Light for the World

It’s that time of year when I wake up in the morning not sure if it’s actually morning or still the middle of the night. I’m a person who thrives on light; starting my day in darkness is particularly difficult. So it hits me hard to know that there are people – during those long hours when the sun goes down or before it comes up – who have limited access to light at all. Lots of people. 1.7 billion people. More than a fifth of the world’s population. Have no electricity or modern lighting.

This is not just a matter of convenience. Without light, adults are limited in their ability to work evenings or early morning hours. Of course, that limits the amount of money they can earn to feed their families. Without light, children are limited in their ability to read or do homework. Of course, this limits their education that in turn limits their earning power when they grow up.


Repurpose is a South Africa organization that is doing something about it. They make backpacks. For poor children who have no light to study by. Each backpack is retrofitted with a solar panel that charges during the lighted part of the day and lights the child’s study space in dark hours – the charge lasts for 12 hours. There are other cool things about these bags – they are made of 100% recycled material, they are retro-reflective to help keep the wearer safe in the dark, they are waterproof. And they are really cute (what child does not want cute?!)

Here’s a little of what Repurpose has to say about their work:
“Rethaka: it’s the radical idea of uncovering opportunities.”
“It’s having the audacity to uplift communities with uplifting ideas.”
“It thrives on thinking differently about inherited struggles and daring to realize we already have in these, the solutions we seek. It makes problems work for us, not control us.”

And that, to me, is creating light in darkness.

Learn more and get involved at Share your favorite resources for lighting the world.

Bake Sales: The Tried and Still Awesome!

Today’s shout out is to all of you thousands (maybe millions) who will spend some time this holiday season in your kitchen concocting a fabulous mouth-watering baked good for your favorite charity bake sale. The bake sale has been around for centuries (true fact!)

This warms my heart – a tradition that binds us together – men and women and children of all races, religions, and political persuasions. And all-around giving to a good cause.

Fun Baking Facts!

A few fun facts about various delectables that you might consider as you choose what to bake up:

  • Pie is the baked good of choice. Preferences stated in a 2008 survey are 19% pie; 17% cake; 15% cookies. (Disclosure: The survey was sponsored by the American Pie Council – wouldn’t you know)
  • Pie personalities
    • Apple……Independent
    • Pecan……Analytical
    • Chocolate…Loving
    • Pumpkin…..Funny
  • January 27 is National Chocolate Cake Day (oh Yeah…right around the corner!)
  • The National Cookie Cutter Historical Museum is in Joplin, Missouri (road trip in your future?)

Share your favorite bake sale goodies. Or your favorite baking fun facts. Keep those ovens blazing!

Universal Tales from Pantsuit Nation

A few weeks ago, one of my Facebook friends invited me to join a group called Pantsuit Nation. You may be familiar with this group. Maybe you are even a member. As you may have guessed, the group name was chosen in reference to Hillary Clinton. My understanding is that the group was formed as a communal place for people who want to uphold the values Hillary has championed her whole life.

As the weeks have gone by, Pantsuit Nation has become something more. There are, of course, stories of protesting and facing up to bullies, organizing voters for the next election and teaching children about racism. But the stories reach beyond this.

Stories of Compassion

Pantsuit Nation has become a place where you can simply share stories of human caring for the people who walk this planet with you. A story about someone who lost a job, digging deep and finding the compassion to give to another who has even less. A story about someone seeing a stranger in trouble and stopping to help, even at personal risk to self.

Seeing Ourselves in the Stories of Others

These types of stories don’t belong solely to any particular political party. They don’t belong exclusively to rich or poor, working class or middle class. They aren’t the stories of one race or ethnic group, one gender or the other. They belong to all types of people, rural and small town and big city. They are the stories that allow us to see ourselves in each other. Across all the lines that divide us. That is inspiring stuff.

Share your stories of compassion.

Inclusive Preparation

Tis the season of waiting. It is also a time of preparation. Whether it’s looking forward to Christmas or Chanukah or New Year’s Eve, December is a month of anticipation. Shopping for gifts, baking holiday goodies, hauling out the festive decorations to deck the halls.

Perpetual Motion

Living in a big city, as I do, my whole world seems like a crush of people moving this way and that, bells clanging on street corners, lights shimmering in tree branches arching over the streets. Perpetual motion.

Those Who Can’t Move So Fast

But what about those who can’t get around very well? The disabled, the sick, the elderly. Sometimes those of us who are mobile can be moving so fast, we forget about those who can’t get around but very much want to participate in this season of preparation.

Small Acts of Inclusion

Small acts of inclusion can make a big difference. Here are some ideas that might inspire you to add a relative, friend, or neighbor into your own busy preparations.

  • Shovel a sidewalk. Make it easier for the mobile but frail to get to and from the house without fear of falling on the ice.
  • Share a holiday meal. Grocery shop, then cook and share a festive spread.
  • Share a holiday movie. Either at home or in the theater.
  • Serenade shut-ins with Christmas carols. Tra-la-la!
  • Offer a ride to and from the mall.
  • Help navigate internet online shopping.
  • Holiday gathering. Send an invite that includes an arrangement for transportation to and from the party.
  • Volunteer. Check out your community’s events for the elderly and help with preparations.

If each of us includes one small act of assistance as part of our holiday preparation, we will widen the circle of people enjoying those ringing bells and shining lights and the joy of preparing for the holidays.

Happy Preparations!

Share your stories of inclusive preparation

Giving Thanks for the Boulder Food Project 2

Last year, as I was just starting out on my adventure into the world of inspiring organizations, I stumbled onto the Boulder Food Rescue. The founder, Hana Dansky, had done her own reconnaissance into our nation’s food cycle: we put “10 percent of our national energy budget, 50 percent of our land use, and 80 percent of our freshwater resources into food, truck it around the country, and then end up throwing away nearly 40 percent of everything we produce, much of which is still edible and healthy.” At the same time, there are hungry people everywhere.

Saying No to Waste

Hana is putting her body and soul into changing that.

  • Rescuing from local grocery stores perfectly fresh unused food that is slated for the garbage heap
  • Redistributing this food to people in need
  • Hosting community meals where the wealthy and the poor, side by side, cook and eat together

Check out my archived November 24, 2015 blog entry for more detail on the basic mission.

What’s New from the Boulder Food Rescue?

The Boulder Food Rescue crew has been busy since my last look a year ago.

  • In February, they produced the first-of-its kind food waste audit for the City of Boulder. The purpose is to identify the key factors that are contributing to food waste, including food donor fear of liability, a concern I’ve heard voiced over and over.
  • This year they’ve upped the total food redirected away from landfills to a whopping 1, 509,506 pounds.
  • They continue to sustain the environment by doing these heavyweight pickups and deliveries on bikes – 85% bike use, snow or shine!

Some other cool facts:

  • The Boulder Food Rescue co-founder created a web application to efficiently track the cumbersome logistics of food rescue. The app is now being used in 13 cities.
  • Ongoing research is underway that analyzes barriers and strategies to healthy food access for people facing food insecurity.

Inspired? Want to start your own food rescue? Check out this roadmap.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Share your stories of sharing food

Sweet Land of Liberty

There has been a lot of airing of our divisions lately. It is enough to make anyone, no matter what side you take, curl up in despair. But there are some things basic to who we are as a nation, regardless of our individual politics, that we must stand up for. One of those is liberty.

Our Inalienable Rights

Our founding principles, set down in writing in the Declaration of Independence include “inalienable rights… [to] life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” But to ensure our historical commitment is lived out in the present day, we must work hard to protect these rights.

Defenders of Liberty

The American Civil Liberties Union is, perhaps, our most venerable non-governmental organization protecting our right to liberty. Nearly one hundred years old, the ACLU works everywhere liberty is challenged: in all branches of government — the courts, the legislature, and the executive branch; and in communities across the country.

You might think the ACLU only defends rights that liberals support. But that is not true. The ACLU is nonpartisan. It has defended the rights of groups on the right and the left.

When there is a deep sea change in government like we are currently facing, the potential impact on liberty is uncertain. This can make us as individuals feel scared and powerless. Groups like the ACLU, with its vast experience and deep talent pool can inspire: Inspire in us the sense that we are not alone, inspire in us the sense that we are not powerless, and inspire in us the incentive to work together.

Strength in Numbers

Since last week’s election, over 100,000 people have turned to the ACLU to lead us in protecting individual liberty: Donations to the ACLU since November 8 top 7 million dollars.

We, the people, are standing up to protect our nation’s commitment to liberty. That is inspiring.

Share your stories of defending liberty

Some Days Are Like That…

Have you ever read Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day? Well, today was one of those for me — a rough day at the office. And I have to admit, I wallowed in it a bit. Not a great day for me personally. But as the day went on, I lifted my gaze from my navel and here’s what I saw:

  • On this November 4 in Chicago it was bright and sunny and 67 degrees!
  • 5 million people descended on our center city celebrate the baseball team that – for over a century – could not find a way to win but is now world champion!
  • My boyfriend gave me a bear hug and my daughter called just to say Hi!
  • The election is now only 4 days away!
  • I am going to a dinner tonight to celebrate one of my good friends who has give countless hours, days, years to inspiring me and others to use our gifts for the good of the world!

Tomorrow, I may make a bigger, better contribution to the world around me. Today, I am reveling in the contributions of others. Inspiring!

What do you do when you need a pick-me-up?

How to Survive the Last 10 Days Before the Election

I am exhausted. And stressed. Every day when my alarm goes off, I paw the bedside table until my fingers find my cellphone, then I bring the phone into reading position and check the latest news headlines. There is always – I mean always – at least one story related to the election. Usually it is not good. Rants about Mexicans, Muslims, fat women. The email server story that won’t go away. It’s enough to raise my blood pressure and give me a headache. Sound familiar?

10 days to go. Need some inspiration? Those with election fatigue UNITE! Here are some ways to beat the blues.

  • Do as I say, not as I do. Do not pick up that cellphone first thing in the morning. This may be a challenge. Old habits die hard. I’ve gotten a little better about it. I look out the window, try to figure out the weather, THEN reach for the cellphone. It’s a start!
  • Put your TV in the shed. Or the garage. Or somewhere you will not watch it. Or just block CNN, Fox and MSNBC. Seriously, limit your TV news time. You only need to hear the Breaking News once to absorb it – that means 5 minutes max.
  • Routine. One that does not involve repeated peeks at the news. Remember what you used to do before 2016? Try going back to that.
  • Meditate. This is a good habit during any time of stress. Do nothing for a few minutes. Feel the stress leave your body. Ahhhhhh.
  • Vote Early. I did this. And, you know what?! A burden lifted off me right away. I’ve made my choice. I don’t need to weigh the issues any more. I’ve moved on….a little bit.
  • Work the Election. Still feeling anxious? Sign up to help your candidate. Being involved can make you feel more productive and less out of control. In the end, you’ll have done everything you can.

I’ve been thinking about that song “Wake me up when September ends.” Is it November 9th yet?!

What do you do to cope with election fatigue?

Root, Root, Root for the Cubbies!

Today’s inspiring story comes from my hometown Chicago where the Cubs may FINALLY win the World Series. Disclaimer: I do not have the power to jinx them.

The Cubs have not won a championship in over a century. Many Cubs fans have come into the world and passed away again never experiencing the thrill of that victory. But now, this year, Cubs fan Virginia Wood, who herself has lived over a century – 101 years to be exact – may get her chance.

With so many disappointing seasons in the past, many Cubs fans are tamping down on visions of trophies, hedging against possible disappointment. Not Virginia Wood. Interviewed by a Chicago Tribune reporter, Wood exudes the confidence of a champ : “Oh, I’m counting on them going all the way, absolutely.”

Wood will be 102 next month. What a birthday present a championship would be! She makes no bones about it: “Oh yeah, sure, I’d like to have that. Good birthday present. Oh yeah, that’s the best.”

Go Cubbies!

Share your stories about the boys of summer!

An Alternate Reality: Treating Teachers as Society’s Superstars

Chicago is preparing itself for a teacher strike. My kids are grown now but I remember the days when I worried about whether school was going to take a break mid-year. I worried about all the learning that wasn’t going to be happening if teachers weren’t there to inspire. Today I share — once again — a skit from two great comedians – Key and Peele.

I encourage you to check out TeachingCenter.

  • What if big corporations put their money behind teaching?
  • What if the schools that performed worst one year got first pick for superstar teachers in next year’s draft?
  • What if the general public held up teachers as heroes, idols even?

Great food for thought. And presented in an entertaining way. So far, nearly 7.2 million people have watched this on youtube. Now that’s inspiring. Thank you Key and Peele!

Check it out. If you’ve already seen it, check it out again! Let’s get that number over 7.3 million. And, once we’ve thought about it, maybe we will each find a way – big or small – to let great teachers we know they are appreciated. Heroes even.

Share your inspirational stories about teachers!