Friday, April 29, 2016

Sharing the food

The other day someone who reads these words send me a message saying I seemed to have all the answers. Goodness no! I don't think anyone has all the answers, but if we listen to others and keep our eyes open, a lot of those answers will become very obvious. Downtown yesterday I saw a number of people arriving at their church for worship. I noticed that they all seemed to be carrying something too - food. Some folks had big boxes of cereal and other had those multi-packs of instant noodles and some had bags that seems to have cans in them (tuna perhaps, or soup, or maybe vegetables). Now I don't know how often they do this, but even if it is just occasionally, what a great idea! Here's something anyone can participate in.

Yesterday afternoon while I was in the supermarket, I took note of some of the sale prices of food. Amazingly I found soup for a dollar or less and canned tuna was just sixty-nine cents! Outside the store I saw a vending machine that had canned beverages for thirty-five cents. For five dollars, I could buy a soda, five cans or tuna, and a can of soup, and still have money left. So I did it. Most of us can afford five bucks every now and then, and look how much food you can get. There are of course many other options, but that's just one example.

There is a small boutique in my old San Francisco neighborhood that did food drives occasionally and, to encourage participation, they gave discounts on their merchandise to folks who brought in canned goods. It was a win-win situation, and just about everyone put some cans in the barrel. People who didn't know ahead of time, would run across the street at a Walgreens store and pickup some sliced peaches or chicken broth or maybe a can of beef stew or chili. Such a simple act that makes such a big difference!

Here is one answer to hunger. The other day the US Postal Service did a collection. The church here in Kingman that I mentioned does it and that clothing store back in San Francisco, and they aren't the only places. We can even start some new collection programs where we live, if ones don't already exist. Perhaps you have some other suggestions. You are more than welcome to share them in the comments below.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Lest they be forgotten

During my recent trip to San Francisco, I stopped by my mother's final resting place, as I always do, and while there I noticed that the grave markers and area around them were not all in the same condition. I brushed away some dirt and picked up a few small pieces of paper (that likely had been blown there by the wind) and I thought about the programs that help to keep burial places clean.

It occurred to me too that some folks died with very few family members or friends. Who comes to visit the grave then? Nobody at all? They same is true all too often in the latter days of some people's lives. They may not be able to get out and about, and there may be few or none to visit them. How awful! People need to be remembered, both in live and in death.

Some places organize a Tomb Sweeping Day, where families and friends gather at cemeteries, churchyards, and other burial sites, to sweep, rake, and spruce up the places where folks have been laid to rest. During these cleanup days, they don't just take care of areas where they know the person buried there, but the adjoining plots as well. Sometimes it is done in relative silence, thinking about the deceased. Other times there is quiet conversation, recalling the life of those buried. I think it's an excellent opportunity to remember our ancestors and thank them for all their sacrifices.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Lets go back to bed

It is VERY windy this morning where I am, with sustained winds at 35mph with gusts to 50mph. The temperature is only 49 degrees, but that wind is making it seem so much colder. Oh and on top of that, it's just beginning to rain, and the sky is clouding up, making it look like the rain might stick around for awhile. Why the weather report? Well this is one of those days, where it might be so tempting to just go back to bed - but don't!

It's nice to get a little extra sleep from time to time, and there is certainly nothing wrong with that, but when we roll out of bed expecting perfection in our day, and want to return to sleep when we realize that perfection isn't coming, we're just setting our self up for more and more disappointment. How many of us really have perfect days? We can make them turn out pretty well though, if we just give it a little effort. Too cold? Wear a sweater or a jacket. Not liking the rain. Carry an umbrella or wear a raincoat. Remember the good that comes from the wind and the rain!
 
Did you ever try creating your own sunshine on a cloudy day?  It's pretty amazing.  Smile.  Project happiness to those around you.  Before long you will not only be making others happy, but you'll forget all about being bummed out about the foul weather.  It's much more productive too than going back to bed!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Please DONATE

The cashier at the corner store has a jar on the counter collecting for a local charity. The restaurant where you eat breakfast every day has a similar container. On top of that, folks (like me) are always asking for you to buy chocolate bars for a school project or to sponsor them in a fundraising walk-a-thon. Please DONATE! There is just no escaping it!

Sometimes it may seem like a pain in the butt, but money raised really makes a difference. Some projects and programs are funded solely by contributions. It actually feels good to know that you are being of help too.

Is it always possible to give? For most of us, the answer is no. Money does not grow on trees, and most of us have a limit to how much we can spend. (Of course, as we have talked about here in the past, there are other ways of giving too, like our time and our talent, but that's another matter).

If you really want to have funds to help others, there are a number of things you can do. The coins you get back as change from purchases, you might always set aside to donate. That afternoon cappuccino can be skipped occasionally and the money put to another use. You might do little fundraisers of your own, with your plan to give the proceeds to your favorite causes. Perhaps a bake sale or rummage sale. Got a bigger tax refund than you expected? Think about donating that unexpected money.
 
There are many ways to make a difference in this world, and donating is certainly one of them.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Political nightmares

Trump? Clinton? Sanders?  Someone else? Having trouble deciding this presidential race? How about your US Senator? Who would you vote for right now? Congressperson? Are you having any political nightmares? Do you want to just throw your hands up in the air and run?

Don't! Seriously. Some of the shenanigans from various candidates can certainly be frustrating, but that is all the more reason to stay involved. Read the flyers. Go to the meetings. Read what the newspapers are saying. Have conversations with friends and neighbors. The process involves us, all of us, and for it to really work, we need to all do our part. The biggest part of that, of course, is voting. Vote in EVERY election, even ones where there are few decisions. Think your vote doesn't count? Think again. I have seen some very close races over the years. Once about thirty-five years ago, I saw an election decided by just 47 votes. More recently, a friend of mine ran for office in Northern California, and won by just 292 votes. What if 300 of his supporters had said "My vote isn't important," and stayed home? The other candidate would have won.

I'm not a fan of any sort of negativity, even if the other guy starts it. I wish every candidate would run a clean and honest race. It just doesn't work that way though. All of the bad isn't enough to keep me away though. Want to change the system? Be involved in that system! Don't give up on this presidential race, as frustrating as it may be. Work to make things come out for the better. Change comes about when people dedicate themselves to making it happen.

Friday, April 22, 2016

In OUR hands

This big old planet we live on, it is OUR responsibility. It's in OUR hands! On Earth Day last year I wrote here that "My goal is that EVERY day be Earth Day - that we care about our planet every single day of our lives." That is still my goal. What are YOU doing to help the earth?

Let me say a few things about this annual commemoration. Earth Day came about back in 1970 and has been on the calendar every year since. It's about planting trees, keeping our streets clean, divesting from fossil fuels, guarding against pollution, and so much more. At http://www.earthday.org/ you can learn about the history of this day and learn about numerous ways to help. Of course the list is endless. Each one of us can think up more ways to keep our towns, our states, our country, and our planet safe and healthy. Like I said, it needs to be an everyday thing too, not just something we think about on Earth Day.

Some of the simplest things can make a huge difference, like not throwing litter out our car windows, watering the plants and trees in our great outdoors, and not wasting any of the precious resources of our world. Teaching our kids to respect the earth is important too. Each generation needs to do its part. This fragile earth will only stay wonderful if we all do our parts. Truly, it's in OUR hands.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Walls of Kindness

Walls can have a negative meaning - keeping people out, or dividing folks (like a certain Presidential candidate is frequently talking about) but they can also have a positive meaning, as in the protection and support they can provide. I recently heard about some really remarkable walls that a helping many people, way around on the other side of the world. You may have already read about #WallsOfKindness - they really are quite remarkable and they are springing up all over Iran.

The idea is pretty simple. Some hooks on a wall are given items of apparel or perhaps blankets or coats. If you have something you don't need, hang it up for someone else. If you see something hanging that you can use, take it with you. What a great idea, huh? According to a BBC news report I saw, the man who began this all in the city of Mashad, doesn't want any publicity for himself. he was just happy to get this whole things started. Social media has really helped the idea spread, but so far, only in Iran. How wonderful if this would happen all around the world!

I suppose we have seen this sort of thing in other forms, like the donation barrels at various organizations. This seems like a simpler version of that, and with clothes lined up along a wall, it is so easy to see what is there. I love it when folks come up with great ideas like this to benefit other people, and it's even better when they don't even want to take a bow!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

family

I don't understand the fighting that too often goes on within families and I certainly don't understand people walking out or disowning. Family (to me) is forever. It's not like some kind of club you resign from.

How can a parent turn their back on a child? How can a kid walk out on mom or dad? How do sisters and brothers stop speaking to each other? Family (to me) is about love. With love there is no fighting or walking out - or kicking out. With love there is respect and there is discussion and there is understanding and hope. Family is the foundation for all that we are.

I remember an interview with Angelina Jolie from a few years ago in which the actress said it best: "Family is what grounds you."  Indeed.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

How many

Hearing this same question several times in reference to the lgbt community, I just HAVE to say something. In reference to same sex marriage, I heard it asked "Why should we be concerned about such a small group of the population?" The month I have heard two different people saw the same thing about our transgender sisters and brothers. Just yesterday, I heard someone on television ask why bathroom accommodations should be made when there are so few people involved. I can recall back in the early days of AIDS there was concern about the blood supply, and it was said that too few people were involved to make testing of the blood worthwhile.

How many does it take? When will we stop discriminating. Justification of our various prejudices has often been linked to numbers. If a race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion or any other group is in the minority, some folks think that is reason to discriminate. What about abused animals?  Are tons of dogs, cats, horses, or other animals mistreated in your community? It isn't the number that we should be concerned about, because any abuse, yes ANY, is too much.   "Not many of them, so they don't count."

WRONG!

Everyone counts. Everyone is important. I'm sorry if I seem to keep getting up on my soapbox, but I have to say this. In fact, I want to scream it from the rooftops! All lives matter. Everyone should be able to live a full and rich life without fear or intimidation. Everyone. It doesn't matter how many. Now let me be clear. I'm not saying that any action is okay. We aren't talking about what folks do, but rather who folks are. Discrimination based on identity is wrong.

Monday, April 18, 2016

The joys of seeing

Easter lilies are one of the most beautiful things in nature. I love seeing them this time of year. Of course there are so many beautiful flowers. I recall years ago visiting Pier 39 in San Francisco during a month-long celebration they called Tulipmania. Gorgeous tulips in all colors and wonderful walking tours to see every one of them. Oh and then there was that brilliant flower show at Macy's. Wow!

Where I live now you can see beautiful cactus blooms at this time of year and of course breath-taking vistas in every direction. Pretty much everywhere you look there is something wonderful to look at.

If you are down in the dumps or feeling bad about something, open up your eyes. Yes, there may be bad, but there is always good too, and often it's right in front of our eyes. Experience the joys of seeing. Look up, look down, look all around!  Enjoying the beauty of our world is one of the great joys of living!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Give me a hand

Have you ever heard someone say "Give me a hand?" What was your response? Did you help out? Did you get involved? Most of the time it isn't a life or death situation and you aren't pulling someone up from the side of a cliff, yet every time we are asked for help, we should do our best.

I have seen people take on overwhelming tasks all by themselves and succeed. So have that kind of determination. There are things though that we cannot do alone. Sometimes it takes many hands to make things happen. I'm thinking this morning about all the volunteers that give comfort to patients in hospitals and nursing homes, and of the people who come together to help Habitat For Humanity and other organizations build new homes for those who have nothing. I'm thinking about the folks who read to kids in our libraries, who raise huge sums of money for charity, and who help good politicians get elected to office. Many hands can get jobs done.

There are volunteer opportunities just about everywhere. Join in. Give someone a hand. Have an idea that will make things better for someone? Do it, and don't be afraid to ask for others to lend a hand!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The necessities of life

We talk about the necessities of life, food, clothing, and shelter and there is a lot of discussion about people being homeless or hungry, but we don't say as much about clothing. If we are really going to change the world, we need to wipe out homelessness, hunger, and lack of clothing - all three.

There is no easy solution of course. If there were, the problem would have been solved long ago. Large cities do have shelters and that might ease the problem, but it doesn't solve it. There are more food and hot meal programs in larger cities too. What about something to wear? Although there are clothing drives, that doesn't seem to be addressed as much. I've lived in places where there were clothing donation bins in public places and civic organizations and churches often have occasional collections.

What do people donate though? Let me tell you this - a shirt full of holes or a dress with the zipper missing isn't much use to a homeless person. They usually don't have access to sewing supplies and equipment. Donating shoes that are worn out or pants so thread bare that you can read the newspaper through them, doesn't do a lot of good. If you have old shoes and clothes that are ugly and worn out, throw them away! If you want to donate clothes but don't really have anything that is appropriate, consider making a purchase at a low-cost store and donating them. You might also consider volunteering for an organization that supplies clothing to those in need. While the need for clothes in this organizations is obvious, they are often in need of folks to help them collect and distribute.

There are also a number of organizations across the country that deal with clothing for those who are in need. Goodwill is a good place to start. There is also http://www.clothingdonations.org/

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Mail call

Do you ever even see a letter carrier anymore? Remember when you used to wait for your mail each day? With so much instant communications now, fewer and fewer folks actually post cards and letters. Why? Isn't that still a valid form of communication? I say YES!! In fact, I'd love to see a movement to get back to sending letters and cards via the mail. (No card company put me up to this).

When I reach into my mailbox and find a personal letter or a card that someone has thoughtfully selected, it brings a smile to my face, and I want to immediately open it. I wish there were more.

Now, don't get me wrong, I love the internet and spend significant time on twitter, Instagram, and of course facebook. I love getting "newsy" emails too. Those though seem to be even more scarce. Folks will send an instant message of a text, but usually it's just a few words, and often even they are abbreviated.

We just aren't communicating with each other like we once did. Does anyone agree? Can I convince some of you to head down to your local drugstore or card shop and pick up a few greetings? How about a nice letter telling your friends and family that you are thinking of them? Of and while I'm at it, I'd love to hear from YOU too! One really easy way is simply to add your thoughts to the comments below. Let's communicate once again!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Good Deed Bank

Many times in this blog, I've written about doing good deeds. I always like it when they are random and not expecting anything in return, but I understand that some folks need a little more encouragement than others, which is why a certain bank in China caught my attention, and gets my praise.

It has been referred to as the "morality bank" and it is getting high praise from many others. Located in Yanji, a city in the northeastern part of China, those who do good deeds, get special bonuses from this bank. Pretty cool, huh? We're not talking little things either. Rewards from the bank can include free health screenings, house cleaning, or even a free haircut!

Here's how it works. All good deeds are assigned points, and those points can be redeemed for services. Return someone's lost wallet? That might be worth 50 points. Jump into the lake and save a woman from drowning, a higher amount of points, possibly 500, will come your way. Accumulate 6,000 points and you will be declared a "model of community morals". Nice.

Of course I still think the best reward is simply knowing you did something good, but I really like this idea!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Do you know Philip?

Generally I don't write about the same person over and over, but Philip Wang has been mentioned at least three times: HERE, HERE, and HERE. This morning I feel compelled to write about him again.  No, he isn't someone I have worked with and no, he isn't my best friend.  I'm writing about him over and over because he continues to inspire. 
 
Recently his Wong Fu Productions colleagues did a "fun facts about Philip" video (which you can watch HERE), and it was obvious how much they all love him.  Good reason too.  He appears to be a very likeable guy.  I've mentioned here that he has done things for charity - not just once, but something he continues to do.  Oh and check out his blog - https://wongfuphil.wordpress.com/ -  Even his writing gives us inspiration!
 
I'm always happiest when I hear stories about others making people happy.  Everything I hear about Philip Wang is like that.  He simply makes people happy, oh and apparently he's also a beautiful butterfly!

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Movies

Television has had a huge focus on fighting and killing, for many years, but it seems to be increasing in the motion pictures. What makes people want to see so much violence on the big screen? How can you watch terrorist plots unfold, presidents be assassinated, and innocent children brutalized, and then wonder who these things are happening in the real world?

Not I'm not going to begin a debate of whether film violence causes real violence or if the violence that happens all too often in our world is why producers bring such action to movies. In the end, the which came first is really not all that important. What I do want to say is that there is so much positive that can be entertaining, that I wish producers focused more on that. Romance tales, musicals, comedies, nature stories, and even documentaries are wonderful alternatives that can be enjoyable and don't glorify negative behavior.

When was the last time you went to a movie? Can you remember what type of film it was? Tell me about it. Let me hear your thoughts. For me, the wonderful uplifting Everything Before Us (which is fresh on my mind because I saw it not that long ago and because I recently wrote about its producer here) or a movie like The Wedding Planner, or While You Were Sleeping will get my vote before the murder movies that are so plentiful.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Do your best

When I was younger, I used to always hear people say, "you might not always have the results you wish, but make sure you do your best."  Oh course your best isn't going to stay the same.  Over time we are all expected to do better and better.  Occasionally we might do worse.

Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter weighed in on the subject saying "You must accept that you might fail; then, if you do your best and still don't win, at least you can be satisfied that you've tried. If you don't accept failure as a possibility, you don't set high goals, you don't branch out, you don't try - you don't take the risk." I agree!

I don't have any idea how my day will go, but one thing I do know for certain - I am going to do my best!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Arizona sunrise

This is only my second April living in Arizona, but the view here from just about anywhere is breathtaking. Lovely images of nature's beauty seem to be just about anywhere you look. It's especially nice at this time of year too because the sun is already up when I head out to jog before 6am. It's not too hot yet either.

When you live in a big city, there's a different kind of beauty - sometimes it's manmade. I loved running past shop windows or urban parks at the start of day back in San Francisco. I can recall the lovely sights from my Upstate New York childhood too. It's everywhere. Enjoy the views that brighten our days.

One of the really cool things is that we don't all have the same view. Even within one town, there are going to be differences depending on which direction you are going or the street you are on. Trees might block part of your view, but look down and discover the flowers or look the other way and perhaps there are some birds. After living in the city most of my life, I was really surprised at the animal life I have discovered here, including all kinds of birds, all sizes of lizards, and cute hopping rabbits. (Oh and there are snakes too, but that's when I prefer to look the other way).

The Arizona sunrise was gorgeous this morning. I don't think the day will get too hot either, so I just might go out and explore some more of the views! Have a wonderful day. Enjoy the scenery wherever you are.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

My newest hero, Marc Ching

Small animals can be just as vulnerable as small children, so anyone who protects them, is already a hero to me. When Marc Ching founded The Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation, he became a superhero. I have never met this gentleman, and all of my information has come from their website and from news accounts, but wow! What a guy this is. What a great organization too!

As with anything that I don't have all the facts on, I want to point you in the right direction. You can read their mission statement, see some of what has been written about them by others, and even find out how you can help, all on their website. Go to http://www.animalhopeandwellness.org/ and follow the various links. You can also click HERE to check out their youtube channel.
 
The pictures and links tell me a lot about Marc Ching just from how passionate he is.  Here is someone who genuinely cares and obviously is making a difference in our world.  One paragraph that he wrote brought tears to my eyes, and I want to share it here, because his words could easily have been mine.  His words that I am about to quote, are what living is all about!
 
"When I die, I want to die knowing that I was the best person I could possibly be. That I reached out. That I did what I could. That with the hands I have and my time here, that I breathed life into those that could not breathe for themselves."

Monday, April 4, 2016

copscotch

How about a nice friendly game of copscotch? You may have already seen this. It warmed my heart. With all the negative stories about police officers, it's so nice to come across something positive like this. The video, from which this picture came, was posted to facebook by the Huntington Beach Police Department, and the officer here is one of their own.

Now I just want to say that I have friends who work in law enforcement and I have known many wonderful cops over the years, and so it particularly angers me when we see the bad apples. I wish I could saw the abusive and law-breaking cops are rare, but sadly, I have seen more and more examples. That is one reason why I love this story. Of course this would be good, even if there were no bad cops. Doing nice things, is always good!

The little girl had been sleeping in a car with her mother. They were homeless. Police had been called because someone thought the two, long in their car, were suspicious. One officer was talking with the mother, and also arranging for shelter for the two of them. Meanwhile, this officer, identified as Zach Pricer, tried to put the little girl at ease by teaching her hopscotch.

I'm glad this story has been told and retold in the past day or so. Like I said, it warmed my heart. There still are good people out there!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Pranks a lot

Be careful. Seriously, be careful today. Is it real, or is it an April Fool's joke? Some people believe every single thing they read. Today might be the exception. April 1st is probably the only day of the year when people critically evaluate everything they read online, before accepting it as fact. Perhaps we should do that every day.

Jokes and pranks can be fun, if they are done in that spirit, but all too often they are just plain mean. There certainly is no humor in being unkind. I used to be a big fan of All Fool's Day. There have been some wonderful ones (one of my favorites was the Taco Liberty Bell back in the late 90s). There have also been ones that have caused great grief. Then, I am not a fan.

I write about positive uplifting things here, and laughter is wonderful medicine, but sadness and misery are not good things, and so when it comes to this day I really have mixed feelings. Be good. Have fun. Don't make anyone feel bad in the process. Maybe my first two words are a good way to go today: Be careful.