Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

How Will You Spend Your MLK Day of Service?

business and succcess concept - happy group of businesspeople showing v-sign together

Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr has offered more quotable quotes to the zeitgeist than a boatload of news channel pundits, politicians, or presidents–perhaps because his public time in the spotlight was focused on realizing a greater future for all–a sentiment in shorter supply, today,than is healthy for us, I think. One of my favorites of his messages is…

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?’”

Today, many of us have a holiday from work, but it is not the Martin Luther King holiday we celebrate, rather the Martin Luther King Day of Service, a time to take a day ON instead of a day off. You should serve yourself as well–sleep in a bit, take some downtime to relax. Absolutely bask in rare extra hours with your family…won’t it be even more memorable if you, as a family, volunteer in your community? Kids are learning about MLK in their classes, but the lesson truly takes hold when they learn the spirit of the day by putting together care packages for the homeless, or cleaning up a public park, or shoveling the walk for a neighbor, or ladling stew at a soup kitchen, or, or, or…

mlk2005_noline

How can you creatively express your huge commitment to service? Without advance planning, perhaps you don’t have a volunteer project lined up for today–how about using the day to commit to action soon? Surf around to find a non-profit organization doing projects near you–there are so many resources for discovery, and SOOOO many organizations that need your assistance. When the new tax laws have most charities and non-profits quaking in their boots in anticipation of Americans donating RECORD LOW AMOUNTS to charitable causes, giving hours (in addition to) dollars becomes even more important.

There are web tools for you to use in your neighborhoods and towns, to find projects and programs that need your contribution. The MLKDay website has resources that are already serving the hundreds of thousands of people who will volunteer around the nation today, but the opportunity lasts long past midnight tonight. Use the website as a jumping off place. I promise there are other day of service events and tasks in your immediate region, school, place of worship, block, etc. What’s that? You already made plans for today you can’t break? You’ve got a little time coming up…Next weekend. On your birthday. On your anniversary. On the day a loved one passed to honor them. Or on an ongoing basis. What if today is the day you find a brand new, exciting passion project that completely fires you up? It is out there–I can promise you that, and they truly need you and what you bring. You don’t have to be a certain age, have expertise, have physical abilities, have endless free time–none of that is required for you to contribute.

Contribution can be a scary word–our brains go toward yet another request to open our wallets. What if you re-framed it and held the meaning of the word more closely to its intended use in language: the part played by a person or thing in bringing about a result or helping something to advance. What matters at the very root of it all is the contribution of your art, your passion, your enthusiasm, your voice, your ability to encourage and inspire others, your willingness to take a stand on an issue that matters to and moves you. Move things forward. Move our country forward, for you truly have the ability (without spending a cent).

“The time is always right to do what is right.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

#BarbieSavior is Funny, But Maybe Damaging Too

Barbie doll behind rose stemsLook, I get it. I think the whole #BarbieSavior meme that has taken Instagram by storm is pretty hilarious–pretty dolls posed in the worst possible ways mocking “savior” voluntourism situations, clearly motivated by the plastic needs of the plastic character to assuage her own guilt and show the world how fabulous she is. (The photo in this blog, BTW, is NOT from BarbieSavior…it’s just Barbie)

I get that it’s all cool to be jaded and superior and above it all. Hell, I know lots of folks who make a living at it with professional snarkiness being their trade.

I also wonder if that route isn’t too easy. I wonder if pissing all over the best intentions of others moves us forward in even the slightest way, or if it, as I suspect, demeans and degrades us all, the critics as much as those they criticize. I think it’s brilliant that Savior Barbie has a tribal tattoo of the African continent, and gives her high heel pumps to tiny dolls of color, and puts dreadlocks in her perfect blonde hair. She is the Queen of cultural appropriation and, by herself (and her very astute creator), serves as a terrific cautionary tale…HOWEVER…what happens when you shame the folks that truly ARE making a difference?

Especially with the political process going on right now, I have a fair bit of cynicism exhaustion.

What happens when the NGOs and charitable organizations around the world doing truly meaningful, progressive, transformative work that is generated from WITHIN the communities (not delivered…or dispensed… from without) cannot survive without volunteer efforts?

What happens when the foundations shutter due to lack of interest and it guts the jobs of the locals who were running the programs? All so we can feel holier than thou pointing out how others feel holier than thou?

It’s pretty messed up that our default setting seems to be resignation and negativity and suspicion when we are faced with stories of people trying to do something positive in the world.

Do I sound defensive? I am quite sure I am. AND I firmly believe we can help educate and uncover the multitude of amazing, effective, non-harming ways that people can volunteer that leaves ALL in a better place than they would be without these programs and initiatives.

We can teach people about how to look for shady companies and avoid them. We can help them know the questions to ask of voluntourism organizers. We can illuminate the way to diagnose if a program is generated by the people served, and if it is their genuine wish to have help and how to discern and avoid like the plague those that are band-aids or put locals out of work or exist mainly as feel-good photo opps that do more harm than good.

One sassy college student’s experience with a crappy couple of volunteer ventures she didn’t vet very well can not be extended to the entire world’s volunteer situation, no matter how many people share her blog. She is WRONG, not about her experience, but about making that mean that her very specific and unfortunate circumstances are somehow universal.

My main question: Is that really where you want to put your energy? Does doubting and damning somehow give you something?

I ask because I want to know.

I ask myself.

*and by the way…in addition to being truly funny, the folks at BarbieSavior.com have this great statement on their site:

Together we have over a decade of studying, traveling, and working abroad. While this left us cynical and jaded enough to create Barbie Savior, we know full well that this issue – and these conversations – are so much bigger than us.

We don’t have the answers. This site we hope will become a place where we can pose questions, promote conversation, and try to learn together how to best do better.


Photo: horantheworld | CC License

International Women’s Day Pledge for Parity

International Women's Day logo with women in crowdHappy International Women’s Day.

This day of celebration of the global women’s community happens every March 8. It was established in 1911 as a day of recognition for the progress in every field of life and livelihood of women across all cultural lines. In China, Armenia, Russia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Vietnam, it is even a national holiday.

Womens’ rights, stepped on in so many societies, are HUMAN RIGHTS, and can be nothing but a priority for all.

There are thousands of events today around the world—the Global United Nations theme for today (and for celebrating women throughout the month of March) is: Pledge for Parity. The World Economic Forum predicted in 2014 that it would take until 2095 to achieve global gender parity. Then one year later in 2015, they estimated that a slowdown in the already glacial pace of progress meant the gender gap wouldn’t close entirely until 2133.

Annually on 8 March, thousands of events are held throughout the world to inspire women AND men and celebrate achievements. “A global web of rich and diverse local activity connects women from all around the world ranging from political rallies, business conferences, government activities, and networking events through to local women’s craft markets, theatrical performances, fashion parades, and more.”

Make every day International Women’s Day and find ways to celebrate women and girls, strive to narrow the gap between all persons, and promise to make equality for all achievable in our lifetime. Just because it has never been done doesn’t mean it cannot be done. It both can and will–we’ve grown far too intelligent to still believe the falsehoods of our past that suggested any person is less than another.

The Power of Generosity | Service Space

This TED Talk by Nipun Mehta, the founder of Service Space, is from 2012….and well…it kind of sums up all of the things…

I Love This Video–Fiverr Has So Many Unexpected Oddities

Fiverr.com is a hoot. I’ve found everything there from hand-knit zombies to logo design.

And this video I commissioned for, yep, a whopping five bucks.

Happy Friday!

#LoveWins #Equality #MorePerfectUnion

with liberty and justice for all

Send Your Selfie to Space

Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 7.38.14 PMSometimes I just have to write about stuff because it is SO DANG COOL, even if it isn’t directly about volunteering and service travel.

This is one o’ those.

Selfie to Space gives you the opportunity to add your photo to the new test model of the LightSail, launching in a few days. The Planetary Society DOES, in fact, have some very cool volunteer opportunities you should check out, to be a space advocate and more great engagements.

But about that LightSail thing–what the heck is it? It’s a citizen-funded space project — a solar-powered reflective sail using the sun’s energy for propulsion. It’s about 344 feet square and looks an awful lot like the big brother of those foil screens you put in your car’s windshield to block the sun on hot summer days. It heads into space all folded up into a cube the size of a loaf of bread, hitching a ride on other spacecraft until orbit, then it unfurls its mylar sails that are ridiculously improbable and delicate–less than 1/4 the thickness off a garbage bag. And your digital image will be on board.

Theis project is happening thanks to Bill Nye the Science Guy the super science dude Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

Sending your selfies is free — sign up, send the photo, Tweet about it (#SelfietoSpace), and you even get a certificate…but toss a few bucks at the project too (support link here).

I’ll see you on board!

World Water Day on Sunday – Be A Part of Worldwide Action

UNIFY water memeWe cannot escape the news, or the situation being covered in the news—of an impending water crisis in our world. It’s not just the parched agriculture zones of California or the ragged desserts of Western Africa that are suffering…the water crisis is a world crisis, and calls for a world response.

Sunday, March 22, is World Water Day, and a chance for you to answer a global call to action. UNIFY and Uplift are partnering to organize a worldwide day of synchronized meditation and action in hundreds of international locales. Communities around the globe will come together to pray, meditate, and hold ceremonies at water sources in their region.

In addition to organized actions in 600 locations, there will be a streaming broadcast from the Ganges River in India featuring water luminaries and scientists talking about the consciousness of water and solutions to the water challenges we are facing on our planet. Surf the UNIFY website to find actions near you, AND some places online for you to check out on Sunday are:

*1:00pm-5:30pm (Pacific time) “The Shift Network #LoveWater Telesummit.

*5:30pm-7:00pm (Pacific time) UPLIFT #LoveWater Global Webcast.

*6:00pm (Pacific time) UNIFY #LoveWater Moment of Synchronization collective meditation and prayer around the world, intended to be the largest ever synchronized mediation.

Get involved, take some time to dedicate your energy and intention to healing our water on Sunday, use the hashtag #LoveWater, and be an advocate and steward for solutions to our planet’s water problems.

Connecting Wild Places 50 Years Later

close-up shot of endangered Bald Eagle head

endangered Bald Eagle

The Wilderness Act was signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson 50 years ago, to officially set aside and protect federal lands for conservation and preservation. From much smaller beginnings, there are now more than 100 million acres that are protected wilderness lands.

The next step is to try and connect some of these isolated islands of wilderness land, so species can move in natural patterns since we’ve built and developed so much space, encroaching on and often destroying such large areas. Wilderness Corridors will create a “Wildlife Refugia” protecting many millions of plants and animals, many of them endangered. We often think of endangered species as those in Africa or various global rain forests, but the issue of extinction is close to home, as well. As example, well over half of California’s fish, amphibians, and mammals and nearly half of all birds and reptiles are “at-risk.”

We’ve all been overloaded in our inboxes with year-end appeals for money for the causes and charities we support, and I know it is exhausting and just makes you want to hit the “DELETE” button…but leave your well-worn wallet in your pocket for the moment, and just commit to finding out more, and letting your elected officials know this is a priority. Half of the species endangered (and California is not an anomaly–so many species face next-to-impossible odds for survival)–can you imagine if tomorrow you woke up to only 50% of America’s birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish still with us?

Thats is NOT how we are going to do 2015!

Find out more here: www.wilderness.org

New Year’s Revolutions

converse-fieldsWell, here we are. The end of a year, the beginning of the next. It has that same weird space-time oddness as graduation, called commencement at the end of a term…is it the end or just the beginning?

Well, both, of course. And with this particular revolve of the planet, we tend to load the change of calendar year up with plenty of baggage and expectation and guilt.

New Year’s resolutions become funny memes on social media, expectations of failure before spring, gym memberships and step-tracking bracelets and diet books collecting dust once real life sets in…but there truly is no reason to be resigned about that. Success is just as likely a conclusion, and it can, actually, be easy.

What else is easy? Trying something new. Not trying EVERYTHING new, or mandating that you fix every flaw in your world as you pin the 2015 calendar to your wall. Just a thing. A single choice this single day. A decision to procure a big bottle that you’ll fill with water and drain each day.  Or (not “and”) a category of food you’d like to have less of in your overall meal plan. Or (not “and”) the taking of the stairs or parking at the far end of the lot. Or (not “and”) saving a few extra bucks here and there that add up over time. Or, or, or…

We need to cut ourselves a little slack. A lot of slack, actually. Trying on a new choice takes some getting used to, but how dull if we didn’t keep on trying new things, new choices, new ways of being. It is how we define ourselves, and redefine ourselves, perpetually. It’s one of our very coolest skills, and it has nothing to do with January 1st any more than March 28th or July 16th or yesterday or next Tuesday. Reinventing every day is the juicy stuff in life.

So, sure, use New Year’s as a line of demarcation simply because it helps us keep track. It is a culturally agreed upon Red Letter Day. But keep taking stock. I do Birthday Commitments more than New Year’s Resolutions, but they are nothing more than simple, private promises, and not doing them how I might have originally intended is not “breaking” a promise or resolution…it’s just trying something new.

So get all Elsa about it, and Let It Go…breathe. Oooh—that’s a good one—breathing more deeply more often during my days. I’m going to try that one today.