Here’s the story of how one small idea from a unknown Indiana doctor ended up impacting hundreds of thousands of people from the United States to Japan. Several decades ago, the stigma around mental health issues was much worse than it is now. Dr. Burton Kintner of Elkhart, Indiana, realized he needed to find a solution, and put his mind to the problem of how to get those suffering from mental illness to get help.
Dr. Kintner had already spent a life time finding solutions to difficult problems. During World War II, he’d been part of a team in New York who made the field manuals for treating wounded soldiers as they battled their way through North Africa, Europe and across the Pacific. Later, as a coroner, he’d seen how bad car accidents were to drivers and passengers. In the 1950s, it was thought to be better to be thrown from a car than trapped inside. Much to the chagrin of his four young daughters who were made fun of by their friends, he took seat belts out of old airplanes, bolted them to the car’s bench seats, and made his family wear them. He even made designs for what he called a ‘safety car’, designed to protect passengers from impact on all sides.
By the late 60s and early 70s, he turned his attention to the question of serving those with non-physical illness. He realized that many of his patients were physically healthy, but still somehow mentally and spiritually hurting. At the time, it was taboo for many to see a psychiatric professional, despite the obvious need for help. But he did realize there was one place where people would willingly go to seek help- the church. For centuries, people had turned to pastors, priests and rabbis to share their problems and issues. Dr. Kintner’s idea was simple- he as medical doctor would give exams to patient clients to rule out any physical ailments, and then they would go talk to and receive help from trained pastors, therapists and counselors. By using a team approach, they were able serve and help people in an entirely new way.
He and a pastor, Rev. R.J. Ross, set up shop in the basement of a Presbyterian church on the edge of the St. Joseph River. Over time, the little non-profit, called The Samaritan Center, grew from one location in northern Indiana to 481 Samaritan Centers in 389 cities in the United States and Japan, headquartered at the Samaritan Institute in Denver, CO. Thousands of incredible people work through these locations for programs including mental health services for adults, adolescents and children, women in need, soldiers with PTSD, and the list goes on.
What makes this even more special for me is that Dr. Kintner was my grandpa. He was a humble man, so I didn’t even learn about this story until I was out of college. One other thing really stood out to me about how he started this. Earlier this week, I wrote “3 Small Steps To Making 1 Big Impact“. One of the keys is knowing yourself. Part of that is not only knowing what you are, but what you’re not. My grandpa could have tried to do this alone, but he realized that even though he had a passion for helping those with mental health issues, he was a medical doctor, not a counselor. Without Rev. Ross and his talents and skills, and the support of The Martin Foundation who funded this early and often, the impact on all those lives may have never happened. Even after my grandpa’s passing from Parkinson’s Disease, his impact goes on and on.
Elizabeth Smart endured the tragedy being abducted and held captive for several months. Today she’s married and is one of America’s most sought after speakers. In my interview with her, she acknowledges how everyone has had struggles in their past, how to accept it, and how to move on.
I had no idea the story of how the story of Robin Williams using his rider would strike a chord, especially with how people have said it’s inspiring them to make an impact themselves. I’ve been working with nonprofits for over 20 years, and I’d hate to miss this opportunity to share with you how you can help others. Taking a cue from the example Robin Williams set in his rider, here are three small steps you can take to make a big impact.
Step 1: Know yourself and your passions.
You’ll always be most inspired and motivated by what you’re passionate about. Some people are inspired by education, animals, or any number of things. For Robin Williams, that was helping the homeless. For me, I’m really passionate about helping kids in need internationally. You’ll have the greatest impact on the world by starting with what you’re most passionate about. There is something about you that’s unique.
Step 2: Start with what you have, with those around you.
Are you passionate about education and you live in Omaha? Start with helping students in Omaha. Do you have particular skills like IT, accounting, or just listening? Put those skills to work helping people or organizations in your sphere of influence. For Robin Williams, among other things, he realized he had a voice and a platform. Publicly, he testified before congress and raised millions of dollars to help the homeless. On the business side, much less publicly, he knew he’d be on movie sets and would perform at events, and could use his influence there.
Step 3: Influence Others To Do The Same.
Teach others how to do what you do. Multiply yourself. In the example Robin Williams gave with his rider requirement of hiring the homeless, he multiplied his effect. I’m sure for many production companies, this was likely the first time they went out and intentionally hired a homeless person for a job. Once they did, hopefully some of them continued to do so even when they moved on to a non-Robin Williams project.
I’ve followed these steps myself. For me, I realized that although there are many great causes out there, I was most motivated by helping kids internationally. I’ve gone along with others to rebuild a home for a widow after Haiti’s earthquake, help feed kids in poverty in the Dominican, and to play games with orphans. Our family even came together one time to fund the building of an AIDS clinic in Swaziland near South Africa. But I realized I’m just me, and I really wanted to find a way to multiply the effect, to help others make an even greater impact. So with some help from some great people, we started NonBoardBoard.org, as a way to increase that impact, to help nonprofit leaders who have huge hearts, but maybe not every business skill. From a little group in Nashville, these people go out and help kids in over 20 countries around the world. Long after I’m gone, the skills these people have learned and will pass on will continue to help those in need.
Obviously life is filled with tragedy, but it’s also filled with a lot of blessings as well. It’s been years since I first saw that clause in Robin Williams’ rider designed to help the homeless, and it’s always stuck with me as an inspiration to help others myself.
Will you choose to find your passion, serve those around you, and influence others to do the same?
If you’d like to make a donation to help counselors who walk alongside those in need, visit The Refuge Center.
Years ago I learned a very cool thing about Robin Williams, and I couldn’t watch a movie of his afterward without thinking of it. I never actually booked Robin Williams for an event, but I came close enough that his office sent over his rider. For those outside of the entertainment industry, a rider lists out an artist’s specific personal and technical needs for hosting them for an event- anything from bottled water and their green room to sound and lighting requirements. You can learn a lot about a person from their rider. This is where rocks bands list their requirement for green M&Ms (which is actually a surprisingly smart thing to do). This is also where a famous environmentalist requires a large gas-guzzling private jet to fly to the event city, but then requires an electric or hybrid car to take said environmentalist to the event venue when in view of the public.
When I got Robin Williams’ rider, I was very surprised by what I found. He actually had a requirement that for every single event or film he did, the company hiring him also had to hire a certain number of homeless people and put them to work. I never watched a Robin Williams movie the same way after that. I’m sure that on his own time and with his own money, he was working with these people in need, but he’d also decided to use his clout as an entertainer to make sure that production companies and event planners also learned the value of giving people a chance to work their way back. I wonder how many production companies continued the practice into their next non-Robin Williams project, as well as how many people got a chance at a job and the pride of earning an income, even temporarily, from his actions. He was a great multiplier of his impact. Let’s hope that impact lives on without him. Thanks, Robin Williams- not just for laughs, but also for a cool example.
If you’re inspired by the example Robin Williams’ set in his rider, check out 3 Small Steps to Make 1 Big Impact.
If you’d like to donate to help counselors who walk along side those in need, go here.
Chrissie Wellington is more than just one of the greatest triathletes in history- she’s a humanitarian, traveler, and one of the most thoughtful people you’ll ever hear. Watch this exclusive interview about her book “Life Without Limits”
NEXT: Check out why older triathletes are freaks!
I’ve come to realize that ‘older’ triathletes (no good PC term comes to mind) are freaks. I’m in my 30s and work at an office in which almost everyone is younger than me, so almost everyone I know in their 50s and 60s are triathletes. In my mind, it’s normal that some 54-year-old woman has extremely defined calf muscles that you glimpse briefly as she flies by you up a 15% incline hill, or some 62-year-old guy has a resting heart rate of lower than his age and still races ironman triathlons in under 12 hours.
Then I went on our first cruise with my family this month. Let’s just say this cruise skewed older. Out of 1,600 passengers on board, only 18 were kids under the age of 12, so this cruise was certainly not catering to people with young families. For the first time in a long time, I was surrounded by 50- and 60-year-olds who weren’t predominantly endurance athletes. They didn’t spend Saturday mornings cranking out 50 miles on the bike, and then getting in a dozen miles more on the run on Sunday before church. They weren’t hitting the pool at 5AM for 100 repeats and getting in a quick 5K run at lunch.
In a word, these people on the cruise were…normal.
They were rounder, softer, and just seemed to look older and less healthy. It’s nothing against them for choosing that particular non-triathlete lifestyle, but it made me appreciate what these people I know have chosen to be and become. It’s kind of like watching basketball on TV. Those point guards seem so short compared to other basketball players on the court. Then you you meet an NBA point guard in person, and you’re like, “Wow. 6’5 is tall!”
I realized that triathletes have skewed my perception of what ‘normal’ is. It’s not normal to keep in shape, to still be an athlete, to have people 20s and 30s wish they could look like someone in their 50s and 60s. That drive and determination are the exception, not the rule. So, to you older triathletes, I salute you, and I hope I can be just like you when I grow up!
Has an older triathlete ever been an inspiration to you? Comment below!
Speaking of living a different type of life, check out my interview with Chrissie Wellington. She’s one of the most interesting people I’ve ever interviewed, and she retired having never lost a single ironman race!
About 10 years ago, myself, the owner of our company and another agent sat down at a local restaurant to interview a new potential agent named David. During the lunch, he mentioned that his family had been very involved with a particular company. I said, “That’s great! I booked George and Barbara Bush for their national conference a couple of years ago.” I then proceeded to launch into this fun little story.
I’d booked George and Barbara Bush to speak at that company’s National Conference at a large convention center in Dallas. The event set up was that Barbara Bush would speak first. Then, well-known Christian singer Michael W. Smith would perform two of his songs. President George Bush (Sr.) would then be the closing speaker. To finish the event, the company’s founder and his wife, George and Barbara Bush, and Michael W. Smith would then all go on stage and take a bow together. Continue Reading
Have you ever had a time where you were laid up in bed for longer than you wanted? When you have all your plans and responsibilities and general habits of life thrown off, it can be incredibly frustrating- but sometimes it can end up allowing you to make a greater impact than you ever had before.
A friend of mine named Brent recently got injured pretty badly and is forced to not walk for a good while, so I figured I’d write this out for him. I’ve had other friends with various injuries and sicknesses that I’ve shared these stories with (not to mention taking this advice myself during an extended hospital stay and recovery), and it always seems to give people hope.
If you’ve ever studied President Kennedy, you’ll know he had a myriad of sicknesses and injuries throughout his lifetime, making his accomplishments even more impressive. A few years after he was elected to the Senate, Continue Reading
One of the fun parts of marrying into an Italian family is getting to know some of the traditions of people from the “Old Country” who moved here fairly recently. The Lords moved to America before it was the United States, so all the stories of adjusting to this new land are lost.
Since today is Easter, I thought I’d share an Easter story, which I think was both comical and tragic. Although I’ve never killed a goat, this seems like the type of well-intentioned thing that parents do all the time to educate their kids that turns out terribly wrong. Continue Reading