A Conversation with Joshua T Berglan & Phothala Chanthavysouk
Life is an echo –
What you send out, comes back.
What you sow, you reap;
What you give, you get;
What you see in others, exists in you.
Remember, life is an echo!
It always gets back to you.
So give goodness… — Anonymous
“In our fractured world, with its many challenges and struggles, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and want to retreat into our own spaces hoping the storms pass over us without impact. But a time of need for many is, I believe, exactly when each one of us can make a difference. In fact, a one by one by one grassroots momentum is really the only way to move towards positive change and growth. As the saying goes: ‘All boats rise together.
In my own life, two questions came to my mind recently: ‘What can I do? How can I help?’. The intuitive answer was ‘Start where you are with what you’ve got and know that inspiring or uplifting even one person can shift the whole paradigm’. Why? Because kindness is contagious and a ripple effect of goodwill often ensues.
Just as the phrase ‘pay it forward’ suggests a positive ripple effect of kindness that is passed from one person to another, we coined the term ‘Drive It Forward’ for our effort to assist homeless people who need a ride to get to and from work. When getting back on their feet, not having a way to get to a place of employment can prevent such a person from getting or keeping a job opportunity. Our intention is to help remove that initial obstacle and thereby encourage them on their path back to self-sufficiency.
I was born in Thailand and in my early youth lived for a time in the Philippines as a refugee. Eventually, my family settled in the small town of Storm Lake, IA. So I have first-hand experience with major life upheavals and empathize with others who are in transition. I saw the need for support that my family had and how an array of wonderful people selflessly came to our aid. While studying psychology and philosophy at Mankato State University, my focus was not on sports or social activities or artistic pursuits. Instead it became about how I could, by God’s grace, similarly benefit others.
Post-graduation, I spent 14 years in the optical industry helping people to see. Now as a mom of four, I want to set an example for my kids that if we each do what we can with what we have, the world will be a better place. As the saying goes ‘All boats rise together’. We can all be lifted by the buoyant waters of kindness and love.
I am a single mother raising 4 children. I have two older girls that are 13 and 10. My younger boys are 5 and 3. I have a license as a massage therapist and life and health producer. On the weekends, I spend my time serving the community or spending time with my children exploring Minnesota.
Bringing It Full Circle
I have found that as one prays for guidance, synchronous happenings unfold that are clearly meant for you. Shortly after asking how I could be of help, I happened to meet a man from Laos who had been homeless for eight years. His family had lost all track of him and presumed him dead. He didn’t know English well and had succumbed to the influence of alcohol. He had been beaten up on more than one occasion and, as one of ‘the invisible people’ who live on the wintry streets of Minnesota, he could see no way up from his predicament. Can we even imagine how to survive night after night in snowy, below-zero January temperatures? Hope is a fragile commodity in such a situation.
Not only was this homeless man originally from an adjacent country to that of my birthplace, he was the same age as my father with a similar name and had lived in the same small town of Storm Lake, IA. I interpreted all of these factors as not mere coincidence but rather guided clues to whom I could offer assistance in my own small way. So I spent the next few weeks assisting him find warmth in a hotel for a week and searching for his relatives on Facebook.
My helping hand to him seemed minimal but the result was life-changing for him.
He is now working as a handyman and living in adult care housing in a supportive, local Laotian community. Most importantly, he is re-united in communicating with his three sons in TX. I was inspired by the fairly quick turnaround of his story and determined to do more.
There are so many other homeless souls who want a hand up not a handout, and are willing to work their way back into society. They just need someone to shepherd them through the initial steps and perceived obstacles it takes to gain forward momentum. Then they can come to experience the truth of the adage: ‘once begun, half done’.
Finding My Way to Service
Initially, I shared my massage therapy skill sets by volunteering with non-profits like the Scoliosis Foundation. In July 2020, I purchased an events/party bus, but my entrepreneurial plans were waylaid by the pandemic. I then recognized that I had a resource that could be used both for my business purposes and as a community-based service.
Examples: In October 2020, we brought meals and warmth to a homeless encampment in St Paul. My heart was touched by the number of kids and disabled people struggling in -20 degrees weather. I decided then and there to dedicate myself to their plight. For Christmas, we gathered donations and became a Santa-mobile workshop, (no reindeer, but the same mission). After posting a flyer online, we delivered toys to kids in need from 50 families around the metro area not only on Christmas day but also on another day. We also hosted a birthday party for a one-year-old girl whose family did not have a home to accommodate such an occasion. Another community service idea being considered: gathering people to do environmental clean-up campaigns in targeted neighborhoods, local parks or city highways/byways.
Or transporting them to other such volunteer ecosystem projects. Picking up donations (clothes, food, personal goods, etc.) from around the Twin Cities or serving healthy meals during weekend luncheons at homeless encampment sites are more ideas on the drawing board.
In addition to our 28-person capacity events bus, I have a fully-loaded mobile camper that can be used as a waystation at such encampments. For instance, it could be a place to get dressed and prepped for a job interview so as to make a positive presentation. It will be their “House of Hope.”
I believe a simple act of kindness can not only change the life of its recipient but create an endless ripple effect of goodness. Working and volunteering together makes any task easier and even more rewarding. I call this process Ecco Love and hope that the ‘we’re all in this together attitude is contagious.
Just like the ever-widening ripple in a pond caused by one tossed stone, I have learned that the giver benefits as much as the recipient in having the gratifying satisfaction of seeing the difference we each can make in a world seemingly turned upside down. I also found that when you realign yourself to be more aware of others beyond your immediate circle, ask for guidance and have faith in yourself, you can create a fulfilling, profound echo of love.
Ladies and Gentlemen, this conversation with Phothala are powerful, inspiring, and heart-opening.
You will be blessed by hearing her words..
Thank you for being a part of this special conversation on the Live Mana Worldwide Foundation & Multimedia Broadcast Network powered by e360tv.
Joshua T Berglan
“The World’s Mayor”
Joshua T Berglan, aka The World’s Mayor is a voice for the voiceless and is driven to elevate the passion, purpose and mission of those he serves. Joshua is the Chairman of the Live Mana Worldwide Foundation & Multimedia Broadcast Network, Shock-Jock Evangelist, International #1 Best Selling Author for the Book “The Devil Inside Me“, Emcee, DJ, a Film, Event, & TV Producer, and Filmmaker. Joshua is an expert in the future of media and loves supporting others in helping make their dreams come true.