Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Cuddle Up!

February 25th is "Cuddle Up Day". I don't think I need to tell you how to celebrate or to give you ideas on how THIS good deed could work out.

Go forth and cuddle!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Micro-Lending (Kiva)

There's a popular form of philanthropy called "micro-lending" at sites such as Kiva. It's where multiple people can lend small amounts of money to one particular cause or entrepreneur such as a loan for a brickmaker so she can buy more materials for bricks or a loan for a vendor who needs to purchase more clothing to sell. The loans are small, even as low as $150. The lowest amount one person can lend is $25.

When you sign up you fund your account with a certain amount of money, let's say $100. You can lend that money to one person or to four people and help them meet their goal. Eventually, the money is paid back to you, goes back into your account and you can lend it again.

At the Kiva site you can read details about the entrepreneurs, what they want to use the money for, how it will change their lives and important financial information such as how much they are lending, how close they are to getting to their goal and what their repayment rate is (to see if they are a safe bet).

The organizations that run the micro-lending are carefully screened so as to get the best use out of the money. You want the best possible chance of being repaid so you can use your same money over and over again.

Why not check out and see if there's someone there you can help? The great thing about this money is that it works for you over and over again -- you're not giving it, you're LENDING it, so you keep doing good with your original seed money. How gratifying is that??

Sunday, February 22, 2009

February is Friendship Month

I would have notified you sooner, but better late than never!

February is International Friendship Month! Let's get to celebrating!

What can we do to honor our friends and show them our appreciation? What sort of kindness will your pals appreciate? Below are a few ideas:

  • Write a heartfelt letter expressing your love and devotion
  • Take a friend to lunch or make a special dinner
  • For every day of the rest of this month, leave your pal a special note in a place that he or she will find it
  • Send an e-card
  • Make a friendship collage showing pictures of you together through the years
  • Write a funny poem!
  • Take a picture of yourself holding a sign that says, "Thanks for being a great friend!" (or similar sentiment). What a fun photo for your pal to have as a reminder of your devotion.
  • Make a mini book and on each page write one thing you love about your friend. Make as many pages as you want!
  • Send a really embarrassing singing telegram!
  • Pamper your friend with a spa day or similar treat
  • Or even just a simple hug

Do you have any other ideas? Please add them!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Priceless Gift of Life

I just ran across a story (by columnist James Ragland) about a woman who donated bone marrow on her birthday because the need was there.

I know that for some people this is not an option for health reasons or religious reasons, but for those of you who CAN... what have you donated lately? Consider gathering with a group of friends to donate blood. I have a friend who manufactures an excess of platelets so she donates her platelets! Donate plasma! Are you brave enough to donate bone marrow? What the heck, research it and find out.

Too nervous about all that squishy stuff? How about hair? Locks of love? Not too scary.

And if you just can't bring yourself to do it for whatever reason (bald, nervous, anemic, etc) how about volunteering your time? Find out when the next blood drive is and take some jugs of juice down there. Call first and ask what you can do to help. It all counts. Fill up that karmic bank account of yours!

Youth Kindness

I ran across a blog post I wanted to share with all of you. Kathy over at This Crazy Adventure Called Life wrote a post about two incidents wherein children playing sports showed remarkable kindness.

Both stories are heartwarming, but I'll let Kathy tell the story at her post: One for the Good Guys. Go check it out if you have a minute.

By the way, this morning my son's kindergarten class had "Moms and Muffins" day. The kids made cards for all the moms and we each got a long stem rose and everyone got to gorge on muffins. Yum. Next week they are having "Dads and Donuts". Do the schools in your area have something like this that you can participate in? Consider donating some flowers or a container of glitter, a pack of paper or maybe a couple of boxes of muffin mix. Or offer to make batches of muffins for the day. Schools ALWAYS need money and help, so any little thing you can do is one less dollar they have to take out of their budget. Teachers will love you for it.

And by the way, even if you don't have kids in school there are still things you can do to help. Call the principal of the school and ask what you can do to help support your local school system.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Global Knowledge, Global Tolerance

It is said that the more experience people have with other cultures, the more they travel in other countries, the more accepting and tolerant they are of other people in the world.

And the opposite could be true -- the more we limit ourselves to a homogeneous environment, to a vanilla culture with narrow boundaries, the less we feel comfortable and open to people who are different than we are.

What does that accomplish?

My Wonderful World is running a letter writing campaign to encourage schools to put Geography education back into the curriculum. Apparently over the last few years, geography has become less and less a focus in the education of Americans with some staggeringly embarrassing statistics such as only half of young Americans can find New York on a map and only 37% can find Iraq on a map.

Head over to the web site and help send a message to schools. Keep Americans educated on the world around them. There's a lot of cool stuff going on in the world. They shouldn't miss it.

[photo: noticelj]

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Another 42 Cent Change for the World!

Well, this one is about to go up to 44 cents in May so you should ACT NOW and save two cents. :-)

I think most people are familiar with Amnesty International's great work for human rights via their letter writing campaigns. In America we have a long tradition of government official listening when we rise up and create a big voice for change. (Well, mostly.) But I have never been entirely convinced that this works in other countries where democracy is not at work.

Recently I ran across a great article entitled, "Does Letter Writing Really Work?" It briefly talks about the Urgent Action Network and had an inspiring video. It also has links to some of their success stories and a link where you can join to get notices on ways you can take action through letter writing.

If nothing else, just watch the video. It's moving (and technically cool). But if you can spare the time sign up for the Urgent Action Network. Even as little as one or two letters per month could make a difference. A little time and a postage stamp. And actually you can even do some campaigns by email, so really it's just carving out the time.

For a woman being beaten and thrown into a metal shipping crate for two years, I'd give up my favorite TV show or my lunch hour once a week. Will you?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

charity: water

One in six people on the planet don't have access to clean, safe drinking water.

I didn't find out about this in time to tell you for their Valentine's Day drive, however, you should check out this great site called "charity: water". They have been running a water drive where you can send an e-card for $20 to a loved one which pays for water for someone for 20 years. Your e-card recipient can then choose the country that your donation benefits.

The really super cool thing I like about charity: water is that 100% of their proceeds goes directly to the various water projects they fund.

Really awesome charity.

P.S. I like to put these things into perspective. Let's see $20 bucks for you is about... 5 trips to Starbucks for flavored coffee, 2 or 3 movie tickets (depending what part of the country you're in), or a 2-medium-pizza-deal from Pizza Hut. You could probably do without those one time to get someone water for 20 years. (The pizza, anyway, maybe not the Starbucks!)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Good Search

What would you say to a search engine that gives money to your favorite charity whenever you use it? All you have to do is just use that search engine and CHA-CHING! Money goes to the charity of your choosing.

I'd say that would be one heckuva cool idea.

The good news is that it really does exist and it's called "Good Search". And the other good news is that it's really easy to set up. All you do is type in the charity of your choice and hit the "verify" button and it will tell you right away if it's one you can use or not.

I use the RRP Foundation as my charity, because it's one that supports families with children who have Recurrent Respiratory Papillomatosis (which my son has). It's a little known non-profit organization, not anything famous like the ASPCA or Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, but still I was able to find it in there.

I hope you will try out this great little charity tool. If you're searching anyway, why NOT use Good Search? The success stories at the site are inspiring. Check those out while you're there.

And if you don't have a cause that you already feel passionate about, feel free to use the RRP Foundation! They do a lot of good for people with this rare affliction.

Lost Penny Day

Last month I wrote a post about using your found change to do good.

Well, I found out today that someone actually invented a holiday called "Lost Penny Day" (Feb 12) to go with that back in 1995.

So, today go out and "spread change". That's my favorite pun so far!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Smile Cards

Have you seen the Smile Cards? These are very cool anonymous good deed cards that you can leave behind when you do something nice for someone. The idea is for that person to then do something nice in order to pass the card on to someone else.

It's the same basic idea as paying it forward, but it has the added motivation of "gotta do something nice to get rid of this card" thing. Not that we do kindness to get rid of our card, OF COURSE NOT, but you know what I mean. It's a little tickler to keep kindness in the front of our minds.

In the hubbub of our crazy lives it's easy to be distracted by being busy, by negativity, by the everydayness of the everyday. I love Smile Cards. Get yours today. They have free downloads at the web site. Try them out and go do some guerrilla kindness!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Random Acts of Kindness Week

The second week in February has been declared Random Acts of Kindess Week by the Random Acts of Kindess Foundation. WOOOOO! Time to celebrate! Time to act!!

Here are some people who have made plans for the week:

What are you doing for Random Acts of Kindess Week? If your community isn't doing anything, why not pick a few things to do on your own? Or talk to your community leaders to institute some way to celebrate the week for next year. (That's one thing I'm planning on doing!)

To get more ideas, check out what people in your state are doing.

Please post back here and tell me your experiences for the week!

[photo: Adam Foster]

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The 42 Cent Good Deed

Not all good deeds are about fighting poverty, curing cancer, saving war torn nations or other globe-changing causes. While those are all fabulous it takes a level of dedication that not everyone can afford at this time in their lives.

That's part of the idea of this site is to promote ways of changing the world and making it better one tiny little act at a time. Over the days, weeks, months, these add up and eventually change spreads in small and nearly immeasurable ways, but ways that make a lasting impact -- in the memory of a child, in the paying forward of kindness, in the satisfaction of changing one life.

You can't get much cheaper than a good deed for 42 cents. Michelle Herrmann and many other teachers like her are doing letter writing projects with their classrooms. They write to veterans or people in nursing homes or to soldiers. The letters brighten the day for the recipient and, in turn, the children enjoy doing these small good deeds by mail.

In the news story about Mrs. Herrmann's class, it is mentioned that she funded her program with $150 donated from a local philanthropic organization. That's about 18 books of stamps. Do you have 17 friends that you can join up with and collect 18 books of stamps to donate to a local teacher who has a letter writing program?

To put it into perspective... 18 books of stamps allows someone to write 360 letters which is 720 lives (sender and receiver) with the potential for change. That's a pretty big potential impact for the investment.

Why not take it up as your office or neighborhood challenge? Just 18 books of stamps. You can do it. I know you can!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The $1.39 Meal Challenge

Even before the economy began to get bad, there has been a significant poverty problem in America. Last year, 10% of Americans were considered below the poverty line (defined by the Census Bureau as making under $9,393 for an individual or $14,680 for a family of three). What would your life be like if you lived on less than $10,000 per year?

The USDA has put out their cost of food report for 2008. The foodstamp allotment for a family of four (the Thrifty Plan) is $500. This is what they say a family of four could expect to pay for food and actually live to tell about it. That's about $1.39 per meal for each person.

Have you every tried eating for $1.39? With the belt-tightening we've been doing around our house, we decided to try this as an experiment with some interesting results.

But I'd like to see what YOU manage to come up with. So, here is my challenge... try for a week or two to put your food budget at the amount allowable according to the USDA Cost of Food Chart on the Thrifty Plan. It goes by age and gender. Try it for your household and see what kind of experiences you have. It's a really fascinating change in perspective and gives you an entirely new way of looking at the world around you -- for better or for worse.

The only rules are that whatever menu plans you come up with MUST be nutritionally balanced and you have to do at least three meals per day.

Here is an added challenge if you can work this into your budget... whatever the difference is that you save while you're doing this challenge -- donate it to a local food bank. You'll feel great about the good you've done with your donation and the perspective you've gained from this experience will be priceless!

And don't forget to let me know how it goes!

[photo credit: TowerGirl]