For Michael Kabram, the impulse to help those in need has trumped all else.
After graduating from college, he began working for his family’s century-old restaurant equipment business on New York’s Lower East Side, as expected. But, in 2008, a chance to assist rural Peruvian families with basic supplies and education took him down a less expected path: the peoples’ kindness and the happiness he was able to bring to their children left a lasting emotional impression.
Not long after he returned home, Kabram’s family sold their business. Bolstered by newfound freedom and an impulse to try to better the world, he devoted himself to helping children with developmental disabilities. While doing that work, he witnessed the positive effects of massage therapy on kids firsthand and was inspired to get his occupational studies associate’s degree at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine.
Today, Kabram works at one of the top sports massage therapy offices in Manhattan, while maintaining his own private practice. He specializes in pain and injury management, as well as overall mind and body health. His unique approach has brought him a wide range of clients from NFL players and professional dancers to corporate CEOs.
Here, Kabram shares his own moving experience in Peru and his belief that helping others lends an essential perspective to our lives:
LTP: What led to your personal awakening on your trip to Huancayo, Peru five years ago?
Michael Kabram: I think I always had that helping others bug in me. However, the trip opened up my eyes to a whole new world. The city of Huancayo is somewhat westernized and modern, while the outlying villages are extremely poverty-stricken with barely any education system and very limited healthcare.
I met with an organization that helps families get supplies and food. They also work very closely with the local orphanage, which I later found out is where most of the children in the village live because they receive better care there than with their families. I started volunteering at the orphanage and, at first, I was really there to play with the children, who have seen very few outsiders. (It just made them happy to have a new face there.) After a while, I started incorporating English lessons into my visits, which was a huge success. The kids loved it!
Seeing those kids smile and being able to bring happiness to them, even only for a little while, was the greatest feeling in the world. Aside from that huge inspiration, when I first got there, I got extremely sick. (I’m assuming it was from eating food from places that definitely would not receive a grade “A” in their windows.) I ended up with a bad fever along with a plethora of other symptoms for weeks. I was put on an IV by a so-called doctor and taken care of by the family with whom I was staying. Seeing how much they helped me and truly cared was unbelievable and so inspiring to me. Here I was supposed to be helping them and they ended up taking care of me. It was truly amazing.
Live The Process: How did you come to pursue massage therapy?
MK: I was not always interested in physical therapy by any means. After Peru, I returned to New York to work in my family’s four-generation, 100-year-old business on the Bowery, selling restaurant equipment and renting vintage diner equipment as props for television shows and movies. Then we sold the business and I ended up with a lot of unexpected free time. It was the perfect opportunity to get back to what I felt has always been my calling: helping others.
I started volunteering with children with disabilities, mainly Cerebral Palsy and Autism. Each week, they worked with a massage therapist and I was simply blown away by how much it helped them. I did my research and enrolled in school right after that. While in school and working at the school’s clinic, I took a liking to the pain and injury management side of massage therapy. I knew that was what I wanted to focus on. I have been ever since.
LTP: What's your biggest obstacle to staying on your personal wellness path?
MK: My biggest obstacle is without question: food! I am a huge foodie and have horrible control issues. I feel that it is really about finding a balance when it comes to eating. As cliché as that sounds, it’s really true.
LTP: What advice would you give to people, in other professions, who are interested in bettering the lives of those less fortunate?
MK: I think it's important that people do something that gives them perspective, be it visiting a third world country or volunteering at a local shelter. Really the best way to help those less fortunate is to go out and do it!
LTP: What does happiness look like to you?
MK: Happiness to me is about being present. I feel that if we were all just a little more present in our daily activities, we would be able to fully enjoy each moment of the day. If we embrace whatever it is we are doing at a particular moment and don’t get caught up in what happened yesterday or what’s going on tomorrow and don’t get lost in our thoughts, we can feel much happier.
I know, I know: easier said than done.
LTP: What does it mean to you to "Live The Process" and how do you do that every day?
MK: To me, “Live The Process" means what I think happiness does, and that is to be present and aware. Things happen in our lives and things do not happen in our lives; that to me is the beauty of it. Embrace it when you are fired from a job and you’re sad and upset or immerse yourself in the feeling of being in love. Think about how cool it is that we are able to experience all these different emotions.