Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Rant About a Rant

Every once in awhile, something sets me off and sends me into a full-blown rant.  If you were reading last week, you know what I mean.

And when that happens, those thoughts and feelings and questions tend to linger for a long time. So much so that a week later, they are still here ever-present on my mind.

This week, however, I am thankful to have a change of perspective. Instead of feeling gloomy about the state of the world and the fact that I don’t know how to change things I am instead hopeful. Inspired. Forward-facing to a future full of potential.

Thanks to three people in particular, I have been able to do a 180. And for the first time in a very long time I am seeing possibility in lieu of doubt, hope instead of fear, and pride in place of shame for my fellow man.

My Dad emailed me after he read my last blog post. He knows better than most that my hypersensitivity can sometimes be my downfall, especially when it comes to the things that matter to me the most. I’ll share with you what he wrote because he is, by far, the smartest person I know.

“You know, it doesn't matter what you do or who you are, if you're a conscientious person the weight of the world will overwhelm you if you let it. The vastness of the scale of suffering, or ignorance, or pain in the world is simply something that is beyond our ability to digest, let alone handle. So, what can one do??????? One can compartmentalize the perspective on suffering, or self-guilt, and recognize the truth that there really is only so much any one human can do. The reality is, no matter how much you fight back or sympathize, the reality is that in the end you will wind up doing ONLY WHAT YOU COULD. And none of us can fix the world, so we're left with committing to striving and do our best. Your best will be good enough. I try (sometimes) to live by Voltaire's maxim about "cultivating your own little garden." That's how you change the world. In the only way you can.

Maybe there aren't too many complex answers. Maybe, sometimes the simple solution is the wise one. Maybe the answer isn't all deep and cerebral. Maybe someone who can simply accept where they are will accomplish more because they don't falter. They're grounded, and probably more "on the job" than some snobby intellectual.”

It was clear, the answer I was looking for was simple. I knew he was right but I didn’t know how to take his words and transform them into my own actions.

The next night after I received my father’s email I was having dinner with one of the most amazing souls I know, Annabel from Feed MeI’m Cranky. I was going on, again, about the same topics I posted last week- shitty school lunches, no educational programs for nutrition, expensive/healthy foods, poverty stricken obese people, etc. and I was getting all worked up again. When I talk about these things I get so sick and sad and angry- these topics not only break my heart but also infuriate me and, as we’ve seen before, leave me feeling hopeless.

Then Annabel said something, a simple notion that would turn into a bigger giant snowball of ideas by the next afternoon. Why do we (yes, me- I am pointing my finger at me here) obsess over the bad when we could be, in turn, promoting all of the good that is out there? Then she began to tell me about this woman who started a blog and Facebook page dedicated to showcasing school lunch programs that are doing it RIGHT. It is called ‘School Meals That Rock’ and her goal is to show the world that it is possible to provide healthy and nutritious school lunches and showcases these schools and how they do it. GENIUS! Not only is what this woman doing an amazing idea, it inspired me to switch my focus. And although I am sure I will, from time to time, talk about these tough topics that sometimes bring me angst my goal going forward is to showcase the people who are doing great things to help alleviate these problems. This way, I learn about how to help, I focus on the good not the bad, and include you in on it too.

Then, as if I wasn’t inspired enough from my evening with Annabel, I had the pleasure of hearing Charles Best speak the very next day at the Ellucian Live conference I was attending. He was our closing keynote speaker and man, was I impressed. I should note that he received a standing ovation, I was not the only one blown away by his words.

Charles Best founded Donors Choose in 2000 as a way to find funding for projects at the public school where he taught. Donors Choose was/is a way to get much needed materials, technologies, and learning experiences into the K-12 classrooms that are in desperate need. Think of Donors Choose as the Kickstarter for K-12 educators…actually Donors Choose has been around almost a decade longer so maybe I should say that Kickstarter is the Donors Choose for those non-K-12 school projects ;)

Anywho, I could write a novel, literally, about this site and what Charles Best and Donors Choose have done to really help teachers/schools in need. I believe the stat he showed said 23M in donations. WOW! That is amazing.  So much good going to so many in need.  I love it!

And do you want to know something else that is amazing? Charles Best donated the speaking fee he received from the conference to the attendees in the form of a credit to be used to make a donation to any project on the site. He told us to find one that we can relate to. Maybe something regarding our favorite hobby or favorite book or even one locally because on the site you have the ability to search for projects by topics or by area.

As I listened to Best speak I immediately texted Annabel. I needed to know if she knew about this crowdfunding site. She did not but of course, she was now interested too. I began to think about what was important to me and all of these  thoughts came flooding in.

Do I have any schoolteacher friends that use Donor Choose? I need to post on FB and ask around. I would love to donate to their projects.

Oh, but wait…is there someone out there trying to have a project funded about nutrition or even school lunches or maybe starting a garden…I want to donate to those.

Are there any projects looking for funding in Pensacola? Could I help them in any way in addition to monetary donations?

Do my readers know about Donors Choose?

What about my University?

My family? My boyfriend?

I could help fund a project (and most of these projects are not asking for much at all) that can help the lives of all the students in that class and possibly future classes as well. This teeny tiny donation can have an impact that is exponentially greater than the amount donated.

So this is what he means by ‘citizen philanthropist’…

So here I am today, a day later. Still buzzing from these realizations. So excited to write about this. To share with you some projects I found that excite me. And to encourage you to take a look for yourself and see how you can help. A donation to a school project is basically an investment in our future. How could you not spare a few bucks to help make the world better?

Or maybe you are a teacher and you are struggling getting basic materials for your classroom. Maybe Donors Choose can help you. Now is the time to ask for help. It is the time for us to be a better community and support our fellow man. Ok, I know- I sound like a cliché but it’s true.

And if you don’t believe me, just ask Stephen Colbert…he’s on the Board of Directors for Donors Choose. And he presents the celebrities he interviews with donation credits for the site the same way Charles Best did for us. How cool is that?

Anyway, thank you for sticking around to the end of this rant. I hope you found it positive and uplifting and maybe it inspired you to find ways to help.

And, if you have some more free time, check out some of my favorite projects on Donors Choose J

Healthy Food Helps Our Bodies - this one is both local and involves nutrition education so you know it is at the top of my list!

Books and Music, A Great Combination  

Cosy Comfort - this one is from my high school and the most amazing thing is this project raises money to buy materials to make blankets to donate to charity. LOVE IT!!!

Kindergarten Listening Centers - this is my friend Kari's, from My Weighting Place, son's former kindergarten teacher and when I reached out on FB to see who was using Donors Choose Kari shared this with me. I love this one too so I had to share!

Thanks for reading!

Love and hugs,