The Science of Hope



(Beyond general admissions, my daughter is applying to an honors college program that includes research within the student’s field. In the applications process, a 750-word essay is required, explaining the desired area of research, why it’s of importance to the student, and its impact on humanity. It’s a lofty task that, ideally, begins students on an extraordinary academic journey, one that ultimately changes the lives of others. My daughter’s essay is in line with the inspired writing you read here week after week, and so it’s my privilege to share her essay with you this week.)

By Emily C. Smith

As I pursue my undergraduate studies in psychology, there is a much larger life mission at work for me. It’s a passion, a field of study, a research quest that ultimately effects each one of our lives: what’s the origin of hope within the human psyche?

It’s a very personal…

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Super exciting news!!

We are moving to a new location! You can now find the World Travaillers blog at

If you follow/subscribe to my blog, keep in mind most subscriptions will not transfer. Be sure to follow our new site!

The exciting part is that this move will allow us to offer some great new content in the future, that we couldn’t offer here. This is going to be a wonderful opportunity and we have some neat things in store! 😉 I truly hope you will join me there!

Happy Friday!

***As a thank you for visiting our new page, I have a little surprise for you. It’s my favorite video of the week and it is absolutely hysterical. You have got to see this masterpiece!

as small as a world and as large as alone

Maggie and Milly and Molly and May by E.E. Cummings

maggie and milly and molly and and may
went down to the beach (to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles, and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles; and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

I’m no literary buff so I took to the web to learn what this poem was really trying to tell me. And I found this analysis:
Maggie, Milly, Molly, and May went to a beach in this poem and each found a different thing. The beach seems to be representative of the physical, while the sea itself is the deep core. The last two lines of the poem, ‘for whatever we lose(like a you or a me)/ it’s always ourselves we find in the sea’; seems to say that if the girls, or if anyone had gone deeper and into the sea, they would have found something greater. To find oneself means to go beyond all the good the bad and physical, and dig deeper.

What do you think?

A monkey could do it

For many people living with disabilities, a service animal can vastly improve their quality of life.

Service animals aren’t always dogs. Dogs are an obvious good choice because they are very smart, loving and loyal. But other species like pigs serve! Which brings me to Monkey Helpers.Monkey Helper

Monkey Helpers is a 34 year old non-profit that raises and trains capuchin monkeys to help people with severe physical disabilities. Monkeys are an ideal service animal because, not only are they very smart and trainable, they also have opposable thumbs and nimble little fingers to accomplish a huge variety of tasks. Also, capuchin monkeys have long lifespan of 30-40 years!

How it works:

  • Volunteers welcome a baby capuchin monkey into their home, to help them adjust to a house environment, for a couple years.
  • When they are mature enough, the monkey goes to Monkey College for 3-5 years. Here they learn tasks like fetching a specific item and, “sun” (turning on a light), and is potty trained.
  • Now it’s time for the monkey to be matched with a recipient. Recipients must meet some basic requirements. And then the team carefully considers which pairing will make the best match based on personality and compatibility.
  • The monkey lives with the recipient until he retires. At that point volunteers welcome the monkey into their home to live up their retirement in a relaxing environment.

The interesting thing is that the monkey is free to the recipient but is still owned by Monkey Helpers. Trainers check in with the pairing and facilitate a great new bond.

One of the great values of this program, for recipients, is that they get a companion. Often recipients are looking for a service animal because they are lonely, in addition to needing an extra pair of hands. As one trainer put it in this video:

One of the things that’s very important to a lot of recipients is that  their monkey doesn’t see them as disabled. They don’t recognize the things they are unable to do. Their monkey sees the recipient as protector, as alpha. And that’s really important; its a really important gift the monkeys gives to somebody that has had so much taken away from them.

Here is just one story of how much a monkey gives and how many recipients come to realize that they can’t imagine life without their monkey.

Capuchin monkey helper getting a bathYou can get a “Behind the Scenes” tour the training facility and see the monkeys only a couple days in the year. Or, if you aren’t in the Boston area, you can check out their Meet The Monkey’s webpage. And if you really love what you see, they have a few special fundraising events coming up where you can show your support!

Would you get a Monkey Helper?

The Burn Unit’s favorite gun

Have you ever used spray tan? spray sunscreen? spray painted? used Febreeze? Then you have the skills to help burn victims become good as new!

When the skin is burned away, there is nothing to protect you from bacteria. It is critical to cover exposed injuries immediately to avoid infections. Skin grafts are typically used but they are painful, take weeks to heal and often leave noticeable scars.

That’s where Dr. Jörg C. Gerlach comes in. He found a way to take a small sample of healthy skin cells from the patient (including stem cells), grow them out and spray the cells, using a “spray gun”, over the wound. Why is this so great?

  • From the point of collecting healthy cells, the entire process takes only 1.5 hours.
  • The technology uses the patient’s own cells so it will not be rejected.
  • The procedure is very light and painless relative to it’s surgical alternative.
  • The patient heals faster (days vs. weeks) and has much lesser scaring.

I don’t want to show graphic pictures. To give you an idea of how well this spray gun works, look at this boy. He had 2nd degree burns covering the front of his torso: neck to navel. This is him after the treatment.

Zed Merrick after 2nd degree burn treated with ReCell spray gun

Can you imagine what this 2 year old would have had to go through if this treatment wasn’t available?

ReCell Treatment has a variety of other uses from improving the appearance of scars and wrinkles, tattoo removal and other skin damage/conditions. 

For Zed’s full story, including some graphic pictures, read here: it’s skincredible.

Worldwide Caution

Last night news channels went ablaze from the State Department’s travel alert.

The State Department has intel on a serious potential Al Qaeda threat. This is more than just the heightened terrorist chatter, typical for the end of Ramadan.

There was some news coverage about the Al Qaeda affiliated group in Yemen. This threat carries the weight of al-Asiri, the bombmaker responsible for the underwear bomber and others.

The State Department said this was just a precaution, “out of an abundance of caution”.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • The alert expires August 31, 2013.
  • 21 US embassies will be closed tomorrow (Sunday, August 4), primarily in the Middle East. If and when they will reopen has not been addressed.
  • This threat is against Western interests, not just American.
  • The UK is also closing it’s embassy in Yemen and is urging all it’s citizens to leave that country.
  • Register your travel plans with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). Through this program the State Department can keep you informed and assist in the case of an emergency.
  • Download the Smart Traveler App by the State Department for “frequently updated official country information, travel alerts, travel warnings, maps, U.S. embassy locations, and more”

Despite the focus on embassies after last year’s September 11th attack at the Benghazi embassy, it is important to remember mass transportation systems and landmarks are also favorites.

The State Department has really hit the media hard with this story. This is encouraging to me. Most people with an opinion on TV say that this alert will have the secondary benefit of scaring the terrorists, letting them know we are on to them. But I think the benefit of the entire public knowing (not just the die-hard fans of the State Department’s site) could mark a new day for how we handle threats.

I think most people don’t “need” to know the specifics but appreciate being in the loop. People will keep their eyes open, and if they see something they will not just chalk it up to their imagination but take it seriously.

As a side note: The fact that they made this alert public and gave so much air time and attention to it is a good sign. From where I sit, for every sentence of information they make public, they have at least 1,000 pages worth of information they are not disclosing. So in that regard, the more they say… makes me feel slightly more at ease.

I predict this open strategy will demonstrate that the general public can be an asset, and will facilitate a better relationship with (and approval towards) the intelligence community.

Have a wonderful weekend and be safe.

Related Sites:
State Department Site
Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)
Smart Traveler App
CBS News report

How to slow time down

We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again- to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.   ― Pico Iyer

infinity clockYou know how when you were little, cookies took a year to bake. The time between when you got hungry and when you got food was at least a week. A lifetime passed before Christmas would. Summer was always at least an eternity away.  And a driver’s licence…you couldn’t even conceive of the length of time before you could get one of those. Then life happens and the older folk find that time is just flying by!

I heard a really interesting theory when I was traveling.

I kept a journal of where I went and what I did on the trip. It didn’t have to be anything super exciting, maybe just a little note about the couple I met on the train, a place I found myself when I was completely lost, watching the sunset from a new horizon. And at the end of that trip, I could have written a whole book!

In this past month, I’ve done enough noteworthy things to fill a post-it. No wonder Year-End Newsletter’s are phasing out: it takes an entire family to come up with enough interesting to fill a short letter.

postcardsIt doesn’t make any logical sense, but somehow the 2 week trip you took provided you with more memories than the rest of the year. Even though while you are physically sitting in traffic it seems that it will never end, looking back the two weeks will feel longer than the other 50.

The idea is that by experiencing new things you slow time down. Routine speeds time up.

This makes sense when applied to the young and old. For children, every experience is a new experience. Older people have already experienced so much and have established a nice routine for themselves.

Ah to be a young fool.

Tropical Accessibility

There are many things I thought I would never see happen for wheelchair users that I turned out to be wrong about…

  • I never thought skiing would be wheelchair accessible, but it is.
  • I never thought African safaris would be wheelchair accessible, but they are.
  • But what I REALLY never thought would happen: wheelchair accessible eco-tourism. I am once again blissfully wrong!

Brazil has put effort into Accessible Tourism programs. These don’t just let you look at the amazing landscapes from afar, but actually engage in nature!

Different communities are making changes to vastly improve accessibility to nature. Now there are a wide variety of locations and activities disabled travelers can participate in. There are accessible hikes, beaches, and even water sports like rafting! Even the coral pools off Pajuçara Beach have become accessible using specially equipped boats.

Wheelchair accessible dirt ramp on ecotourIt is really neat to see how these groups take initiative and ingeniously make nature accessible while still respecting and conserving nature. For example, this ramp… I’m sure it would not stand up to ADA regulations but it preserves the environment, culture, and integrity of the entire experience. It’s these types of efforts that are so amazing to see (for me! at least!!)

This is such a good example of using resources you have available to make creative solutions. It in no way detracts from the natural beauty, but rather incorporates the beauty of a raw incarnation of human ingenuity. It stays true to the spirit of eco-tourism and offers disabled tourists an authentic experience.

What other opportunities have surprised you for being accessible?

The Big Apple: only thing rolling in NYC

Here’s the deal. Places all over the world are making changes to make it easier for disabled travelers to visit. The London transit system’s accessibility has gotten a lot of praise. Europe is coming together in a universal system for disabled drivers–regardless of their citizenship!  Cities are starting accessible programs like making their beaches wheelchair accessible, like in Italy and Brazil! But here in the US, after just celebrating 23 years of the American Disabilities Act, you can still find news articles like this….

NYC TaxisNew York City has 233 accessible taxis, out of a fleet of 13,000.

There was a bill signed by Gov. Cuomo a year an a half ago to add 2,000 new accessible taxis to this fleet. This victory was short lived as this state law was ultimately deemed unconstitutional by New York court. The reason? Because the city should be able to make these sorts of decisions.

Now the fate of accessible taxis lays in the hands of Mayor Bloomberg, who supported the court’s ruling. Bloomberg predictably chose to revert to the previous strategy: a dispatch program that sends the 233 existing accessible to callers familiar with the program.

What makes this particularly upsetting is that when this measure (Intro #433-A) was first passed at the state level, it was supported by a “veto-proof majority of Council members”. THEN Mayor Bloomberg, represented by a Taxi and Limousine Commissioner spokesperson (David Yassky), opposed the bill. Guess who won.

It is simply outrageous! Regardless of the issue. If Measure 433-A said I couldn’t eat Oreos with milk and this same situation happened, I’d still be furious. (Even if the end result meant that I could continue to consume the cookie in it’s greatest glory: dunked in “liquid gold”.) And that is because the will of the majority was overpowered by the personal agendas of powerful folk.

Despite this outcome, the United Spinal Association deserves much recognition for their contribution to this battle. If there is one thing that can beat powerful folk, it’s persistent folk on the right side of the issue.

I think this disappointing news gives a very good picture of why they call it the city that never sleeps. You stay up half the night waiting for a taxi, and by the time you get home, you have to phone the dispatch immediately if you have any hopes of getting to your appointments on time. No time to sleep on a system like that.

What do you think?

oreo controversies

Let’s face it, Oreo likes to keep it’s fingers in many glasses of milk, so to speak. They’ve somehow entered in just about every controversial issue out there! I’m happy to pull them into one more…