Saturday, January 31, 2009


The Working Poor

Working poor is a term used to describe individuals and families who maintain regular employment but remain in relative poverty.

America's working poor are cashiers, custodians, child care workers, health care aides... workers who make up our service based economy. They work (the average low-income worker worked 2,552 hours in 2006 - the equivalent of one and a quarter full time jobs), but lack the earnings necessary to meet their basic needs.

In the United States, according to the government Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 6.4 million working poor in 2000. In 2005, the U.S. Census American Community Survey data found that 12.2 million Americans were considered poor (earn less than 100% of poverty)... and another 9.6 million, or 1 out of 4 working families in America are low-income (200% of poverty).

More than 21 million children live in low-income working families.

The other day I went to an "instant care health clinic".  I cut my finger deeply and needed it cleaned out properly. I saw a doctor for less than 2 minutes and spent my time there with an aide. We talked about how hard it is to get by... she works her job at the clinic full time and also 'moonlights' in home health care. Her husband works too, at a tire shop; they have two kids.

The weight of the above statistics can feel a little lighter if you just notice those around you.

Notice... the healthcare worker
Notice... the housekeeper
Notice... the cashier

Notice all the people who you rely on. Who keep things moving and keep our economy inching along. Appreciate how everyone contributes to the whole.

Notice someone today.
Thank them for their service.

For more information, go to

Friday, January 30, 2009

A Remarkable Document

I Have Before Me a Remarkable Document Given to Me by a Young Lady From Rwanda

I went to see this play. It is deeply moving. It is currently running in Boise at The Boise Contemporary Theater.  There is brevity, simplicity and a bit of wit... even though you know the heaviness of what is coming. 

For more information on the genocide in Rwanda, visit the United Human Rights Council.

To hear about the redemption of Rwanda and forgiveness there's a great link to NPR's Talk of the Nation. Click on Listen Now.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Tale of Two Cities

I saw this picture online the other day... and what immediately came to my mind was the opening line from Charles Dickens' 1859 historical novel, "A Tale of Two Cities":

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."

I wanted to shout, "Hold on!"

Hold on, to the working poor.
Hold on to the homeless.
Hold on to those who lost their jobs, 
their health care, their pensions.
Hold on.

"It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done;
it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known."

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Inspirations of a book club

I went to my book club meeting this past Saturday. Our book was "The Samaritan's Dilemma: Should government help your neighbor?" Our discussion was moderated by Dr. James Weatherby, who is a fantastic asset to the state of Idaho.

Here are my thoughts, post book club:

We are currently in the midst of the deepest economic crisis since the Great Depression. Not to over simplify, but the financial crisis appears to be a result of the anti-government attitude we adopted during the 1980s. Government was made the enemy, and was told to get out of the way of the free market. We seemed to give a 'green light' to greed and corner-cutting and deregulation. During this anti-government era, we Americans relinquished our sense of community: the notion that our  government and our problems are a shared task. 

If we are to move forward, we must realize that, as Americans, we are not just a collection of individuals who are only interested in getting ahead of the pack. But we are a community, working together...  where we are only as strong as the least among us. Our taxes, our work, our efforts are the price we pay for our community, our civilization.

The problem-solving of the future will involve government, NGOs, community organizers, private businesses, scientists, engineers, healthcare workers, and volunteers. All of us will need to participate if we are to find the solutions.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Gates Annual Letter

Yesterday, Bill Gates published his first "annual letter" outlining his work on his two passions: Health and development in the world's poorest nations, and Education in America.  (To receive the annual letter go to The Gates Foundation)

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has had a transforming effect on the developing world. One of the foundation's investments, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations, has saved more than three million lives since 2000.

The world is on the cusp of some big advances; in particular, a promising malaria vaccine.

On education, Mr. Gates says, "It is amazing how big a difference a great teacher makes versus an ineffective one. Research shows that there is only half as much variation in student achievement between schools as there is among classrooms in the same school. If you want your child to get the best education possible, it is actually more important to get him/her assigned to a great teacher than to a great school."

Mr. Gates' advice to those of us who might want to engage in micro-philanthropy? ...

He says that the key is to pick a cause ... whether its crops or disease or education or poverty. Pick one, and become knowledgeable in that subject. Go to see the problems first hand. Then pick an organization to support or start one of your own. Jump in with your time, your talent, and your treasure.

So try it.
The only difference between you and Mr. Gates is the scale.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Year of the Ox

Today, Monday, January 26th marks the beginning of the Chinese New Year. This new year  welcomes the year of the Ox, a symbol of prosperity and hard work.

The Ox sounds perfect for 2009

People born in the year of the Ox are dependable, patient and methodical. They do not back down in the face of obstacles.

President Obama, born in 1961,  is an Ox.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sunday Children's Book

Abe's Honest Words: The Life of Abraham Lincoln

This is a great book and can be used to introduce the presidency, slavery, the Civil War, or civil rights. The Gettysburg Address is printed in the back, along with a list of important dates and a list of suggested further reading and web sites.

This is a wonderful story wrapped in a beautiful package.

Sunday is a wonderful day to read with a child.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


What if, for a whole week, you greeted everyone in your path?

The current trend is that people are beyond busy.

In our never ending rush to do something and be somewhere,  it seems we don't have time for the most civil of gestures, "Hello". It is a basic gesture of acknowledgement. It is a pause in the busy bustle. An affirmation; I see you.  You matter; I acknowledge your worth.

How might our communities change - how might we change - if we practiced this gesture of, "Hello"?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Starbucks RED

The Coffee Card that keeps on giving!

Everytime you use your (STARBUCKS)Red coffee card to pay for purchases at participating Starbucks stores between January 3, 2009 and December 31, 2009, Starbucks will contribute 5 cents to the Global Fund to help save lives in Africa.

Check out all that's going on at (STARBUCKS)Red
Buy a RED Card

Thursday, January 22, 2009

What went right

We all watched last Thursday, January 15th as US Airways flight 1549 sat half submerged in the Hudson River.

When it seemed that all was much actually went right.
All 155 lives were saved.

It was a confluence of well-trained, well-prepared individuals and systems.

It was proof that when we are given good information and good direction, we will act well. We don't panic...we help each other.

It was a reminder of American survival and resilience.

The Girl Effect

Check out this web site

It's a simple message: save the world by helping one girl.
(see the post on Greg Mortenson: Finally)

The premise is that if you help one girl out of poverty, the ripple effect will bring positive change to her community. Multiply that by a few hundred thousand...
spread it across the world...
and one girl can save the world.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A New Day

I love the idea of a ground shift.
It most definitely is a new day.

Yesterday, I was beside myself with joy. 

My husband asked me, "So what are you going to do?" How was I going to answer President Obama's call to service. And I answered, "I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing...only much better."

Whatever you do for a profession or as a contribution, do it as a service to others. It is your intention behind what you do, and the care you put into it, that has the potential for great change.

Imagine the ground shift as we head forward with the intention of being of service in whatever we are doing.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Praise Song For The Day

Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other,
catching each others' eyes or not,
about to speak or speaking.

All about us is noise.

All about us is noise and bramble,
thorn and din,
each one of our ancestors on our tongues.

Someone is stitching up a hem,
darning a hole in a uniform,
patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum 
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.

A farmer considers the changing sky;
A teacher says, "Take out your pencils. Begin."

We encounter each other in words, 
words spiny or smooth,
whispered or declaimed;
words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then others who said, "I need to see what's on the side; I know there's something better down the road."

We need to find a place where we are safe;
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain,
that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks,
raised the bridges,
picked the cotton and the lettuce,
built brick by brick 
the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle;
praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign;
The figuring it out at kitchen tables.

Some live by "Love thy neighbor as thy self."
Others by first do no harm, 
or take no more than you need.

What if the mightiest word is love,
love beyond marital, filial, national.
Love that casts a widening pool of light.
Love with no need to preempt grievance.

In today's sharp sparkle,
this winter air,
anything can be made,
any sentence begun.

On the brink,
on the brim,
on the cusp

praise song for walking forward in that light.

A Ground Shift

An excerpt from this morning's inaugural address:

"...What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them - that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account - to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day - because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government..."

Jump on board, join's going to be a fantastic ride!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Happy MLK Day

Use today not only as a day of reflection, but as a day of action and service.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sunday Children's Book

A Taste of Colored Water

This is an absolute favorite of mine.
A Taste of Colored Water is a thought-provoking account of what happens when a child's whimsical imagination is confounded by the reality of intolerance.

Sunday is a wonderful day to read with a child.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Inaugural Whistle Stop Tour

Exerpt from President-Elect Obama today in Philadelphia 

...we should never forget that we are the heirs of that first band of patriots, ordinary men and women who refused to give up when it all seemed so improbable; and who somehow believed that they had the power to make the world anew. That is the spirit we must reclaim today.

...Starting now, let's take up in our own lives the work of perfecting our union.

...Let's build a government that is responsible to the people, and accept our own responsibilities as citizens to hold our government accountable.

...Let's all of us do our part to rebuild this country.

...Let's make sure this election is not the end of what we do to change America, but the beginning.

Join me in this effort. Join one another in this effort. And together, mindful of our proud history, hopeful for the future, let's seek a better world in our time.

MLK Jr. A Life of Service

As Americans, we find ourselves at a unique moment in history:

We face a financial crisis of historic proportions
while at the same time we have rallied an enthusiasm to repair our world.

Everybody can serve.
And if you can serve, you can be great.

Watch this YouTube Video

be prepared to serve; be prepared to get in the way.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Dedicated to the proposition

November 19, 1863
Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Go to 'Listen Now' at the bottom of the page.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

USA Service

on January 19th, Martin Luther King Jr. Day

In 4 days, join in the spirit of national unity and shared commitment.

It will take ordinary citizens working together with a common purpose to get this country back on track.

Participate in any service activity...
one that you organize yourself or plan to take part in.
Clean up a park,
Give Blood,
Volunteer at a homeless shelter...

Find something that appeals to you at

Dr. King once said, "If you want to be important - wonderful. If you want to be recognized - wonderful. But, recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That's a new definition of greatness."

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Energy Regulation

At a time when Idaho trails other states in harnessing wind resources, Governor "Butch" Otter disbanded the state's wind-power think tank.

Other states have renewable energy portfolio standards that require large utilities to increase their renewable energy sources. 

Because of these adopted standards, Washington state now has 1367 megawatts of wind capacity and Oregon has 964 megawatts, with 353 under construction.

Idaho, with no renewable portfolio standard, had just 75 megawatts of capacity in November 2008, according to the American Wind Energy Association (a Washington DC based industry group).

We have seen what a lack of regulation in the energy markets can do to our economy (Oil Speculation and Enron to name two). In the spirit of government and corporate accountability, I believe that the state of Idaho should adopt renewable energy portfolio standards.

Who's with me?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


As the Martin Luther King Holiday approaches, I found myself remembering last year.

On the 2008 Dr. King Holiday I was watching the Democratic primary debate in South Carolina. I remember how Wolf Blitzer asked the candidates, "If Dr. Martin Luther King were alive today, why should he endorse you?" Senator Obama responded, "Well, I don't think Dr. King would endorse any of us. I think what he would call upon the American people to do is to hold us accountable."

It is with this new spirit of accountability that I intend to celebrate this MLK Holiday and every here after.

How will you celebrate MLK Day?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Yes Pecan!

Finally, a way to participate and eat ice cream!

If you decide to indulge in some "Yes Pecan" at scoop shops during the month of January, Ben & Jerry's is donating the proceeds to the Common Cause Education Fund.

Common Cause is a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy organization founded as a vehicle for citizens to make their voices heard in the political process. They are committed to honest, open and accountable government, as well as encouraging citizen participation in democracy.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sunday Children's Book

The Red Lemon

What gifts lie in unexpected surprises?

Different can actually be better.
The unusual can be prized.

Sunday is a wonderful day to read with a child.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

If you're looking, then you'll see

There's a sign on 15th Street that I hadn't noticed before.
It lists the current needs of the Boise Rescue Mission.
If you happen to notice it when you go by, take a glance and see if you have any of their needed supplies.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Samaritan Experiment Update

I left 'samaritan envelopes' at bus stops this week.

How is your Samaritan Experiment going?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

2008 Giving

I took a survey last month that asked questions about my personal giving trends since the downturn in the market.

I answered most all of the questions along the following line: I am giving more of myself and my time this year, but less of my money.

Sitting at the computer this afternoon, writing up all my year end giving letters and balancing the family "giving budget", I came to the realization the we actually gave more money this year than last.

Why had I been so convinced otherwise?
Is the perceived need so great that our attempts to lighten it seem inconsequential?

How do you perceive your giving in 2008?
And have you found it to be true?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Happy 2009

It was freezing out.
Clear and cold - maybe 20 degrees.
I gave this sad, tired, thin man $5.
He walked slowly to Subway and bought a sandwich.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

It Matters

I frequently fall victim to the illusion: if you want to do something worthwhile, it needs to be big.

Have you ever read the poem, It Matters To This One?

It's a poem about a million stranded starfish and one boy who begins trying to toss them back into the sea. Why does he bother? He can't save them all. The boy responds, "It matters to this one. I'll return it to the sea. It matters to this one, and it matters to me."

Start something small, a "social action forum". It can be as small as three people who band together to address a single, manageable, local problem. Define an action plan; keep it simple.
Help one unemployed person.
Help one homeless person find housing.
Help get one person out of poverty.

Help just one... because it matters to this one, and it matters to me.

Monday, January 5, 2009


I just finished reading "Creating a World Without Poverty" for a second time.

I am a supporter of microfinance and social business.
So, I am obviously a big fan of Nobel Prize Winner, Muhammad Yunus.

I read the book a second time over the Christmas holiday because the topic of Mr. Yunus and microfinance came up in the book, "The Samaritan's Dilemma"... and it wasn't in a positive light. Then, at a cocktail party, I ran into the topic of microfinance again. I figured I should brush up on the issue and where it is headed.

I find it outrageous that low-income people who are struggling to make ends meet are the ones who have to pay the most for basic financial services. New ways to exploit the poor are all around us: subprime loans, payday loans, and check cashing services. 

It may be tempting to blame the poor for the problems they face, but if you take a close look at the institutions we've allowed to be created in the United States, it becomes apparent that money is most expensive for those who need it most. For example, the working poor who don't qualify for a conventional credit card, are forced to take payday loans when extra money is needed for a sick child or a car that breaks down. The fees and interest charges for these loans can come to an annual rate of 250%, or even higher. 

Who could dig themselves out of that kind of hole?

I know it's a soapbox. And I know I'm standing on it. 

Please indulge me.

Poverty denies people any semblance of control over their destiny.
 I see poverty as the ultimate denial of human rights.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Sunday Children's Book

The Hundred Dresses

Our choices and actions have consequences.
If we have hope for a better world, we need more books like this.

Sunday is a wonderful day to read with a child!

Saturday, January 3, 2009


I am a big fan of Greg Mortenson and the Central Asia Institute

I was so excited to read the article in the Wall Street Journal on December 26th entitled "The Military Finds an Unlikely Advisor in School-Building Humanitarian".

Greg Mortenson, a humanitarian and co-author of the book Three Cups of Tea, has a surprising new job: advising the US Military on how to fight extremism. 

I was first introduced to Greg Mortenson when I read Three Cups of Tea.  I have gone to hear him speak; and my kids and I have collected Pennies for Peace.

...but I have always had that nagging hope in my heart that Mr. Mortenson's ideas of spreading peace through education would catch on with those in power in the United States.

And, here it is!

The tides are turning.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers gives a fantastic look at inventiveness. In describing the lives of the successful among us, he describes a common design. The successful inventors are focused. They persist in what holds meaning. They are present in determined, creative ways. Each has spent at least 10,000 hours to gain their first round of skill mastery and confidence. 

However, none of the success giants created their results without community or support. No one does it alone.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Israel, you have profound knowledge that death does not fix a problem.
Yes, Hamas leaders are pathetic. They risk the lives of their own civilians.
Who is doing the dying?
There are so many of us behind you.
Who admire the Jewish faith for its love of humanity.
Please put the guns down.
Just. Stop.


"Reflecting on the growth of the Internet in its early years, the Romanian author and poet Andrei Codrescu wrote, 'The speed with which the industrial world became networked in cyberspace was miraculous, like watching something in a Petri dish grow to the size of a flying rhino in three days."

The internet grew from something extremely small and specialized (ARPAnet) into something vast and unlike anything ever seen before. The internet made communication across great distances easy and virtually free, changing the way people shop, socialize, interact, do business, and learn.

Industry and jobs were created by the tens of thousands.

What else can we do?
What is now but a spec in a Petri dish...