My life experiences have thought me that people can create miracles. Anyone and everyone you meet has the ability to change your life forever. Our strength is most evident when we are struggling because struggle awakens our inner force. I recently read the book called Ordinary People Extraordinary Planet by Dr. Shellie Hipsky that reinforced this feeling. The book highlights the selflessness of daily people and the impact we can all make. I was extremely fascinated by the book that I had to speak to Dr. Hipsky about the book and the person behind the book.
Mariama: Tell us about yourself?
Dr. Hipsky: I globally educate, entertain, and inspire. I have been blessed with multiple opportunities to serve others throughout my life through my teaching students from kindergarten to the doctoral level and my work with the Homeless Children’s Education Fund.
Mariama: How do you balance your work and family life?
Dr. Hipsky: This question is raised often. It can be quite a juggling act to have a full-time professor position, coordinate events, be on a book tour for my fifth book, perform, volunteer, and have my most treasured job as “Mommy.” I strive to give highly quality time to my children. Being fully in the moment when I am with them is a gift I give myself and the memories we share are priceless. My daughter Alyssa (4yrs old) enjoys volunteering by my side; I love to incorporate my kids’ bubbling energy into my projects whenever it is appropriate and fun. My writing is done when my kids sleep whether that is naptime or bedtime, so I tend to function on very little sleep myself.
Mariama: Can you give us an overview of your book “Ordinary People Extraordinary Planet”?
Dr. Hipsky: Ordinary People Extraordinary Planet includes incredible stories of a dozen people’s triumphs over adversity. The book includes adventures from a teenager who has built four libraries in Tanzania to a mechanic’s bold expedition in the North Pole and even the life of Arturo Sandoval the Grammy/Emmy Award-winning trumpet player who escaped communist Cuba. The people in this book will uplift and inspire you!
Mariama: What or who inspired you to write this book?
Dr. Hipsky: I was slated to be on Ray Leonard’s radio show while doing a book tour for Mentoring Magic: Pick the Card for Your Success with my co-author Dr. Claudia Armani-Bavaro. In between tapings, Ray introduced me Clarel Radicella, his radio guest. I spoke to Clarel over the phone and I was extremely moved by her story. Tears flooded down my face and I knew I had to tell inspirational stories such as hers. With Ray’s permission and guidance, I started writing the book. Clarel and I became dear friends. She passed away earlier this year and the book is dedicated to her memory. Featured letters she wrote for her children in the book were read at her funeral. Her legacy lives on through her children and our book.
Mariama: Did you face any challenges while writing?
Dr. Hipsky: I have typically written textbooks in the past so this was a much more pleasurable experience. Each person had already shared their journeys with Ray on the radio show so I acquired transcripts of the show prior to interviewing them. I needed to present 12 different life stories in their voice. I had to wrap my head around who these people truly are and what their life missions are prior to writing a story that would demonstrate to the world how incredible they are. The first chapter I wrote was about the life of Roy Juarez, Jr.; I was inspired by his message of forgiveness which was completely different from the feelings I imagined a person who is homeless at young age might have.
Mariama: Tell us your favorite part about the process?
Dr. Hipsky: My favorite part of writing the book was when I got to interview Mary K. Hoodhood on camera following the Kid’s Food Basket gala event. Her organization provides dinners for over 3,800 hungry children in Michigan daily; a quadriplegic, she coordinates it all from her wheelchair. Meeting this woman who was honored by the president was almost surreal for me. Mary K. is a living example of the good in this world.
Mariama: What is the message of your book “Ordinary People Extraordinary Planet”?
Dr. Hipsky: In isolation we may all be ordinary, but together we are an extraordinary planet. Conquer your obstacles by seeking inspiration then become the inspiration for others.
Mariama: I was really inspired and touched by all the stories in your book. Sandie Anderson and Shannon McNamara’s stories really stood out a lot for me. Can you quickly tell our readers about them and give us a little update on how they are doing?
Dr. Hipsky: Sandie Anderson is the Starbuck’s barista who donated her kidney to Annamarie Ausnes who was a customer at the coffee shop. She is doing very well and they are extremely close friends now. Shannon McNamara is an amazing young lady from New Jersey. Shannon created SHARE as a teenager, after going on volunteer vacations with her family and her organization is a non-profit literacy program for girls in Africa. SHARE has created four school libraries in Tanzania, and has also supplied books to partner organizations in South Africa, Malawi, and Zanzibar, benefiting 8,000 students and teachers. Shannon spoke about her project at the White House for International Woman’s Day. She is now seeking funding to purchase and send copies of Ordinary People Extraordinary Planet to the SHARE girls so that they can be inspired by the stories.
Mariama: Your book confirms that everyone can make a difference but most people believe that it takes a lot to create change. What can you say to them based on the stories in your book?
Dr. Hipsky: Follow your passions and give back. Most people have that inner voice that says, “If only I could do something to help with ____________.” Fill in that blank with whatever you care about whether it is homelessness, cancer survivors, animals or anything that you care about supporting. The Ordinary People Extraordinary Planet book has a dozen examples of charities that the people in the book support that could trigger something inside of you to give back as well. If you don’t have money to give, give of your time and energy.
Mariama: Why do you think our readers should go and buy this book?
Dr. Hipsky: In this day and age when reality stars and a downturned economy get the lead headlines, isn’t it time that we read about real people doing exceptional things to help their fellow man? Couldn’t we all use a little inspiration? Buying our book Ordinary People Extraordinary Planet also supports the featured charities chosen by the spotlighted people as we give back 25% of all profits at benchmarks. These charities include St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, SHARE, Kid’s Food Basket, and the Children’s Hunger Fund.
Mariama: What is one thing you can tell people who are going through hard times right now?
Dr. Hipsky: You can make it up an over the obstacle and become even stronger. Others have done it and you can too! This book is jam-packed with stories of people who have struggled, persevered, and then went on to be an inspiration to others as a result. Get to the other side of that mountain and then look around and see who you can help get over their own life boulders. If we all just looked to our left and our right, noticed others who need us, and helped them up, the world would be a much better place.
Mariama: What is next for you?
Dr. Hipsky: I intend to reach the benchmarks for this book so that Ordinary People Extraordinary Planet can give back to the charities that help millions of people globally. I am also preparing for the Homeless Children’s Awareness Week wherein I will be storytelling at “An Education: True Stories of Unusual Lessons Learned” as well as hosting/performing in the red carpet event “An Extraordinary Evening” to raise money for the 3,000 homeless children helped by the Homeless Children’s Education Fund. Thus far, I have raised approximately $30,000 toward this charity through my events that I headline and coordinate such as “A Taste of Broadway”. If the demand for second volume is there, I will write that next. One of my ultimate dreams is to host an inspirational talk show on television so that the world can see the wonderful people I am meeting and hear their inspirational stories. I know that with the support of my friends and family, I will continue to inspire through my writing, public speaking, and helping others.