Jamie Shirley, New York, NY
Occupation: Executive assistant
Purpose: “To be there for people, to give them a sense of well-being and hope.”

As a recreational therapy assistant, Jamie spent her days finding ways to engage patients at a long-term psychiatric facility. At first, it was just a job, but as she got to know the patients, one in particular, she began to realize her purpose.

Rosemaria resided on the lower-functioning floor, “but she didn’t belong there,” Jamie says. “She had a way about her.” Jamie took extra care to bring art projects to Rosemaria, and she began to notice a positive change, but she could never coax her to leave the sixth floor where she’d lived for fifteen years.

A year later, Jamie decided to return to school. She didn’t expect Rosemaria at her going-away party, which was held on the eleventh floor, but when she arrived, Rosemaria was the first person she saw. “I did it for you, Jamie,” she said. A breakthrough — for both of them.

Jamie realized that she’s most moved by people who get lost in the shuffle. “In New York City, we’re rushing to work, we forget to help people,” she says. “So I stop myself a lot, to try to think about what other people are going through.” Often, she prepares food for a homeless couple on her street, chats with an elderly man eating alone, or simply gives “people the benefit of the doubt.”