"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

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Mid-year inspiration

It's been awhile, but don't worry. We've been up to some good these past several months, including several repeated projects (trash collection, recycling, lending hands to friends, relatives and perfect strangers). But I confess I haven't made the daily effort I made last year. Sometimes I realize it's been days since I've done anything notable, but then Dad points out "charity includes the things you do for your own family."

Today I came upon this inspirational collection of stories about a variety of people and organizations who have acted charitably on a number of levels. Slate also has some ideas for how to lend a helping hand. I hope these collections inspires you, too.

What have you done for your community lately? Please share your stories here and inspire us all.

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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Now we need YOUR help

OK, now for something completely different....
Last year, I shared daily what our family did for our community.
Today, I'm asking readers to do something for our family.

WEIRD....I know.

You can read all about it here, or just cut to the chase and vote here. Supporters are allowed one vote per e-mail address per day! That means your vote counts each and every day 'til the contest ends Sept. 5!

PLEASE help our family turn our dreams into reality!

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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

(Almost) Never Pick Up Strangers

We try to protect our children, to teach them to be safe, to show them the way. But then...it rains.

While heading across town to the girls' art class we experienced a torrential downpour. (Yes, Mom. I actually called it RAIN.) About two blocks from our house, we passed a cyclist, hood up, working her way up the hill. By "cyclist," I mean a woman on a bike. She wasn't a hard-core cyclist with her neon Spandex and matching helmet and shoes. No, she was a cyclist by chance, unprepared for the weather and certainly not enjoying it. She was soaked from her white, quilted-nylon coat with the faux-fur liner to her jeans and tennis shoes. The bag she carried over her shoulder wasn't helping her keep her balance, and I'm not sure she could really see at all through the downpour.

I pulled up beside her, rolled down the window and...

"Mom! Why are you rolling down the window?!"

I didn't answer my daughter. Instead, I did what we tell our children not to do.

"Do you want to put your bike in the back and I'll give you a ride," I hollered out the window.

The cyclist gave pause. Clearly, she'd been taught not to take rides from strangers. But we were both adults, she ever-more soaked with each passing moment, and I in a minivan emblazoned with my website address and carrying two children in the back seat.

I suppose we both decided neither of us would be much of a threat.

As we pulled into the driveway of her intended destination, the rain stopped.

"Thank you. That was very Christian of you," she said.

I didn't have the heart to tell her charitable deeds aren't limited by faith. I smiled, waved, and got back in the van.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Helping Someone's Mother

The woman across the street from us retired decades ago. Her youngest grandchildren are headed for high school. She doesn't hear well. She often doesn't see us as we pass during her early morning rose pruning and leaf collecting sessions. She doesn't drive anymore, but relies entirely on public transit. As a Brit, she was raised using public transit, so that's all and good, but sometimes it's just nice to have a lift, and when we have a chance, we pick her up and drop her wherever she needs to be. (It's never very far.)

Today, we were almost at our final destination (farmers' market) when I spotted her in the bus stop. I knew she was headed only about 2 miles west, so I pulled up to the stop, rolled down the window and waved my hand ala Vanna White and said, "Your carriage awaits!"

What a great smile she gave me as she put away her change and climbed in. I confirmed her final destination, and headed west. We were a couple of blocks away from farmers' market when she asked where WE were headed. I thought about making something up, but I wasn't that quick. I told her.

"Oh! Well, thank you VERY much," she said.

The unexpected lift gave her time to run an extra errand near her final destination.

It took us an extra five minutes to give her a lift and return to our intended stop. As w e pulled in to farmers' market, I noted the bus still hadn't arrived.

So, it seemed ultra appropriate today when this poem popped up on my radar. (Thanks, Garrison Keillor!)

Somebody's Mother

by Mary Dow Brine

The woman was old and ragged and gray
And bent with the chill of the Winter's day.
The street was wet with a recent snow
And the woman's feet were aged and slow.
She stood at the crossing and waited long,
Alone, uncared for, amid the throng
Of human beings who passed her by
Nor heeded the glance of her anxious eye.
Down the street with laughter and shout,
Glad in the freedom of 'school let out,'
Came the boys like a flock of sheep,
Hailing the snow piled white and deep.
Past the woman so old and gray
Hastened the children on their way.
Nor offered a helping hand to her—
So meek, so timid, afraid to stir
Lest the carriage wheels or the horses' feet
Should crowd her down in the slippery street.
At last came one of the merry troop,
The gayest lad of all the group;
He paused beside her and whispered low,
"I'll help you cross, if you wish to go."
Her aged hand on his strong young arm
She placed, and so, without hurt or harm,
He guided the trembling feet along,
Proud that his own were firm and strong.
Then back again to his friends he went,
His young heart happy and well content.
"She's somebody's mother, boys, you know,
For all she's aged and poor and slow,
And I hope some fellow will lend a hand
To help my mother, you understand,
If ever she's poor and old and grey,
And her own dear boy is far away."
"Somebody's mother" bowed low her head
In her home that night, and the prayer she said
Was, "God be kind to the noble boy,
Who is somebody's son, and pride and joy!"

Photo courtesy nzbuu under Creative Commons License.

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Neighbor Kid CHOOSES to Pick Up Trash!

Today I was driving home from the hardware store when I spotted a neighborhood teen on the other side of a county water district fence. At his feet, was one very large plastic bag he was stuffing with trash. On the sidewalk were two more bags, already filled.

I stopped to find out what he'd done to earn the "honor" of cleaning up the trash so many seem to feel OK sending over the fence. As I pulled up, his mom crossed the street to talk to me. It seems the boy, a freshman at a local high school, chose the project as his own!

"I've been trying to get my kids involved in community service, but there aren't a lot of opportunities for them. Then he asked if he could clean up this area," she said.

Her daughter, like my youngest, loves animals, but our local shelter does not allow volunteers younger than 12, so her keen daughter, mine and other young potential volunteers aren't welcome. Both of my daughters, unusually knowledgeable about California mission history for their ages, signed up to serve as docents with La Purisima Mission in Lompoc, but we were just told volunteer docents must be 9 or older. The 7 year old would not be allowed to tag along, either. Since we travel in a pack, that means another volunteer effort shot down.


I was super glad to see someone else taking neighborhood cleanup seriously, though. Thanks, Neighborhood Teen, for making a difference!

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Monday, February 8, 2010