing up there to bring these materials into the camp and create this art program that enables the people that are living there to express themselves then sell that art on Etsy. I have one of the pieces on my wall.
I will read the inscription on the back because this is beautiful. It’s a single person’s story. This is an art piece by Abdul Hakeem, who was from Syria. He’s a refugee from Syria. He was old at the time he painted this and it says, “Abdul Hakeem fled Syria with his family and has requested asylum in Greece where he hopes to offer them a better life than the one thus far. His hope for his children is that they become contributing members of society in a way that benefits the community. Those who know Abdul Hakeem call him a gentle soul. He believes that honesty and loyalty are the most important values in life. He envisions a world filled with love away from barriers imposed by race, color or sect.”
That’s beautiful. It’s acrylic on canvas. It’s probably one of the most valued in my mind pieces of art that I have because of the story behind it. When I pulled it up on her Etsy shop and was getting ready to interview her, and I wanted to see what she had there, it was an image that appeared and I instantly burst into tears because I thought about how much sadness was portrayed in the picture and what I would do if my family had been displaced like that.
The $150 that I spent on this painting, knowing that goes directly back to him and helping in his re-entry into a society where he’s now living in Germany, makes me feel good. Every time I look at it, it’s a reminder that I should be grateful for everything I have, even when I’m facing challenges because I have a roof over my head and I may be in graduate school and never have free time. Not able to go outside and hang out with my friends because of COVID but I have so much, too.
We have to be thankful for the small things that we have. We don’t appreciate what we have and compare to others and all the stories that we have mentioned on the show, people don’t realize that how lucky we are. We have to be grateful. We cannot not be grateful for what we do not have. I will appreciate that until I die. Appreciate what we are going to make happen. That’s how it is. Thank you so much for coming to the show. By the way, your show is amazing, how you have made a small network and you will do well. I know you will because you have a great heart and you have a good target and goal for your show.
I want to help people have more impact and inspire them to do good.
You and I are doing the same thing differently but we are still doing it. We will make it happen to make this world a caring more, be a better way and also a back-to-basic moment at the same time.
I’m happy to be connected to you. This has been amazing.
The first time I spoke with you, it was great. Thank you so much for that. Any last words before we head out and finish off the show?
I would like to invite people to visit my website. I do have a link to Love Without Borders for Refugees in Need, a couple of other pay-it-forward business companies. I’m updating it frequently. Every week I’m publishing a new episode. I would be honored to have people come check it out. Feel free to send notes to me. I have my contact details there, too. If you know somebody whose story needs to be told, send them my way.
I will make sure of that and hopefully, I will be part of that, too. Thank you so much for coming. Before we hand it out, I have a quote of the day and it is going to be, “If you can’t pay it back, pay it forward. Don’t think back. Think forward. Think always ahead” It’s by Catherine Ryan Hyde. Paying forward is the key to happiness. At the end of the episode, I always say, “Everything in life goes back to basics.” That’s what we did. I will see you next time and stay blessed. Thank you.
- Genevieve Smith – Previous Episode
- Kayra Martinez – Previous Episode
- Love Without Borders for Refugees in Need
- Website – Care More Be Better