— As told to Mamie Healey
John Francis, on SilenceAfter witnessing an oil spill in San Francisco Bay in 1971, Francis thought about how one person can make a difference. His talks with neighbors about his decision to stop using motorized vehicles often turned into arguments. "I decided to give my town a gift of my silence, to not speak for one day," he says. "I started learning things—the first was that I hadn't been listening." He chose to be silent for a year—and then 16 more. In 1982 Francis founded Planetwalk to raise awareness of environmental issues.
When I didn't speak, it allowed a more intimate communication. People let me touch them. I could tap them on the shoulder. I could grab their hand and write a word on their palm. I could physically move them to see something.
Silence is a practice. You don't just think, "Oh, I got it now."
You don't need words to say "I love you." My family and I communicated all the things we needed to when I was silent.
— As told to Jack Otter
Anywhere the struggle is great, the level of ingenuity and inventiveness is high.
We spend most of our lives cutting down our ambitions because the world has told us to think small. Dreams express what your soul is telling you, so as crazy as your dream might seem—even to you—I don't care: You have to let that out.
— As told to Tish Durkin
Tony Bennett, on Other PeopleI was going through a terrible divorce, and my personal life was a mess. I goofed so bad. That Christmas I was in a hotel room by myself. It was the first time I'd ever spent the holidays away from family. All of a sudden, I heard some music. I opened the door to find one of the greatest surprises of my life: There was a choir singing "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever." My friend Duke Ellington, who happened to be in town for a concert, had heard I was alone. So he sent a choir for me. For years this kindness from Duke lifted up my whole life. It showed me that no matter how bad things seem, there are always people in this world who care about others. That revelation changed my life.
I see a clear day in my future!