Everyday Heroes:
John Silliphant -- 'Love in Action'

By Liz Garone

"The purpose of my life is to make this world a better place," says John Silliphant, with such a matter-of-fact, unflinching confidence that it makes you wonder why it can't be everyone's purpose in life.

Anyone who has met him, even briefly, quickly realizes that John lives in this space of service -- a space he defines as "love in action." There is something about him that makes people immediately trust him and feel his humility.

Take, for example, a woman named Loveleen Dhillon. Walking at the Berkeley pier one evening eight years ago, she felt uncomfortable with a threatening guy standing next to her. Seeing this, passerby John decided to silently stand next to Loveleen. Soon enough, they started talking and got to know each other. Never before had Loveleen given a stranger her telephone number, but something about John's presence allowed her to do it that night. "I can't even put into words what that feeling was," says Loveleen. "It just made me want to see him again, and I knew that there was something very special about him." Today, John and Loveleen are happily married.

"John is probably the most genuine individual I have ever met," says Aaron Porter, a close friend and former housemate. "He has always meant every word he has ever spoken to me. He is extraordinarily sincere and caring."

It is that caring attitude that John brings to his volunteer work with CharityFocus. Whether it's a project along the lines of expanding the
CF logo by John
Quote-A-Day or building the massive CharityFocus website, you can bet that John had a hand in it.

"I've never heard him say no to anything," says volunteer Guri Grewal, who has worked with John on numerous CharityFocus projects. "It's always the same answer: 'Sure, I can do that.'"

That fearless "I can do that" spirit, coupled with an unwavering commitment to service, makes John stand out wherever he is. Nothing seems impossible for John. He once read an article about an inspiring philanthropist and wanted to get a message to him but knew that he wouldn't have the chance to do it. So, he decided to create his own opportunity; he hunted down the man's car in the garage where he parked and left a note for him on the windshield.

John doesn't always succeed, but it's not about the outcome for him. "If we don't get there, at least we grew along the way," he says.

It should come as no surprise to CharityFocus volunteers and others who know John that he has projects germinating in his head all the time. "One thing that is incredibly rewarding about CharityFocus for me, personally, is that I'm able to let my creative juices flow. In a way, I'm kind of an idea machine. Big ideas flow freely," says John. "In some ways, it's been as much of a curse as it is a blessing throughout much of my life. Good ideas flow in faster than my ability to follow through. It's often hard to stick to one as the other ones are equally attractive. With CharityFocus, I've found a fertile ground. I still have so many ideas just waiting to go, but I hold them all back and try to just follow through with one thing at a time, making each one a reality."

A couple of months ago, one such idea was to expand
John: courtesy of his parents :)
the Quote-A-Day to not only include an inspirational quote but also a fact-of-the-day and be-the-change, an action that individuals could take to better themselves and the world. It was advice, John says, he got from his mother years ago when he was feeling down about himself.

"She told me that if you do something for other people, you feel better. And, if you change the way you think, your feelings will change, too."

John took this advice to heart by making a conscious effort to do something for someone else everyday. A random act of kindness every single day, almost like taking medicine, only with greater results.

It began with picking up garbage off the street, leaving money for someone who needed it more than he did, and finding an adoptive parent for a pet.

"The transformation was amazing. My karma just shot through the sky," recalls John.

By expanding Quote-A-Day to include the "be-the-change" section, he felt that he could share this with others. So far, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

Before hearing about CharityFocus, John worked with numerous other non-profits and volunteer organizations. But the fit never felt quite right. Each time he would try an idea, it wouldn't work out for one reason or another. "I planted lots of seeds; only they didn't come up," John explains with a shrug. "Nobody had the right spirit. It was all about their egos."

Then, he met Nipun Mehta and learned about CharityFocus. Immediately, he sensed a good fit. "When I heard Nipun's name, it just felt right," says John. That was about a year ago, shortly after John returned from one of numerous extended trips to India.

In India, John learned a lot about himself and what is and isn't important to him. "Travel broadens you. I feel a lot more alive. Suddenly, I became a person of the world rather than one with a limited mentality," he says.

With CharityFocus, his idea of unconditional service to humanity and the world has blossomed. "Service is the passing of the flame so that we can all walk together in a world full of light," says John.

[ email john ]

© CharityFocus 2003

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