“So much of the news media today is fear based. When I watch it I find myself saddened at the condition of our planet. It all starts to look so hopeless.”
So starts the unlikely but entirely salient mission statement of The Healing Initiative, an online project from Jimmy Farren Hickey, the Digital Creative Services Director at Travel + Leisure. After many years of doing both design and wholeness work, Jimmy found that there wasn’t an outlet within our 24-hour news cycle that spoke to him in an engaging and positive way. News coverage, as we all know, tends to focus on only the bad, pushing human-interest stories to the backburner, often turning them into silly puff pieces. With Jimmy at the helm, The Healing Initiative flips the script. As he states, “I wanted to celebrate the goodness and divinity in people.” And he does.
Hillary Kaylor: What was your a-ha moment to start your project?
Jimmy Farren Hickey: Sometimes it seems as though the world is full of fear and hatred. When I watch the news I find myself saddened at the condition of our planet. It all starts to look so bleak. But I’ve met some amazing people in this lifetime, people who are making a difference in my life and the lives of countless others. I am so grateful to be in the world with these men and woman, and grateful for the impact they have in healing the planet.
At the beginning of this year I felt a calling to do something. I too wanted to be a part of this healing movement. So I went to the dictionary and looked up the word “heal” and found this definition: “to restore to wholeness”, which somehow seemed like an easier job than mending bones or curing cancer. When using this definition I immediately understood that inside of me I had the potential to heal. Then this summer while traveling through Ireland I discovered that my last name means “one who heals”. So this just had to happen.
Can you explain the mission statement of your project and how you go about finding subjects for it?
The mission of The Healing Initiative is to highlight the faces and stories of compassionate individuals who have made it their life’s work to restore the Earth and all its inhabitants to wholeness. I find subjects by looking through my own friends and by word of mouth. There’s nothing I love more than having someone tell me about someone doing amazing work. Those are the stories I long to hear. I am so grateful to have found a project that’s all about meeting and photographing amazing people.
HK: Have you been involved in philanthropic efforts before and why? Family, friends, church?
JFH: I grew up doing volunteer work in the church and in the community with my mother. There were times we had nothing, but we still helped others. It was a given. It might be something as simple as making a plate of cookies or it might mean devoting several hours or a weekend of our time, but my mother understood the importance of compassionate acts.
HK: Why do you think most people are not involved in philanthropic efforts on a regular basis?
JFH: I would guess that most people aren’t involved in philanthropic efforts because they don’t know how it good it makes you feel to help others. The feeling you get when helping others is unbeatable. I think people probably also have this idea that they have to do something really big in order to change the world, but the truth is that the smallest acts can add up to a world of difference.
HK: Do you think that spirituality and the so-called meaning of life can be achieved through helping others?
JFH: Absolutely. I would go as far to say that helping others is a spiritual act. It might be nice to live alone in a cave in India and meditate toward enlightenment, but I think the biggest spiritual growth happens as a result of our interactions with others on this planet. It’s through walking into difficult and challenging situations that we grow the most. When we look deep we often discover that the challenging situation is our own fear, our own ego. Helping others is a way of doing battle with our fears. When you’re feeling alone, in need of help or just stuck in fear… that’s the best time to help someone else.
HK: What would you like your legacy in this world to be?
JFH: I would hope that I could live every day on this planet with love and integrity and that I always remember to express gratitude for the blessing and tremendous challenges of being human. If other people learned this from watching me, then that would be a life well lived.
HK: How can someone who is just starting out pick and join a cause?
JFH: I highly recommend sites like nycares.com, where you can search through hundreds of volunteer opportunities and find one that you have an affinity with. I would also say that we can do service every day through acts of compassion, love and kindness with the people who are in our lives every day. Do something good for your friends and family today. Send love to the people who challenge you most. All of these acts add up quickly and can change the world. And if you don’t see the impact these acts have on the world, I promise you that you will feel the impact they have on you.
Jimmy Farren Hickey
Raised in rural Nebraska, Jimmy grew up dividing his time between working cattle with his father and doing craft projects with his mother. At age 4 he announced to the world that he would one day move to New York City, which he did at age 26.
Jimmy has enjoyed a diverse work history that includes time spent as: a cowboy, a waiter, a cook, an art consultant, a web designer, an illustrator, a creative consultant for reality TV, an editor, an editorial director, and a creative director. He is currently the digital creative services director for Travel + Leisure, Food & Wine and Departures at American Express Publishing (the views expressed on this website are his own). Prior to that he served as the digital creative director for Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S., working on the websites of ELLE, ELLE DECOR, Metropolitan Home, Car and Driver, Woman’s Day, and many others.
Jimmy is a long-time yogi, a reiki practitioner, a world traveler, and a pretty decent ukulele player.
Jimmy is available for photo shoots and design projects, so feel free to drop him a line at email@example.com.
A regular FOND Group contributor, Hillary Kaylor is a writer living in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in New York Magazine, The FADER, Food & Wine, Travel + Leisure, Vice, and Gawker. She once drove a tractor on an Australian banana farm where they paid her in bananas. Kaylor is currently working on a non-fiction book based on the three months she spent volunteering in the slums of Cambodia earlier this year.