My Purpose Is to:
Make sure I never stop being surprised
By Rich Polt
Published December 04, 2012
Over her long career in the health and nonprofit sectors, Barbra Levin’s main goal has been to give comfort to those in need.
Barbra is the Executive Director of Neurofibromatosis (NF) Mid-Atlantic, an organization that provides resources and fosters community for those with NF. NF is a multifaceted and complex illness. It can cause tumors to grow all over the body, and sometimes disfigurement, which can truly isolate those who have it.
After obtaining a Master’s degree from the University of Chicago, the Illinois native spent more than two years in Thailand serving with the Peace Corps. Barbra is fluent in Lao and Thai (wow!) On returning to the U.S. she received a Masters in Public Health from Harvard University. Her subsequent work with a host of nonprofits has enabled her to travel all over the world.
Barbra has been living in Baltimore, MD for the past 15 years. Currently, she is trying to figure out how to grow NF Mid- Atlantic to reach others in need. In addition to her passion, drive, and enormous heart, my sources tell me that Barbra can be “side achingly hilarious.” What more could I ask for in a Talking GOOD interview?
Thanks for talking with us Barbra!
The 10 questions
IN JUST ONE SENTENCE, WHAT IS YOUR PURPOSE IN LIFE?
Make sure I never stop being surprised.
WHAT IS SOMETHING YOU WANT TO ACCOMPLISH BEFORE YOU “EXPIRE?”
I’ve been trying to learn to play bridge for twenty years. Unfortunately there’s always been one more person to meet, one more book to read, one more country to visit and one more cause to inspire me.
IF YOU COULD MEET WITH ANYONE (ALIVE), WHO WOULD IT BE AND WHAT WOULD YOU ASK THEM?
Gloria Steinem has always been a hero. She’s never wavered in her ability to succinctly and forcefully champion the cause of equality. If I had the pleasure of meeting her, I’d ask her all the questions I’ve been asked here.
WHAT WOULD THE TITLE OF YOUR BOOK BE?
Have I missed anything?
WHO WOULD PLAY YOU, IN A MOVIE ABOUT YOUR LIFE?
This is hard. I never think I look like anyone, but I seem to have doppelgangers all over the world. Wherever I go, people think they know me. It would need to be someone Jewish, with curly hair, and a very plastic face. In my wildest and vainest dreams it would be Debra Winger.
WHAT IS A BELIEF THAT IS CORE TO YOUR BEING?
No one should be isolated and alone if they don’t wish to be, however, I try to never impose myself or my beliefs on anyone, though I’m often tempted because I really have an opinion about everything. If I can provide some comfort, there’s nothing better for my soul.
WHO ARE YOUR HEROES?
I have cherished the writing of my heroes: Primo Levi, Bertram Russell, and Emma Goldman.
IF YOU WEREN’T DOING THIS, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING?
I can’t teach, I’m quickly bored, I can write a bit, I’m funny, and I’m a serious hack cook. Subsequently it seems the only thing left to me is to be a professional “good Joe.”
TELL US SOMETHING SURPRISING ABOUT YOURSELF
I used to be a comedy writer. Hardest job I ever had!
WHAT QUESTION(s) DO YOU WISH I HAD ASKED?
My favorite things to talk about are books. I wish you had asked which are my most cherished. I would tell you I loved “Moby Dick”, am rereading an old favorite: “Crime and Punishment”, my favorite biography is: “Autobiography of a Face”, and anything by David Sedaris and Nora Ephrom makes me laugh out loud. If I’m allowed another, I’d want to be asked if I am in love. My answer would be: “always”.