From growing up on the south side of Chicago with her grandmother while her mother battled substance abuse to losing her left arm serving in the Army in Baghdad, Danielle Green has faced plenty of hardships throughout her life. Through it all, Green has chosen to live inspired, with a focus on humility and serving others. During our interview for the November/December issue, she shared the following thoughts on finding and living with inspiration:
Q: What personal attributes do you find attractive in an individual?
A: I think a person’s persistence, never stopping at what you aspire or set to accomplish. I think I’ve been very persistent. I had a lot of naysayers that said “Ah, you can’t go to Notre Dame.” Especially with my arm missing, people expect me to be this miserable, depressed person, yet I keep doing what I have to do to live a fulfilling life. Respect – I expect people to demonstrate a level of respectfulness. Be optimistic about your present and your future. I admire loyalty, honesty, teamwork and a commitment to others.
Q: How has hardship taught you to remain positive?
A: What I’ve learned is life has its peaks and valleys, and you can dwell in your sorrow, or you can choose to pick yourself up to find meaning and purpose. What I’ve learned is hardship, pain and suffering is temporary if you can envision an optimistic future and appreciate the little things in life. I have such a different perspective on life after what happened to me in Baghdad, because it happened so quickly. It’s like “Wow, I’m going to die,” but then, just as quickly, I had hope that I was going to survive. I have a different outlook on life; things that used to bother me in the past just don’t really affect me anymore.
Q: How would you challenge a person to live with purpose?
A: I would first tell them there is no roadmap to purpose because everyone is different. What may be effective for me may not be that effective for you. You must contribute to something greater than yourself. You need to figure out how to make a difference, because I truly believe when you can be impactful in someone else’s life and make someone else smile, that gives you a warm feeling inside. It’s great to have inner-strength, but I think sometimes we look too much into ourselves instead of having an outward vision by helping others. You can find your strength in others.
Q: You’ve said that you didn’t have a personal role model growing up. How did setting personal goals help you fill that void?
A: I looked early on, and I just couldn’t find that person, even on TV. People idolize Michael Jordan. Well first of all, He’s 6 foot 6 inches and bald, and I can’t emulate that, so it was hard for me to relate to a lot of folks. I had Notre Dame; I had the military. I had different things that I observed that made sense to me.
Q: What inspires you?
A: Dr. [Miguel A.] Franco, his work at the University of Notre Dame, what he does for the athletes there, and the work that he does in the community. If I could have it my way, I would probably be a psychologist to make an even larger impact on mental health and psychological wellbeing. He inspires me a lot.
In the work that I do, I come across a lot of different veterans. When I see them come in wounded and hurt and broken and suffering from injury and the things they’ve seen, to work with them and see them heal and recover as you hear their stories and listen to them, and then at some point they say “Hey, I’m in a better place” and they move on, that inspires me because that means I’m in the right business and doing pretty good work. So I think that inspires me more than anything that I can walk side by side on the mountaintop or up the mountain with these veterans, and help them on their new journey in life. My work inspires me.