Dove‘s Real Beauty Campaign asks:

Share a story about you or someone you love that expands the definition of beauty. We want to hear from women everywhere, from every background. Throughout the year, Dove will work with you to tell your stories and inspire us all to celebrate #RealBeauty.

Every woman has a story.
Let’s share them together.

We’re pleased to share an application to Dove‘s #RealBeauty contest:

What a small thing it is to listen.

But, we struggle to stop long enough to do it.

Pausing to listen lets us hear the depth and melody of someone’s laugh, our grandmother’s heartfelt recollection of the night she met our grandfather, the way a heavy snowfall seems to magically mute the world.

Yes, it’s a small thing, but it can also change the world and I’ve seen it firsthand.

Listening is the key to understanding other people’s experiences in this world — the seedling of empowerment, inclusion, and equality. My bosses, Rebecca Richards-Kortum and Maria Oden, are unprecedented listeners and a refreshing redefinition of beauty.

I work for Rice 360° Institute for Global Health, of which Rebecca and Maria are the fearless directors. These #girlpower global health warriors work to end preventable newborn death in sub-Saharan Africa every day. Their Institute challenges college students to design new medical devices and technologies that can actually be put into practice in low-resource settings.

Rebecca and Maria start with a problem — not one found in a textbook, but real, current challenges in resource-poor areas. They listen to the needs of the nurses and clinicians in African hospitals and encourage their students to use their creative minds to innovate solutions.

The results? A low-cost incubator that uses heating pads and plywood to warm a sick baby in her first days of life. A monitor that reminds another baby to breathe using a cell phone motor that simulates a nurse’s soft touch.

“Being open to seeing existing problems, asking questions about what really can help solve it and understanding it from the perspective of the people who experience it, is the best way to figure out how you can be helpful,” says Rebecca.

Rebecca and Maria are a dynamic duo like no other. I’m inspired each day by the beauty they represent. When trying to sum it up in a few words, I realized, while their philanthropic leanings are hard to ignore, their beauty is born from their ability and desire to truly listen to the needs of others. And, not just that, but encourage the next generation to do the same.

As I said, listening is a small thing. But, in their case, it saves lives and truly changes the world.

#realbeauty is much more than the appeal of your appearance or even the depth of your soul. Real, rare beauty is listening and responding, helping one another, diving to the depths of another’s soul and seeing the world through their eyes. After all, at the end of the day, human connection is all we really have to carry with us in this life.

Rebecca and Maria are two of many who have learned to listen with their whole being and respond, but the impact of their listening ears is deafening, setting off a ripple of impact for future generations here and abroad and bending the arc of humanity towards a better world.


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