Tag: blog action day

Blog Action Day: Poverty

Today is Blog Action Day and the topic is poverty. Similar to last year’s post, Iā€™m going to reflect and celebrate on what Iā€™m already doing to help, investigate areas that could be improved, and then commit to action.

Reflect

I have to admit that I’m even less passionate about “poverty” than I am about the environment. However, I can’t ignore the very real fact that if I’m to practice what my faith preaches, I’d better care about the poor and I’d better do something about it. So, I’m thankful that Blog Action Day is here and that I can use it as a chance to commit to some real action.

Let’s look at some of the reasons why I don’t take action more often, and things I can think about to counter my excuses:

  • Feeling overwhelmed: Knowing that about half the world’s children are living in poverty is a staggering statistic. When you look at the masses of people – about half of the world’s population – who subsist on less than $2.50 a day, it’s easy to feel like there’s nothing you can do about it. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, it’s helpful to remember the starfish story and commit to making a difference one life at a time. If each person who made over $2.50 a day helped out one person who was living on less than $2.50 a day, everyone would be covered. šŸ™‚ Of course, it’s not going to be that simple, but it does make me feel a little better to know that by finding a way to do my part, I’m helping to balance out the equation a little more.
  • Self-centered perspective: In these “tough economic times,” at least for those of us in the US, it’s easy for me to focus on getting me and my family through and to think that I don’t have any extra to spare. In college, when I was on a REALLY tight budget, I remember feeling a bit disgruntled by “call to action” people who would urge us to “give up that daily mocha” and donate the money to a charity. I wasn’t sure how other people were affording a daily mocha, because all of my money was going to textbooks, rent, and basic food! These days, I’m living a much more luxurious life with organic food, a “fun” budget line item, and owning a home. While I still don’t buy a daily mocha, there’s certainly more flex in our budget – on most months, at least – so that we could sacrifice in some areas temporarily and have a little more to give.

Celebrate

This list is much shorter than last year’s, but it’s still something that I can celebrate!

  • We sponsor a child through Compassion (which costs less than $2.50/day, actually, as our bank account gets debited $32/month automatically). It’s been neat to see our little girl from India grow up to be a young lady, exploring interests in school and beginning to dream dreams, via quarterly handwritten-and-translated letters.
  • At least once a year around Christmastime, we’ll peruse the World Vision Gift Catalog and purchase a share of a cow, or four chickens, or a few goats, which are given to needy families or villages. It’s a little bit weird to look through a catalog, which is a naturally consumeristic activity, and make decisions that affect real people’s lives. Should we feed a starving village or rescue a child from a life of prostitution? Kind of jarring, but at least, in the end, we’re doing something.
  • Steve and I participated in 30 Days of Nothing the first time around and donated the money we saved. We missed it this year, but I think it’s something I want to do every year, if Steve is up for it.
  • We buy fair trade bananas. šŸ™‚

Investigate

Time to brainstorm next actions! This list is by no means comprehensive nor is it very radical, but I tried to come up with realistic and achievable actions that I could take. Rather than trying to come up with a big life-changing plan, I’ve found that real change happens when I start small and think of things that I could imagine myself doing.

  • Write a letter to my Compassion child. The web site allows for an easy interface to email the child, but I think it’s time to write a hand-written letter and include a recent family photo, now that we have a baby.
  • “Do” 30 Days of Nothing in a month other than September – talk to Steve about trying it out for November, for example.
  • A few years ago, I bought Material World, a really cool book where families around the world are photographed with all of their possessions lined up around their house. The disparity between the family in Mali and the family in the US is staggering, and each page is a visual reminder of how much we own – and how much we don’t need. While I don’t want to dull the impact by looking at the book every single day, I think that flipping through the pages at least once a year would be a good activity for me – maybe to kick off 30 Days of Nothing.
  • I’ve always been intrigued by Kiva‘s concept of microloans and their excellent implementation of making it easy to loan a small amount of money to someone else halfway across the world, watch it get repaid, and then loan the money back out to someone else. Their site currently says that all loan requests have been filled (although you can donate to their operating expenses), but it’s a site to keep an eye on for future giving opportunities.
  • We can reexamine our charitable giving and our values. Is helping the poor high enough on our value system that we want to reflect that in our charitable giving?
  • Add more fair trade items to our grocery list where we can – fair trade chocolate, for example (we aren’t at-home coffee drinkers, or fair trade coffee would be an option, too).
  • I also like the idea of starting at home. Grace In Action is an organization affiliated with several of the churches in town that helps the homeless in our community. I can start by looking at their donated items list and picking something up each time we go to Costco, which we do infrequently yet regularly enough for it to work as a “regular” donation without being a “ongoing” budget line item.
  • Have a garage sale, or, more realistically for us, sell items on Craigslist and donate the money.

Commit to action

I could really see myself doing all of the above! But again, I’ll commit to just a few actions and will follow up in a later post. Let me clarify – I will commit to talking to Steve about these actions, since we have joint finances and his opinion and approval is needed before moving forward!

  • One-time: Do 30 Days of Nothing in November or another month next year.
  • One-time: Write a letter to our Compassion child – this is something I can do on my own!
  • Ongoing: Get fair trade chocolate for baking/cooking purposes.
  • Ongoing: Commit to one year of getting something “extra” each time we go to Costco to donate to Grace In Action.

How about you? Do you have a post for Blog Action Day, or are there specific actions you want to commit to taking to help combat poverty?

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Blog Action Day: The Environment

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

Today is Blog Action Day and the topic is the environment. So for this post, I’m going to reflect and celebrate on what I’m already doing to help, investigate areas that could be improved, and then commit to action. And in keeping with my style, there will be lots of bulleted lists!

Reflect

I can’t say that I’m very passionate about saving the environment — I get more excited about organizing, teaching, kittens, and sea otters, for example — but I do have a sense of responsibility to do my part to conserve, reduce, recycle, and become more educated about the impact my choices have on the environment. Where does this sense of responsibility come from? For me, it’s a mixture:

  • A faith-based idea of “stewardship” and taking care of gifts that I’ve been given, which includes this world along with my body, relationships, and material possessions.
  • The desire for frugality inherited from my mother, which overlaps quite nicely with conservation — reusing things instead of throwing them away, saving money on utilities by using less water or electricity, etc.
  • The environment of liberal hippie-ness in my university town where organic and local produce is “in.”
  • The influence of one of my sisters who introduced me to the concept of composting, geothermal heating systems, and organic milk, and whose husband is a developer who makes it a point to use green materials and sustainable practices.

Celebrate

So far, I’ve “done the little that I can.” It’s not much, but it’s still something to celebrate.

  • Steve and I choose to live in a town where we can’t yet afford our own home but can bike everywhere. The local Safeway is a two-minute bike ride or a ten-minute walk from our house. Using a combination of bike-friendly streets and bike paths, we can bike the five miles to our church in about 25 minutes. It’s easier to bike or walk around the small downtown area than it is to drive. The campus (U.C. Davis) is purposefully closed to cars and has its own bus system which also serves the rest of the city. For a while, Steve and I only had one car; he took the car to work and I biked everywhere else. My mom gave us her old car (which now, with a baby on the way, we’re especially thankful for) but I still usually choose to bike instead of drive.
  • We have a food co-op that is chock full of organic goodness and locally-grown foods. The produce section indicates clearly on the price sign where the food came from. The co-op isn’t as conveniently close as Safeway, but it’s close to downtown and it’s on the way to the library so that I have an excuse to drop by for groceries. While I’m often seduced by the lower-priced items of the big chain grocery store, we’ve been starting to purchase more locally produced items which theoretically help the environment by reducing the resources spent on transporting goods around the world.
  • We recycle paper and containers.
  • I married someone who loves the outdoors and animals. My family never really went camping or spent much time outdoors other than in our suburban backyard; we were quite a family of bookworms. Steve has really stretched my boundaries to include camping, backpacking, swimming in mountain lakes, enjoying being by the ocean, hiking, and being on the lookout for cool wild animals like hawks, egrets, owls, and deer. I can’t say that hiking is one of my favorite things — it’s more something I suffer through to spend time with Steve — but maybe someday I’ll appreciate it. šŸ™‚

Investigate

There are LOTS of things that I could imagine doing to help the environment. Here is a smattering of realistic and achievable changes that I could make:

  • I use a lot of ziploc bags for food storage and when making Steve’s lunches. We sometimes reuse ones that don’t require a lot of effort to clean them. However, this results in quite a bit of waste when I think of the Costco-sized boxes of sandwich and gallon bags that we’ve gone through. I could reuse more of the ziploc bags by washing them and encourage Steve to bring them home instead of throwing them away.
  • Our town has basic garbage, paper, and container recycling and picks up yard waste piles but I haven’t really tried to investigate recycling other types of waste. This is just pure laziness on my part.
  • My paper-based organization system results in the use of a lot of paper. I haven’t made it a point to specifically purchase recycled paper for the printer (although we recycle what comes out of it).
  • We have a halogen light in the office that is pretty much on all day while I work. I am a bit picky with the light I work with, but perhaps I should just deal with it and replace it with a lamp that would work with compact flourescent lightbulbs. At the very least I could swap the lamp from our bedroom (which uses CFLs) with the halogen as we don’t have the light on in the bedroom as often.
  • I could figure out how to stop junk mail and cancel the various catalogs that are coming for former residents.

Commit to Action

Rather than trying to do all of the above and burning out, I’m going to pick two one-time actions that I can do this week and one regular action that I can try to maintain.

  • One-time: Swap the halogen light with the bedroom light.
  • One-time: Call our city to request a free compost bin.
  • Ongoing: Start washing and reusing ziploc bags.

I’ll make sure that these are part of my weekly review so that you can see how I’m doing!