"If there’s a world here in a hundred years, it’s going to be saved by tens of millions of little things. The powers-that-be can break up any big thing they want. They can corrupt it or co-opt it from the inside, or they can attack it from the outside. But what are they going to do about 10 million little things? They break up two of them, and three more like them spring up!"
- Pete Seeger, in YES! Magazine

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Year-end Wrap Up - What I Learned

The project:
Perform one charitable deed each and every day in 2009.

Sometimes moments, sometimes hours or even days completing numerous deeds over the course of the year.

Why bother?
We live in a rough and tumble world where it seems people are becoming increasingly alienated from each other. Times have certainly changed from those in which tribal members depended upon each other, neighbors counted on each other in times of need, watched after each other, or at least knew each other on sight. Thanks to technology and a shift in cultural values, it seems we have too many "more important things" to do than to take the time to play active roles in building healthy communities. In most cases, there are two incomes to maintain in addition to the household and, for many, children. There are vehicles to maintain, the Internet to surf, cable shows with which we just MUST keep pace.

Or so it seems.

In fact, if we want to live in healthier, happier communities, we need to turn off the TV and the Internet now and again, to walk our neighborhoods, to step back from the self-imposed social obligations and take a breath, to do with a little less so we can afford this time together. In doing so, we can all see what needs to be done to make our communities safer, healthier places.

As 2008 came to a close, I wondered what difference a family might make if it performed just one thing every single day to help build community, to help neighbors, family, friends and strangers. They didn't have to be big things; little gestures were welcome as well as grander projects. Would it make a difference at all? (These were my original thoughts.) I opted to blog about our family's experiences throughout the year in hopes of inspiring others to contribute to their communities, and to keep us on track.

Worth it?
Making the effort and sharing our actions through this blog were worth the time and energy, though I confess it was a sort of depressing project in the end. We started out with plenty of energy and performed some larger projects early in the year, but it didn't take long to see these efforts were less than a drop in the bucket. Trash picked up today didn't help an area become less trashy; there would be trash there again on our next visit. If anything, I learned my deeds alone, however small or grand, don't make enough of a difference. I need help. We all need each other's help to make this world a safer, healthier, happier place.

The world has bigger problems than trash in the streets; problems homemade blankets and door opening can't even begin to resolve. There are bloody wars going on all over the world. Gang violence breeds a different sort of terrorism right here in our own country. People are starving while others grow fat, many on foods advertised as healthy but, in fact, deathly by design. Too many drink their bathwater, or no water at all, while others flush it down the drain in the name of attractive decor. Pop stars and politicians demonstrate a declining moral code, though I suspect this can be blamed on a media glut as much as a shift in basic character.

It was that lack of character, I believe, which helped me become disenchanted with several programs as I came into contact with too many recipients who lack the character to understand these programs were put into place to help those truly in need, not to make life easier for slackers. Something is wrong when people too lazy to look for a job choose instead to pick up donations of free food from pantries or meal programs intended for those IN NEED. Something is wrong when toys intended for children with little or nothing are picked up by children who are happy to tell you about the new flat-screen TV their parents just installed, or the gifts awaiting them under the tree.

It was also disappointing to learn that I couldn't even make a change close to home. I'm not sure there were any fewer litterbugs in my neighborhood after we started picking up trash. There still seemed to be as much trash as ever as incredibly inconsiderate people opted to toss their trash out car windows or into the gutters as they walked or rode their bikes rather than to continue carrying it to a trash can. Taking the trash cans in (or out) for neighbors, picking up their newspapers when they were out of town, didn't spark more neighborly assistance.

It would be easy to give up, like too many others, withdraw into our little home and say, so be it, let someone else lend a hand, I'm too busy. It would be so easy to allow those freeloaders to put a damper on a donor's spirits, to take the wind out of the sails of a volunteer. But what purpose would that serve? Still there would be people in need of our help, whether or not we ever see them.

If anything, I learned we all need to do more - MUCH more. If everyone would pick up after themselves, if everyone would lend a hand to a neighbor or a stranger, if everyone would turn off the media and start thinking for themselves, maybe then we could turn the tide. If we spent more money on protecting humanity than we do competing with each other regardless of the cost if we spent more time enjoying each other than fighting with each other, if we'd take the time to listen to each other and hear the needs, maybe then we could be the ones to make the difference. Until then, some of us will continue to lend a hand, rise to the occasion and try to make a difference one charitable deed at a time.

What will YOU do to make a difference?

Photos courtesy Teseum, Franco Folini, Thomas Hawk and Haldun Kececegil under Creative Commons license.Share this post with:

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Donate Diapers

The project:
Donate diapers to a local family.

15 minutes to deliver

Why bother?
My girls have grown out of the diaper stage [(sniff!) and (thank heavens!)], but we had a little stockpile going here. Today I donated them to another family who's still in the thick of the process, and short on cash.

While I understand disposables wreak havoc on our landfills (and we used cloth for the most part), there are times when disposables are the only reasonable solution. (Ever try a long road trip in cloth diapers? OH! The agony of it!)

Worth it?
Yes - they were thankful; I reclaimed the closet space.

Photo courtesy Sean Dreilinger under Creative Commons license.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Scooping Manure & Walking Horses

The project:
Back to scoopin' manure today. (So glad to see the horses have been moved back to their regular stalls, now that we've nearly finished the TOUGH work at the temporary stalls!) And walking two injured horses that needed a little stretch before the close of day.

90 minutes

Why bother?
The poop needed scoopin' and the horses (one with a severely torn muscle, the other with a bowed tendon) needed to get out for short walks.

Worth it?
Yes - what ever it takes to earn an opportunity to interact with horses.

Photo courtesy VetMoves under Creative Commons license.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Contribute to the Game

The project:
Replace wet logbooks, provide writing implements and otherwise contribute to the maintenance of "game pieces" in a worldwide game.

A few minutes here and there throughout the course of our cache-hunting time.

Why bother?
No game can continue without someone maintaining the board, the pieces. Geocaching is no different. In fact, it's probably more difficult to maintain, with 965,889 pieces hidden all over the world. I've enjoyed this game, an often mindless, though sometimes puzzling, pastime. Helping to maintain the caches I visit helps keep it going.

Worth it?
Yes, though I confess to occasionally feeling like this is a silly pastime. Then again, what entirely diverting hobbies aren't?

Photo courtesy Cachemania under Creative Commons License.