Friday, January 13, 2006

Winter Gifts: Irremediably Hopeful Social Change Objectives for 2006

Among the many loving ways that our friends and family demonstrated affection and caring for us during this recent and seemingly endless series of winter holidays, one gift shines light on all the others. My grad school mentor sent a new year's card, announcing a share of a goat had been given in our name to an extremely poor family. Little did I know how much we needed that gift, and how it would allow me to appreciate all of our gift(s) more consciously, and strangely enough, guiltlessly.

I posted the card and photograph at the busiest crossroads in our apartment. Each time I walk by and notice the Indian woman accepting a goat, I am inspired. Rather than feeling distanced by a photograph that only refers to an exemplary family receiving a picture-perfect goat, I appreciate its generality. The woman's face beautifully communicates her dignity and purpose, concretizing the abstract, if economically specific, value of a "share." That is, this photo reminds me that throughout the world people are working with our collective resources to create and increase our global prosperity.

The health and prosperity of the family that received a goat, then, literally enriches me.

A Quick Evaluation: Are Your New Year's Resolutions Sufficiently Optimistic?

Unequivocally, we endeavor to increase our common global treasury of economic, cultural, environmental and spiritual prosperity, but sometimes we allow cynicism to weigh down our perspective.

In honor of all the underdogs who have made New Year's resolutions that they hope will stick, and of all the people who are represented by the 189 heads of state who--no matter how politically or disingenuously--have implicated us discursively, historically and irretrievably in pursuing (or failing to pursue) a host of "Millennium Goals" (at the 2000 UN Millennium Summit), I have created a 15-minute exercise for generating and replenishing healthy optimism as we embark on the journey of 2006.

(I suggest you use a pencil and a blank sheet of paper, divided into four equal qundrants.) I promise this is heartening!

1. Firstly, read the millennium goals below, and/or the facts about poverty in California. (In quandrant one, note which single goal or fact most touches sparks for you.)

"Millennium Goals " (from Millennium Declaration, 2000 UN Millennium Summit)

1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
2. Achieve universal primary education
3. Promote gender equality and empower women
4. Reduce child mortality
5. Improve maternal health
6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
7. Ensure environmental sustainability
8. Develop a global partnership for development

Notice these statistics are about us. . .10 Facts about Poverty in California
(Simply copied wholesale from a reputable website).
  1. Four of the twenty poorest cities in this country are in California, which includes Fresno, Long Beach, Los Angeles and San Diego.
  2. There are 36 million people living in poverty in the U.S. - five million of those in California.
  3. One in five children in our state live in poverty.
  4. In 2003, Tulare County had the highest percentage of poverty in California.
  5. In 2000, Fresno was the poorest major city in the nation.
  6. The U.S. poverty threshold in 2000 for a family of four was $17,603.
  7. African American and Latinos are overrepresented among California's poor.
  8. In Los Angeles County, 1 in 3 single families in 2000 were poor.
  9. Individual poverty in California in 2000 was 14.2 percent of the state's population.
  10. The average poor family spends more than half their income on rent.
2. Secondly, think about how you personally speak or act to change ANYTHING mentioned or implied in these documents.

Yes, the sweeping language implies alot. For instance, in California, working for better education, women's rights, minority access to transportation, healthcare or work would significantly change the rates of poverty.

(Put your notes in quadrant two.)

3. Write down one thing you plan to do in 2006 that will make a difference, even if you simply rewrite the item from quadrant two, in quadrant three.

4. Now, affirm your work by noting something specific about your commitment.

For instance, schedule the days or dates that you will work on and/or complete these goals, or note how your your work addresses a local issue or a global objective. Write this in quadrant four.

5. Congratulations, and thank you for working in specific ways to create global prosperity!

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