Posts Tagged ‘volunteering’

Happy 14th, Erin!

Friday, January 28th, 2011

Given the way teenagers are portrayed in the media and on the news, I’m surprised anyone has children any more! Luckily, not every child transforms into a teen terror once they hit their 13th birthday. I’d even go so far as to say that for every teenager who fits the stereotypical image of the surly, self-absorbed, and non-engaged teen, there are a hundred who are not. My cousin Erin is a shining example. When I named Chinaberry’s ”Erin’s Bracelet” after her, I wrote how she brings beauty and delight to life. She does this by living her values and following her bliss, volunteering at the Humane Society, playing tennis, sewing, gardening (she’s a vegetarian), and now she’s taking guitar lessons. With the gusto she puts into her days, she has no time to be surly or sullen! Today, her 14th birthday, I celebrate all the teens out there who, like Erin, are engaged in life and want to make a positive difference in this world. In the midst of all the reports of school shootings, substance abuse, and gang activity, let’s remember to acknowledge the countless teens who are making this world a better place.

Keeping an Open Heart in the Presence of Pain

Friday, July 10th, 2009

I can remember my father sitting at a restaurant table, years ago, quizzing my husband and me about current events and voting issues. We were young and absorbed in our new life together, and keeping up with the news was the last thing on our minds. More accurately, we’d made a somewhat conscious decision to not keep up with the news because it all seemed to be bad and what’s the use and how could our votes really count, anyway? Much to my poor father’s horror, we actually articulated this opinion to him, sending this very politically knowledgeable man into a tailspin of incredulity and, I would guess, disgust.

Since then, in fits and starts, I have become more politically aware and attentive to the news. I know enough of what’s going on to be conscious of the fact that there’s a lot more going on than what we’re being told. I don’ t think anyone would argue that unless a sensational spin can be applied to the latest current event, it’s generally not considered to be newsworthy. It ’s that ratings thing, you know. For some weird reason, the bad news, not the good, tends to get our attention and so we’re dished up even more and more of it. A twenty-minute dose of current events is sometimes enough to make you want to crawl into a hole and wait out whatever it is we, as humans, are collectively going through right now. Or would it be saner to just opt to remain ignorant of these happenings over which we have no direct influence?

I don’t know for sure, but I do know that lately I don’t have to turn on the news to hear of sadness. It seems as if there are tragedies hitting closer to home and to loved ones than ever before. And I know that I’m not alone in my opinion. Friend after friend expresses the same sentiment. There is just a lot of grief not only “out there,” but “here” as well. It’s strange. And I often find myself struggling to stay balanced enough to keep on keeping on. If I allow myself to linger under whatever dark cloud is floating above me, I somehow find myself merged with that dark cloud, which then, I believe, in some way gets bigger because I am now part of it.

In the midst of what seems like a steady barrage of stories that could break my heart or make me angry, I have found that being active is so much more helpful than being passive. The bottom line is that I must make a conscious decision every day - sometimes every few minutes - to soften my heart and refuse to partake in judgment and hate. I’ve always known - but have to remind myself more often now, it seems - that I have a choice. I can just dwell on what is horrible. Or, I can be aware that there indeed are unspeakable tragedies going on even at the other end of the block (not to mention on the other side of the world) and keep my heart open and light and always ready to find joy, no matter how small that joy may seem.

I don’t know why I’ve changed. Maybe it’s because my children are older now and I have seen some of the ways life has challenged them, and I’ve seen how strong they are when they stand up to face these challenges. Or maybe it’s because life has changed me through trials of my own, honing me, polishing me, and gentling me in the process. It’s hard to tell. But what I do know now is that when all else falls away, one thing remains: the fundamental human need we all have to be connected to each other. And through consciously seeking this connection, I am learning to make space in my heart to hold the pain I meet in life and to embrace every ounce of joy that comes my way. My goal is now to enlarge my cup, so I can hold all that the world has to offer and greet each experience with compassion. The larger my heart gets, the more I can experience. It puts me at risk (for the world does hold tremendous pain), but without that risk my ability to seek and choose joy is severely limited. And without joy in my heart, how can I face the day?

A Billion Simple Acts of Peace

Peacejam: A Billion Simple Acts of Peace

Peacejam is an inspiring book/DVD about young people who teamed up with Nobel Laureates to create projects of real change and healing for the world.

Celebrate Literacy Award Dinner

Monday, June 29th, 2009

By Tina Elliott

Recently I was privileged to attend the Celebrate Literacy Award dinner put on by the Greater San Diego Reading Association. I tend to take books and reading for granted, having been instilled with a love of reading by my mother so many years ago and, thanks to her, never, ever being without a good book to read as a child. Now, as an adult, I am surrounded by more books than I could possibly ever get through. (I work in a book store for goodness sake.) What delight there is to be found between the pages of a book - joy, wonderment, giggles, or suspense; characters showing strength of spirit in attempting to overcome challenges and making hard decisions. Reading opens so many doors for us, often without us even realizing it. How easy it is for us to forget that there are many, young and old alike, who do not have the means to own a book of their own, or, even more sadly, who are not able to read.

The Greater San Diego Reading Association (GSDRA) is a professional organization affiliated with the California Reading Association (CRA) and the International Reading Association (IRA). GSDRA’s goals are to promote literacy, provide activities on literacy issues, and advance the pursuit of life-long reading. Every year, the GSDRA holds a celebration dinner to acknowledge businesses and individuals within our community who go “above and beyond” in the area of literacy. This year, Chinaberry was very proud to receive the Jerry Crews Award, created to recognize those in the business community who exemplify kindness and support for GSDRA and reading education. What an honor for Chinaberry to be acknowledged by such a committed group of individuals.

Equally as exciting to us was being linked to the devoted individuals who were also honored. Our own longtime Chinaberry customer and storyteller extraordinaire Marilyn McPhie received the Special Award of Recognition for her work with the Books for Babies program (www.marilynmcphie.com), and Katherine Salmon received the Judith Parson Award for Outstanding Student Teacher.

The Celebrate Literacy Award recognizes organizations, institutions, and individuals who have made significant literacy contributions at the local, state, or provincial level. This year’s Celebrate Literacy Honorees included St. Luke’s Refugee Network (http://sudaneserefugees.org/); United Through Reading Transitions (www.UnitedThroughReading.org); Edith Hope Fine and Judith Josephson, co-authors of Armando and the Blue Tarp School, nominated for the 2009-2010 California Young Reader Medal; teacher David Lynch, the true-life inspiration for Armando and the Blue Tarp School; and Irwin Herman, “The Bookman” (www.TheBookman.org). In addition to these fabulous individuals and organizations, many teachers and educators from school districts throughout the county were recipients of the 2009 Award of Excellence.

How inspiring to be surrounded by these dedicated individuals who have devoted their lives to others, giving their time and energy to promoting literacy and working toward the goal of giving every child and adult the ability to own and, more importantly, read a good book.

Tina Elliott and Janet Kelly at the GSDRA Awards

Raising Kids Who Care

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

Article written by Martha Fay in Reader’s Digest

Raising kids who care

It’s easy–if you lead by example. Five families show you how to get started, stay committed, and make a real difference.

ENCOURAGE THEIR PASSION

Phil and Anne Holland-McCowan
John, 16; Harrison, 13
Atherton, California

John Holland-McCowan was sitting on a beach in Hawaii with his parents and his baby brother, Harrison, happily playing with coconuts and driftwood. “I’m so lucky,” the almost-five-year-old suddenly announced. “I have all these toys to play with and all my toys at home.”

His startled parents replied that he was indeed lucky, since a lot of kids didn’t have any toys at all. “That’s when he started to cry,” recalls his mother, Anne.

“How can that be?” John asked. “We have to get toys for those children.”

His parents naturally wondered if it was just some kind of phase, but as soon as they returned home, John began hoarding his small allowance to buy toys for other kids and urging his friends to do the same. His parents responded by organizing pizza suppers for other families interested in helping underprivileged children. “We just want to cheer kids up,” John explained.

“It was so great and so simple,” says Anne, who set out to find a place that would allow children as young as six and seven to volunteer. “It took a lot of phone calls,” admits the longtime volunteer. “We finally got Scribbles and Giggles [scribblesandgiggles.com], a day-care center for medically fragile children, to let John and his friend Jane visit. They went and just played with these kids, zipping around the room as if they belonged there. And these were children with tubes in their throats and all kinds of medical problems.”

John and his friends named their enterprise Kids Cheering Kids (kidscheeringkids.com), and today there are 19 chapters in the greater San Jose/ South Bay area; another in Metairie, Louisiana; and still another in Portland, Oregon. John is 16 now, a six-one sophomore and a water polo star at Menlo High School. He still visits kids at the San Jose Family Center, helping out with a carnival they’re putting on. He’s also working with Angels on Stage (angelsonstage.org) in the South Bay to prepare a performance of The Wizard of Oz starring children with disabilities.

The spirit of helping is as fresh as it was that day in Hawaii. “The whole purpose,” he says, “is to make the kids feel better.”
(more…)

Words of Wisdom from Gandhi

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

Wall art of Gandhi created by Will Kasso

Wall art of Gandhi created by Will Kasso

“Be the change you wish to see in the world”
- Gandhi

I just love this quote from Gandhi. I now have the bumper sticker on my car–mostly to remind myself of the responsibility we all share to “be the change we wish to see” in our families, communities, counties, states, countries, and the world.

A new arrival, ‘Be the Change’ Pendant, is now available at our sister site, IsabellaCatalog.com.

The following is an excerpt from an interview with graffiti artist Will Kasso:
Question: One of your latest portraits is Gandhi. Why?

Kasso: Well, Gandhi was a great human being. His contribution to society, the world for that matter, is undeniable. He directly influenced Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and a host of others for positive change. So when I decided to do the wall, I wanted to paint someone that ignited change, since aerosol artists are the most misunderstood and stereotyped artists on this planet.

President Obama’s Inaugural Address - History in the Making

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

President Obama's Inaugural Address - Part 1

President Obama's Inaugural Address - Part 2

My fellow citizens:

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors.  I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath.  The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace.  Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms.  At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been.  So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood.  Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred.  Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age.  Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered.  Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics.  Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land - a nagging fear that America’s decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real.  They are serious and they are many.  They will not be met easily or in a short span of time.  But know this, America -  they will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics. (more…)

Words of Wisdom - Yes We Can! (Obama Victory Speech)

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

President-Elect Obama with his Family on Election Night - Photo by Time

President-Elect Obama with his Family on Election Night - Photo by Time

Remarks of President-Elect Barack Obama-as prepared for delivery
Election Night
Tuesday, November 4th, 2008
Chicago, Illinois

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It’s the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen; by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the very first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different; that their voice could be that difference.

It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled - Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.

It’s the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America. (more…)