Inspiration Report

beulah-spring-falls-near-spook-cave-iowa-free-stock-photoIn the Tailevu district of eastern Fiji, there is a remote spring rumored to have miraculous healing abilities. Crowds wake up well before dawn and travel hours to reach the spring in the western division mountain range. Ambulances make their way down the dusty backroads with men and women on stretchers, and these ill or injured people are allowed into the spring first. Then, those who are hurt but can walk are allowed to enter, and finally, healthy people are given a chance to enter the spring. Many of these healthy travelers bring water bottles or plastic containers to fill with the miracle water. These bottles are then taken home to sick friends and family members.

Menasui Druguvale discovered the spring’s incredible abilities in 2016 when he had conjunctivitis. “I went to the main source [of the spring] after Cyclone Winston,” Druguvale said. “I showered in the water, and soon my eyes cleared.”

Shortly after Duguvale’s discovery, the village of Natadradave became a site of global interest. The impoverished town was home to just 27 families in 2016, but now thousands of people fly to Fiji for the sole purpose of visiting the spring. These pilgrims bypass beach resorts and kava bars in favor of driving two hours to reach the line of people waiting for their turn in the spring. The line of sick and injured people hoping to find a cure in the spring’s waters stretches for kilometers.

The hundreds of daily visitors are assisted by volunteers from local villages. Druguvale estimated that nearly 50,000 people visit the spring each month. “Some people will come in a wheelchair, some people come by ambulance,” Druguvale said. “I massage the mud into people’s skin after they have showered and drunk the water… [The water] works. Every single time.”

The spring continues to draw visitors who see videos of paraplegics standing up from their wheelchairs, and many people believe that God Himself blessed the water of this remote spring. This makes sense to Fijian natives, the majority of whom follow the Christian faith. Many see this spring as a blessing on the Fijian people from God after Cyclone Winston killed 44 people.

Most people who visit the spring sport muscle aches and skin conditions, but there are reports of the spring curing mental disorders, burns, strokes, blindness, paralysis and even cancer. Epeli Lagiloae is one of many people who attests to the ability of the spring to cure even the most severe injuries. “My own daughter is a living example of the miracle water,” Lagiloae wrote on Facebook. “Aggie suffered a stroke in Sydney last two years where she was confined to bed and her movement is limited. She couldn’t talk. After two days under their holistic assistance and encouraging words [at the spring] the walking stick was thrown away on the last day the first clear sentence was crystal clear from her mouth.”

The spring has gotten so much attention that people have been caught trying to smuggle the water across international borders to sell it. Fijians, however, say that doing so removes the blessing from the water. “We have heard stories of scammers, people have bottled and tried to sell the water in Suva, Nadi and overseas. And that is against the spirit of the water,” said Esili Tukana, a local resident. “It won’t work if it’s sold.”

Whether there is something special in the mud of the spring or whether the spring is truly blessed by God is up for debate. That said, many locals care little about why the water works. “It is God, and maybe the minerals too, and maybe the mud,” said Druguvale. “Me and my father don’t know why. But we know for a long time, it has been special.” Most of those receiving the miracle cure agree with Druguvale. It matters less to them why this particular stream appears to be blessed than the ability of those who truly need it to get an impossible cure that seems to have come from God Himself.

birds-2417167_960_720Certain types of songbirds have evolved to use their songs to find mates that they will stay with for the rest of their lives. Researchers discovered that each sex uses what is called the sound control system to convert sound waves into social messages. Humans do something similar when they use vocal sounds and speech to communicate, but songbirds are far more advanced at it.

Finches, for example, must learn their songs during the first 90 days of their lives. If they are unable to do that, they will likely never find a mate. They may still be able to sing, but the song will be too poor to attract a mate.

The songs that finches sing are based on the songs of their fathers. Males recognize the songs of other males and copy their fathers’ songs as chicks. Females, on the other hand, memorize their fathers’ songs and use it as the standard by which to judge the songs of potential mates. As a general rule, females prefer songs that are elaborate, and the more syllables the better. If a song is too simple or there is anything at all wrong with it, females will refuse to mate with the male.

Female finches have to be picky because, unlike many other animals, she will only have one mate. Despite their much smaller size, songbirds are like eagles and swans in that they form lifelong bonds with their mates. The same two birds will repeatedly rear young together. Eagles are known to not only return to the same mate every year, but they also reuse the same nest year after year.

Songbirds are hardwired to emphasize social relationships and to learn from their parents. These bonds are so strong that a baby bird reared by the wrong species will learn the wrong song. The songbird will imitate the song of its “adoptive” parents even if it can hear the song of its biological father.

The vocal learning ability of songbirds is extremely unusual according to Dr. Sarah Woolley, a neuroscientist who studies finches at Columbia University’s Zuckerman Institute. “The magic of the songbird is that vocal learning is incredibly rare to find in animals,” said Dr. Woolley. “No ape can do it (except the human), no monkey can do it and no rodent can do it.” Dr. Woolley hopes that an increased understanding of how songbirds use their brains will allow her to learn more about how humans use their brains to develop spoken language skills early in life and how humans use those skills to communicate later in life.

Songbirds and humans looking for love have something in common: vocal communication. A male songbird sings to show off his potential for siring strong young chicks. Humans do something similar, though our mating rituals are a bit more complex than a finch’s. The basics, however, are still the same. After all, as Dr. Woolley pointed out, “The way that people fall in love is [by] talking to each other.”

Vijay_Eswaran_portraitMalaysian entrepreneur, Vijay Eswaran, is Executive Chairman of the Quest International Group, a controlling shareholder of Sri Lankan blue chip Asia Capital and is featured among the top 50 philanthropists in Forbes Asia’s annual list of Heroes of Philanthropy in the region. This list includes some of Asia-Pacific’s most high profile philanthropists.

Eswaran is involved in a number of charitable projects through a variety of organizations. His RHYTHM Foundations is involved in education initiatives, disaster relief and children and community development. The Malaysian chapter of RHYTHM, the Vijayaratnam Foundation, was established in honor of Eswaran’s father and is involved in the empowerment of youth and women, the arts, culture child mentoring and environmental protection projects in Malaysia. The RHYTHM Foundation provided assistance following some of the most devastating natural disasters of this century including the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004, the 2006 Central Java earthquake in Indonesia, the Typhoon Ondoy in the Philippines in 2010 and the flooding of coastal Sri Lanka. Eswaran is also involved in the Foundation of Goodness which seeks to narrow the gap between urban and rural life in Sri Lanka. In 2007, the Foundation of Goodness donated the only pediatric laparoscopy machine in Sri Lanka to the Lady Ridgeway Hospital.

Eswaran, however, was not always flying high. Eswaran was born into a middle class family in Malaysia. He was lucky enough to receive some scholarship money to attend college, and he made up the difference driving a cab part-time. It was during this period of his life that Eswaran had a chance encounter with a monk who was meditating on the side of a cliff in the Himalayas. When Eswaran asked why the monk was sitting so near “the edge of such an abyss,” the monk replied, “Are we all not just two minutes from the abyss anyway?”

This simple acceptance of danger and risk changed Eswaran. It pushed him to take the risks necessary to become an entrepreneur even when Asia was still reeling from the 1997 financial crisis. Now, Quest International Group is a multinational conglomerate that deals with direct selling, real estate, education, retail and hospitality in more than 30 countries. Eswaran has also published two books. His is the story of a man who made himself by being willing to take risks. “Every time we expanded into a new market, or made an investment, or launched a new product, we were taking a risk and my advisors made sure I knew it. But our sense of urgency and sense of adventure paid off…Without this chance encounter with a danger loving monk high in the mountains, my life would look very different.” Given the extent of Eswaran’s philanthropic reach, it is likely that monk changed far more lives than he ever realized.

25097828852_4a5bf835a0_bReddit is famous for containing all sorts of bizarre lists and internet debates. More than one person has left Reddit, Tumblr and other social media or discussion platforms behind due to both excessive negativity and chains of insults from anonymous users. Recently, however, Reddit called on its users to name “the most amazing thing a complete stranger has ever done for you.” Users responded with a lengthy list that runs the gamut from amusing to deeply moving and from ordinary to nearly superhuman.

The person with the username VistaVille_Mac gave a shout out to those who took care of him in foster care. He said, “I was in foster care as a kid, and looking back, it was very kind of those people who were strangers to me before I moved in to open their home up to me and take care of me.”

Another person used Reddit’s call for stories of random acts of kindness to thank the stranger who saved their life when they had cancer. “A stranger donated the bone marrow that helped cure my leukemia. She was truly amazing, as far as I am concerned, and so can you!” This person ended their post with a link to Be The Match [LINK:], the website for the National Marrow Donor Program. Be The Match works to grow their bone marrow donor registry. They currently have the largest and most diverse marrow registry in the world.

Other Reddit stories were not as dramatic or life changing, but they still made various users’ days. One user told the story of how two men helped them when they totaled their car. “I totaled my SUV in the middle of nowhere in Maryland at 1 a.m.,” user chris_vader17 wrote. “I had the whole family in the vehicle when the tire exploded, and I lost control and spun into the guard rail. Luckily, I was the only one injured. But two guys on a road trip stopped and helped my family out of the car and waited 35 minutes for the ambulance to come. Nicest guys ever.” Numerous other users added similar stories about strangers who helped them when they had car trouble.

User cheekyfinnegan15 told a story of when they were young and were shown a random act of kindness by a bus driver. According to their story, “We were quite tight on money. My mom married early and was in her mid-20s at that time. I remember me and my mom just walking down the street at night. I can’t remember if we were lost or what we were doing there. While we were walking, a bus pulled up on the road and opened its door. The kind bus driver urged us to go inside and ride for free (it was freezing cold) and take us to our destination. My mom rejected first but the bus driver insisted. I don’t remember much after that but I could feel my mom’s relief and gratitude to the guy.”

The full listing of Reddit users’ responses is available online. The stories are varied, but many of them drive home the point that even small actions can have a big effect. More than one user tells the story of how they were suffering, and a small act of kindness, such as a stranger buying them coffee, gave them the strength to carry on. Read through the list of inspiring stories. Then, go do a random act of kindness yourself and pay the inspiration forward.