Out of Tragedy Comes Triumph
Philotimo is such an elusive word, yet it has followed me from my childhood. It has been my constant companion and my moral compass. It has dictated all of my actions and reactions to the people and the world around me. Some form of philotimo can be found in all of us. It can be a kind gesture towards a stranger, a brave or courageous act when faced with danger, or a helping hand to those in need. Philotimo is what makes ordinary people do extraordinary things, all in the name of love and honor.
On April 15, 2013, two bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon finish line. It was fate that led my family and me to oversleep and miss our plans to be at our favorite spot near the finish line as we had done so many times before. However, it was the quiet voice of philotimo that compelled my sister and me to design and sell our now iconic Boston Strong wristbands, raising over $11,000 for the victims. It was that same prompting beat of philotimo that led us to start our own non-profit charity, the We Stand Strong Foundation with the hope of helping just a few more people. Those “few more people” turned into hundreds more and then into thousands more. Through our “We See You” campaign we’ve donated over $278,000 in eyeglasses to people in Haiti, Honduras, Syria, and Greece. Philotimo even motivated us to join forces with a grassroots campaign in Lesvos, Greece to provide much needed vision care to the Syrian refugees.
Philotimo has brought me closer to the world around me and has enabled me to embrace the differences that make us all just a small part of greater narrative. Philotimo has brought people like Kostas and Thanasi into my life. They’re the Greek fishermen credited with saving the lives of countless refugees, only to have their own lives devastated when harsh winter storms destroyed their boats and threatened their livelihoods. Philotimo was that little voice that whispered in my ear and said, “You’ve got to do something to help them.” And so we did. To date we’ve raised over $20,645 to help them, to help a young artist undergoing chemotherapy, to help a Greek pensioner unable to access his bank account, for ALS research, Cradles-to-Crayons and other causes. We’ve distributed $7,000 in books to inner city kids in Washington, DC and partnered with Netflix’s Leon Logothetis from the Kindness Diaries to donate 400 more books. We also created an annual Town Wide Day of Service as a way for our community to give back. Together we beautified the town, taught people how to use their technology, and collected 2,649lbs of food/nonperishables, 756lbs of clothes, and monetary funds for recent hurricane victims.
I believe that philotimo is a potential that resides within all of us. It recognizes the needs of others and calls us to action. It underlies our beliefs and defines our character. For me, philotimo is how treat one another when nobody is watching. It is what makes us strive to be a better person, a better version of ourselves. With philotimo as our guiding principle anything is possible.