You can do more when it comes from loving

I just saw a great documentary called Paper Dolls about Filipino caregivers for the elderly in Israel. They face intolerance, not only for their foreigness but because they're transvestites. Somehow they endure this to give the most astoundingly sweet care to old men and women. The film paints a portrait of their dreams and obstacles, their friendship and fun times putting on shows.

A wide ranging picture for less than two hours, but the images that stay with me are their fey silhouettes mostly woman but not quite and their hands soothing people who are scared and sore and who might otherwise be alone.

Where do you find the strength to be there for someone 24 hours a day and deal with their physical and mental failings with a calm, steady, gentle hand and voice? It takes a special kind of person to get this good at it, but it comes from love.

Go give some.

Let go of your greed & pitch in with good grace

Now I believe strongly that taxes should be fair and not be a burden which interfere's with an individual citizen's basic quality of life, but the key word there is BASIC.

As communities there are a lot of things that we individually cannot efficiently manage or pay for. Building sewers, for example. Funding libraries which will create unbiased collections of materials for the public good. Maintaining protective services like fire departments, which are often, alas, viewed as a luxury until they are desparately needed.

Taxes are a really reasonable way to address this problem. Everyone pitch in to the best of their ability.

I think the rich have more ability and should pitch in more, so I don't begrudge the idea that my tax bracket would go up  if I started earning more. I've done well and have the happy benefit of being able to give more to my community.

As Edward A. Filene said, "Why shouldn't the American people take half my money from me? I took all of it from them."

Taxation is not a bad thing.

Now if you don't like where your taxes are being spent, that's a different issue and a good indicator that it's time for you to give back to your community in another way: political involvement. At the very least, vote.

Late July night

Enjoy the pleasures of this season where you live.

Northern hemisphere folks remember that summer isn't all just sweating. Have a water fight in the yard if it's hot. Go for a walk after things cool off. Get some fresh corn and watermelon. Count stars.

Southern hemisphere folks might want to skip the water fight, but walking and eating seasonal foods and of course counting stars are all excellent things to do on the last Wednesday in July.

Ask the important question: “What time?”

When you're meeting people for whom you'd have to adjust your plans in order to connect – such as when someone is going to pick up something you're selling on Craig's List – be sure to ask when they will be there.

A half hour or even an hour window is better than sitting around for hours and then finding out they got lost or distracted or their friend who's giving them a ride had to do something else first, etc.

It's tedious to be in limbo, so do what you can to avoid it by knowing when you're out of the window of obligation.

Should you still find yourself in this state anyhow, figure out what things you might have been doing here instead and do that while you wait.

Decide to do something about what’s wrong

Let go of always falling back on the notion that someone else will take care of it.

Do something today to make the world a better place. Or at least a less bad place for the folks who have it worst.

Here's a good place to start to find some of those most in need of our attention and help: Committee on Conscience has information on current and potential human rights disasters. The most critical one right now is Darfur.

        Six things you can do to help prevent genocide


  • KEEP INFORMED. Find out more about what is going on. Your gateway to more information is our Web site
    a letter to the editor of your local newspaper or to other news outlets
    to comment on their coverage of Darfur or to express your views about
    the importance of public attention to the story.
  • COMMUNICATE WITH THE GOVERNMENT. Tell your government representatives your views and concerns about events in Darfur.
  • SUPPORT RELIEF EFFORTS. Find out more about relief organizations mounting efforts to help civilians affected by the crisis. They may have ideas of ways you can help. See the Committee on Conscience Web site for a link to listings of relief organizations operating in Darfur.
    about Darfur to your friends, family, members of organizations you
    belong to, and coworkers—help spread the word. Look for groups within
    your community who may also be working to help address the crisis.
    Schools, churches, synagogues, mosques, and groups across the country
    are making a difference.
  • SUPPORT THE MUSEUM. Help sustain the ongoing efforts of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to draw attention to what is happening in Darfur. Send a donation through the website.


Your voice can make a difference.
        Do not be silent.

Wrong begone, Right now.

Today I want you to head out somewhere you've been wanting to go. Catch that show at the museum before it closes. See that movie with a friend. Eat at that great restaurant you've been wanting to try. Take that big walk through the park.

On your way out, grab that thing that shouldn't be in the house anymore – bag of stuff for Goodwill, ugly piece of furniture you've been intending to kick to the curb, dry cleaning that's been waiting to be done for 7 months, you know what I'm talking about – and get it where it's supposed to be: out of your way.

Happy Saturday!

In a small café…

Put your friend & family's addresses in something small and easy to carry with you (mobile phone, little teeny address book, PDA, whatever). Make especially sure you have the full addresses of any who are either under the age of 20 or over the age of 60.

If you've got old blank postcards around, grab 'em and a couple pens you like to write with. Buy more postcards if you need to. Or find amusing ones among those free advertising kind. Or just get a bunch of postcard size pieces of blank paper and draw doodles on them instead of the usual pictures.

Walk down to the post office and buy a bunch of postcard stamps.

Find a nice coffee or tea house and sit writing quick little notes to everyone, just saying hi.

Mail them and make sure you still have more postcard stamps to carry with you.

Next time you see a nice postcard – especially one of those free ones – grab it and take a couple minutes to brighten someone's day.

(Advanced tip for Hipster PDA users: make your cards postcard size so that you always have the ingredients for an impromptu hello)

Rediscover your kid feet

I don't know about you, but when I was a kid, I walked all over the place. The library was a mile away and I regularly walked there carrying many books – even when I was a pretty small kid.

I remember going to the pet store and Pop's, the liquor store with the array of candy. As much as those urban destinations, though, I went with my friends up into the hills – still within a mile or less of home – but scrambling around on rocks & under trees, catching lizards, making up stories.

Or we'd head down to what is now the Martinez marina park, but was then a big tidal flat of trails through the cattails. I'm sure the walk home helped shake enough of the mud I acquired to prolong the life of our otherwise-doomed washing machine.

Pretend you don't have a car available to you and you don't have more than $5 saved up from your allowance. Gotta get home in time for supper, but otherwise you're free.

Go find the world near your home and do some kid stuff.

Discard apathy

Do you feel good about this news? Perhaps that's not what alarmed you most in the paper this week. Whatever has you concerned about what your elected officials are doing, take time this weekend to dig into the issues and their actions in more depth.

Questions to ask:
– what do people on different sides of the issue say happened or is happening?
– how are commentators evaluating these developments?
– has something like this happened before here or elsewhere in the world? What happened in that case?
– do my applicable elected officials know how I feel about this issue?
– is there an action I can take which will put things back on the right track?
– can I share what I've learned with others, even in just an email to friends & family or a letter to the editor of my local paper?

Freedom of information, freedom of speech and representative government are wonderful treasures. Use them.