So let's just skip the part where I haven't blogged for months ok?
I've been seeing innumerable and inevitable Top Ten Lists, Year-End reviews, Predictions, etc and I thought I wanted to do something different but I couldn't decide what. Yesterday though, I heard a prayer that put things in perspective for me. The line in the prayer that struck me was:
"Ask much of us, expect much from us, enable much by us and encourage many through us..."
I started thinking that I have seen some projects and some people this past year that have really done that and I wanted to talk about some of them here. I also want to make clear - these people are my heroes - they humble me - they put my problems in perspective - they remind me that we live in a larger world than the one we normally let ourselves see - they remind me that the problems we are dealing with (and by default, if you are reading this on a computer you own, in your own house or apartment where you enjoy reliable electricity and clean drinking water every time you turn on the tap, then you are living in the most privileged societies in the world) are largely of our making and that we have a ridiculous amount of power and agency in dealing with them. These folks are amazing (and they are in no particular order).
- Kids Are Heroes: Don't think kids can make a difference? Don't think you can? Check out the actions these kids have taken to help everything from other kids, to NGOs to pets to the environment. Its just amazing what a little organization and giving people the tools they need can do to help them really reach out to others in need. When is the last time you or I raised $2300 in six weeks and sponsored 7 children in Uganda? No, really...when was it? For me, never. That's humbling. I also love this project because it makes me hopeful what the world will or could be like when the kids involved with this project grow up and take this experience with them.
- Greyt Expectations: Racing Greyhounds can be retired from racing from 18 months to 5 years old and they can live to be 15 years old. These are dogs born and bred to be athletes, to perform for our entertainment and this group of fine people work incredibly hard to find good homes for these amazing animals. The kicker is that these animals are bred to not only be fast and fit, without a lot of the hereditary health problems that other breeds have, but also to be well-behaved, quiet, calm and are used to being handled by a lot of different people. They make ideal pets. You should see the set-up at Greyt Expectations - they get dogs who have come off the track sometimes the night before - and they work tirelessly to find these amazing creatures good homes.
- The USO: I really don't know what needs to be said here. Not trying to be US-centric here (but that's where I live so that usually happens) but if you do live in the US, then while you may not support all of the political policies that involve the use of military force, you should support the men and women who go in harm's way on a daily basis for us and for our country's sake. True, there are a number of wonderful organizations that support our troops but this one is the grand-daddy...I remember walking through airports when I was a kid and seeing the USO clubs there. Look through some of the programs on their site, they include care packages, language training and even MEGS (Mobile Entertainment Gaming System) - yep, they provide fully-contained systems of XBoxs, PS3, Wiis to our troops to give them a break. So while I like the yellow "Support Our Troops" ribbon - how about a donation to the USO to actually do that?
- Charity: Water: Thirsty? Turn on your tap. Grab your BPA-free water bottle. Take a sip. Good right? What if that took three hours for you to do, if you could? Imagine that in Africa, people spend about 40 BILLION HOURS A YEAR just walking for water. BILLION. About 30,000 people die EVERY WEEK from unsafe drinking water. EVERY WEEK. Not month. Not year. Guess what? 90% of those deaths each week are kids under 5. $20 can provide one person with clean drinking water. $5000 can provide a village with water. How much was my last laptop? Yours? How much did we spend on 'stocking stuffers' or coffee or magazines? How much would it mean to you if you had no clean water and someone did something that provided it to you? If you are human and live on this planet - this impacts you. Don't like kids? Hate dogs? Opposed to all things military (including the brave men and women protecting you?)? Fine. How about a little love for humans? Read the founder's story and keep a dry eye. I dare you.
- free rice: OK....so times are tight. I hear that. You still want to help though? Awesome. How about improving your vocabulary while feeding people? What? Yep. Head to free rice and start playing. Every right answer donates 10 grains of rice. Every wrong answer does nothing but makes you smarter. No cost. You get smarter. You help feed people. Why are you NOT playing on this site? Organize a team. How much time have you spent doing fantasy football this season? How about let's carve 1/10 of that time off to play this game and help feed people. I think that every conference should set aside one keynote session during the conference where everyone will just play Free Rice for an hour. Imagine the food that could be donated!
- Nothing But Nets: Can I borrow $10? Of course, thanks. Can you take that $10 and donate it so that a kid can go to sleep tonight without worrying about getting malaria from an insect bite? Can you think of anything as scary as wondering every night that when you go to sleep, you make wake up with a disease that is one of the leading killers of children in Africa? $10. That's it. How many friends do you have on Facebook? How many $10s is that? How many nets? How many kids sleeping safely?
I want to say also that I love the work that LINGOs is doing and I applaud them for it and urge you to support them as well...I think its awesome to leverage the training industry's expertise to help the world. I'm not trying to start a competition either - except maybe for us to compete with ourselves - let's gamify our lives and see how many "Good Human" points we can ring up or how many "I provided clean water/food/nets/homes/support" badges that we can ring up. I know we have made some strides but these efforts and these people humble me. People are living and drinking water and eating because of their efforts - that is amazing, awesome and humbling.
So today, I'll play Free Rice and I'll help my son set up a team there for his middle school. I'll show him the Kids Are Heroes site too. I'll pet our greyhound. I'll look at the USO programs and charity:water and Nothing But Nets and see how I can leverage my social network to support those and other efforts. Those are my New Year's Resolutions. What are yours? I hope that a year from now, I can look back on 2012 and see how many malaria-fighting nets I've helped to donate or how many grains of rice I've won or much water I've helped to provide to people who are dying of thirst or how many of our brave, fighting men and women I've helped pass the time with MEGS (love the acronym :-)) - that would be an awesome - and humbling - 2012.