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One simple way to make people more greedy is to guilt them into generosity. The response is usually defensive. They clutch their wallets closer to their chests, fix a frozen smile to their faces and walk on by. I know, cos I’ve done that before. I’m not proud of that but there you have it.

Collectors that go door-to-door, stand on street corners shaking their semi-empty cans or cold callers have got a tough job. But it just doesn’t seem effective. In our culture it is all too easy to turn a blind eye to the injustices in our world because there seems to be too many. We can’t or don’t want to get our heads around them. It’s all too depressing.

So when a million voices call out in need, the ears of a million others slam shut. I think we need to be smarter about this. As much as we hate to admit it, our culture is greedy. We all know by now that there is actually enough food in the world to feed everyone. But still people die every day from starvation. We know that. But we keep on eating.

Guilt will not end world hunger. Greed will. That’s why Op Shops are so popular at the moment. There’s no pressure to give endlessly to these charities. There are no demands. There are just a few humble shops with odds and ends, 2nd hand clothing and collectables that give us a shopping experience without the guilt. Op shops tap into our desire for more. They are a great place of recycling, of course, but their main task is to fund a charity and they do it in a subtle way so that most of us don’t have to think about the horrible situations those in need are facing and how our measly dollars are helping them.

Massive fundraisers are also hip! Because people get a good feed, they get to hear from interesting people and they get to feel like they’re doing something good for the world. Tick that box. There are also awesome prizes that once again tap into our greedy nature. It’s just fact! I’m not putting down fundraisers or op shops, quite the opposite. I think they’re smart.

The fact is that most of us love to get! I love to get. I would go so far as to say it is my love language. But I look around Sydney and I see so much wealth and gluttony and stuff. And I wonder how I can get people to donate charities in Africa who are suffering, who can’t even put food on the table for their kids. I wonder how we can squeeze stuff out of our ‘stuffed’ city and dribble it into the hands of those who need it way more than we do.

And it all comes down to greed. How do we tap into greed and subtly turn it into generosity without having to lay a guilt trip, without begging, without disturbing?

Any ideas?

Here’s one     http://ourneighbours.org/

James Bond, Sydney Bristow, Jack Bauer, Johnny English and Vanessa Kensington – all (fictional) spies, most glamorous, strong and sharp as a tack.

It is an intriguing world is it not? Undercover, peeking around corners, hand gripped on a holstered gun. Then there’s the gadgets, the cool cars, the even cooler heads on the fit and tanned bodies. Travel, adventure, danger… who wouldn’t want to be a spy?

The ‘Justice and Police Museum’ in Sydney is a fascinating place. Not only does it have a real courthouse, neon police sign and cells but it has some intriguing video surveillance from the 1960s spy network in our great city. ‘Normal’ looking people, men and women, can be seen walking the streets of the city, going in and out of buildings, meeting with other ‘normal’ looking people. Sounds boring but the fact that it is filmed from a hidden location makes it exciting.

There are also documents you can look through that have secret codes to crack and you can listen into real taped conversations between gang members, drug dealers, the lot. All this intrigue and secrets only intensifies my desire for spy-hood-dom.

Ah yes. I’m very good at waiting and watching and listening in to conversations if need be. I blend in quite well to my surroundings and I quite like wearing high collared coats and dark glasses. I have been known to commando roll out of cars and have great aim when shooting a gun (I once shot a tree on a property in Queensland… a tree I was actually aiming for so there you go).

My acting classes would come in very handy with the life of a spy: “No, I am not a mother of two… I’m actually Lady Washington on sabbatical from…um… Washington” (all said with the correct accent of course). The outfits would be ‘daaaarling’ and daring and fitted with the latest in blue tooth technology and  i-something gadgetry of course.

My preparation for this career would involve watching countless episodes of Alias and numerous James Bond films. I would practice stalking people in the streets, speaking code into my clenched fist. No one would notice that.

Ah yes, the life of a spy… if only. But I’m not a good liar, I am quite tall and would probably stand out in a crowd and I’m a little clumsy which would mean I’m more of a Stephanie Plum than a Sydney Bristow (damn it!). But let me dream.

What are your long lost dreams?

Let’s face it, we all know the rich are getting richer and the poor, poorer. Have we finally had enough? With ‘Occupy’ marches happening around the globe, perhaps we have.

In Australia these protests were relatively small. Then our national carrier, Qantas, cancelled all flights because of industrial action but the boss enjoyed a pay rise. Fat cats be warned, us mice (hopefully) won’t stand for this kind of inequality any more.

Dream with me here: imagine a tax system that charges 10% of a ridiculously rich person’s salary and all of it goes to worthy charities. Would they miss it? Stealing from the rich and giving to the poor is a popular concept because it seems fair.

Instead of buying a large boat, maybe we could cancel out world hunger, or provide mosquito nets in places ravaged by Malaria or Dengue Fever. Oooo how about everyone having access to clean water or a healthy sewerage system? Wouldn’t it be just dandy if all children could be vaccinated against deadly diseases instead of just our lucky kids? Or if women could experience safety in childbirth? Perspective Westies!

Think of what we could do in Australia. There would be no one living on the streets, for there would be enough shelters, homes and public housing for everyone. Our Indigenous brothers and sisters would have a decent chance at a long and successful life with proper healthcare and a more sensitive education system. Universities would be free and available to anyone who was keen and our hospitals and schools wouldn’t be in such a mess.

I know, I know, I’m dreaming here. Perfection is unattainable in this world. It just seems crazy that 1% have so very much while the rest of the world suffers. Food for thought.

If you want to steal from yourself and give to the poor, check out my friend in Zimbabwe who runs a home for abandoned babies. It is called ‘Our Neighbours – Isaiah’s Home of Love’. If you have any corporate connections, this charity is desperate for ongoing support. They find foster homes for these beautiful babies in their own villages. They are doing incredible things with very little.

Check them out here http://ourneighbours.wordpress.com/author/ourneighbours/

 

 

 

 

Image by Jeff Kubina

Here’s a radical idea – get rid of gambling. A ha! As we head into the Spring racing season in Australia, it is staggering how much of our hard earned dollars we throw at a bunch of horsies for a moment’s ecstasy! And then it is over, you go home feeling hung over, regretting the moment you chose the horse with the cool name or pretty colours.

Then we have the pokies that drain the pockets of ordinary people every day, year after year. It’s a sad old world when we see people sitting in darkened rooms, staring at flashing lights, hoping that they will win big… this time. As governments and clubs argue over what should be done, addictions are being fed and lives are being destroyed. The bottom line is money and not people. Sound familiar?

We are all responsible for our own behaviour, our own choices but you don’t see Alcoholics Anonymous offering cocktails at its meetings, because it is just cruel. Clubs are all well and good but who are they serving? Their members or themselves? If it wasn’t about money, then they could offer computer games that didn’t cost anything to these poor people. Then, all they are losing is time.

Or how about getting the people out and about: touch footy, knitting, quoits, or a combination? Think outside the square! We don’t have to destroy people’s lives to make a buck. That’s not what life is about, really. You don’t hear someone on their deathbed say “I wish I played more pokies, had more money, ripped off a few more pensioners”. No! The meaning of life is relationships and people. That is what matters, not how rich you are or how good you are at your job.

It’s a sad old world when greed overshadows compassion. Where victims are blamed and responsibility shirked.  There’s nothing wrong with making money. It is when it is made at the expense of the poor or weak that it is wrong.

Have you noticed that generous people smile a lot? They have a kind of buzz around them, like they know a grand old secret the rest of us don’t. To the rest of the world, they may seem a little peculiar with all the smiling and shining eyes. But when you try living a generous life, you start to get what they are all about.

I must admit, I’m not a naturally generous person. I think some people are either born or raised with an inbuilt desire to give. It’s a no-brainer for them. If someone has had a baby, you make them a meal, if someone needs a chat, you spend the time to help them get through their troubles. They just do it and rarely count the costs. For me, I have to think and plan such things. It’s a conscious choice which is weighed along with everything else in my life and sometimes I’m just too tired, busy or selfish to be generous.

It’s not that I don’t want to be generous, it’s just more of a conscious effort for me than for the more natural kind. I’ve been realising that, for most of us, generosity is a choice. It is a lifestyle and a habit. It is something you can learn and develop and it always has to be from the heart.

One of my friends epitomises generosity. She gives to everyone, not just her nearest and dearest. It can be food, things, time or money. She never balks at giving and never regrets offering things to people. She is a very open, friendly person, who is deeply genuine. Sometimes this type of friend can be daunting; how to live up to such an example? But she makes it easy because she lets me give back to her. I’m 33 but I’m still learning and I love it that my friends can teach me such worthwhile life lessons.

Generosity is all about the little things. It starts with really listening to people and responding appropriately.  We’re not a culture that expects others to lift us up and sometimes this can make giving, a little awkward. But I highly recommend pushing through, because, as some wise man once said, “It is more blessed to give than receive”. Indeed!

 

Environmentalism is hip. Let’s face it. Today it is easy to be green. There are so many options out there to save the world. Raaaaaa. It’s funny that they’re often the most expensive, fancy looking things isn’t it? Surely there’s a whole heap of people getting rich on saving this fine planet of ours. I’m not against protecting species and looking after the world, but I don’t like the feeling that we’re being manipulated into spending more money or heading down a certain track against our will.

So I will dare to be uncool. Beyond these lines are my environmental secrets. They are the kind of things that would cause an environmentalist to point their finger and give me a good ’tisking’. But I know I’m not the only one. Some hide it better than others.

Confession time:

  • Shower hog- yes I love water wasting devices. I absolutely hate drippy pathetic showers and the thought of putting a timer on it almost makes me cry. I like a long shower with lots of power. Now, I know for a fact that I am not alone in this because this is a global warming no-no that anyone can hide from those prying green eyes.
  • Caged eggs – Every time I go egg shopping I almost blush. I am paranoid that someone is going to bust me buying the cheapest caged eggs I can find. I love animals but don’t care too much for chickens. Which is why I probably avoid watching those exposes on cruelty to chickens. It all comes down to price here and I just cannot afford $6 a dozen for guilt-free range eggs.
  • Organic fruit, veges, meat and blah-de-blah-blah. What a great get-rich-scheme this is. Now I hate chemicals as much as the next person but who decided that only the rich get to have the natural food? It stinks. It seems that if you want to be healthy you have to pay through the nose and that is why I refuse to buy organic stuff. It feels immoral… unless, of course, it is on sale!
  • Cling film/ wrap/ plastic, plastic everywhere – I’m a great recycler! Yes I am part greenie. But I still use plastic wrap for my blocks of cheese, leftovers and frozen goods. Some things are just impossible to give up!
  • Nappies/diapers – There is a new breed of mum out there who is using the new fancy pants cloth nappies. When my kids were babies, I apologized profusely to the rubbish dump and the earth but there was no way I was going to spend my time washing out poos and wees from cloth. Ironically I run a mile from bleach and other tough cleaners and, besides, chucking out a disposable nappy is too darn easy!
  • I now throw my finished toilet rolls in the bin. I tried for years to recycle them but they were just too hard to get from the bathroom to the yellow bin without causing a slapstick scene (you know the one that usually involves marbles).  So, I made an executive decision and now they go out with the rest of the rubbish. To my credit I recycle almost everything else.

So there you have it! I have laid it all before you in an honest way. I will no longer hide my choice of egg or long shower. I will shout it from the rooftop because, no one is perfect. Environmentalists still drive petrol guzzling machines, buy sweets wrapped in plastic and use electricity. It’s all about balance and choice and these are my choices.

What are your dark environmentally incorrect secrets?

 

 

image by Christopher Woo

There’s a slow, mournful tune playing in my mind. It is signalling the death of the humble shop. First it was the bookstores, Borders, Dymocks, Angus & Robertson, may they rest in peace. Now it seems our spending is causing the clothes stores to shut up and I’m not happy.

No matter how much I love online stuff, and I do, it can never replace a day at the mall. I’m such a girl, I know, but there’s nothing more satisfying than coming home with a boot full of new things, presents for others included of course, and those sore ‘shopping feet’. And you cannot have a coffee or lunch with a friend online can you?

Oh you get to the mall at 9am and plan your attack. Will it be the big department stores  or the smaller ones with the crappier quality? Do you have a list? Presents in mind or a whole new wardrobe? Then you set your feet in the right direction and off you go. The door lady (the only obvious security) greets you with half a smile. But you don’t care, you’re shopping and you’ve got the whole day to do it! Ha ha!

I always go to the things I need/want the most. Just to make sure I get them. And if they’re not in stock, which is a lot of the time, then I have to change my plans and head to other stores to make sure I get what I want. I even bartered with the manager of JB Hifi the other day and it was so easy I think I’ll keep doing it. Poor shopkeepers are desperate for our dollars so we have the power people. Barter away.

It is a little sad that everything is going online. But things have been so expensive in Australia for way too long, it’s a wake up call for all the retailers out there. For example, a pair of Converse shoes in America goes for around $20 US, in Australia it is over $100. Um, no wonder we consult our computers before hitting the shops. We just cannot afford it anymore.

It is an interesting time in history. The media is in its own spotlight for once with the whole News of the World going under and the Murdochs being brought down a peg or two. Our computers or iphones are our constant companions. They are our letters, our conversations, our telephones, our Morse code, our smoke signals. They provide entertainment, information and communication. We have lost the right to be ignorant. If you don’t know something, you can find out. No more sleepless nights.

But, sigh, is it all worth it? Are we losing touch with each other by going underground and staring at our computers 24/7? Will we even know how to have a long conversation in the future or will it all be emoticons and shorthand?

🙂

Image by Jpereira

It’s great that businesses have opened their eyes to see the needs of the world. At the same time it is disappointing to see the corporate world boasting about their ‘good deeds’ so that people will feel better about buying their products.

Vicks, you are my prime example today, though I know you are not alone. Our family friendly Vicks brand has decided that it will be oh so generous and immunise needy children for each Vicks product sold or each ‘like’ on facebook. While the thought is slightly noble, the spirit of it really isn’t. Facebook is the place to be. It is the new frontier and everybody who is anybody wants your ‘like’.

There are a few ways to build up those precious clicks. First you offer something people want: entertainment, prizes, competitions or free stuff and second you make them truly like you by believing in what you are all about. How easy it is for the techno generation to make a difference in the world by making one choice, to click or not to click? It’s a no-brainer, really, so why wouldn’t you?

Over 55,000 have liked the Vicks facebook page. Awwww. What a nice company. But when you think about it, what a great advertising campaign. Warm, gooey feelings all ’round. Too cynical? But it’s true. Wouldn’t it be better for Vicks to commit to immunising as many kids as possible without using it as a kind of consumer bribery? Sure they are relieving our consciences a little but what’s at the heart of it?

Money? Reputation? Or the true spirit of generosity which is humble, pure, seeking no glory for itself? It should be totally focussed on bringing equality, healthy and freedom for those poorer nations, behind closed doors.

So here’s an idea: get on facebook, ‘like’ the Vicks page and let’s give them a run for their money. Wouldn’t it be awesome if this went truly global and they were forced to vaccinate MILLIONS of kiddies? I wonder if they have a cap?

The work that gets done through corporate sponsorship is priceless. There’s a lot of money floating around this world that needs to be put into the right hands for the right reasons. It’s just a shame that along with this so-called generosity, comes a price, an expectation, a demand.

 

I love animals. I hate animal cruelty. Just had to say that. I think puppies are adorable and I want 5. Kittens can crawl all over me all they want and horses, feel free to snort on me any day of the week. But then there are babies. Kiddies, children, tots, toddlers, munchkins, mini-me’s, rug-rats, juniors, snuggle-bugs: soft, sweet, pure little humans with stinky breath! And I love them more.

If I had to choose between an animal and a little munchkin, I would choose the latter every time. It’s not to say that we shouldn’t look out for animals, too, it’s just that they should come after children in our list of priorities (you have one, right?). Though it is in our interests to save the animals so that the food chain can keep us going, I do worry about how much time and money and energy is put into saving animals before we have properly addressed the childhood mortality rates in 3rd world countries.

The other day I saw a bumper sticker that said “Give to the Paw” and had a picture of a sad looking dog with big brown eyes staring up at me. I was slightly horrified. A little offended that the ‘poor’ should be replaced with ‘paw’. I then realised that this was for Assistance Dogs Australia and not some animal shelter. It lessened the blow a little but still, the feeling remained. The fact is that many people prefer to give to animal charities because the sad little creatures are so darn cute.

Are we simply too accustomed to looking at ourselves in the mirror that it numbs us when we look at human suffering? Is it all too much, too confronting? Perhaps images of dying animals doesn’t hit home to the depths of our souls as much as the human kind. Is it more of a surface feeling and easier to deal with?

The statistics on suffering children (let alone adults) in our world never ceases to shock me. Here are the latest human facts according to UNICEF:

  • For every 1000 children, 93 die before the age of 5
  • 21 children die every minute from preventable causes
  • Of 11 million child deaths, 70% are caused by either: diarrhoea, malaria, neonatal infection, pneumonia, preterm delivery, or lack of oxygen at birth.
  • 6 million of that 11 million could have been saved by low tech, low cost measures such as childhood vaccinations, antibiotics, micronutrient supplement , insecticide-treated bed nets, family education
  • By the end of this decade, the number effected by HIV/AIDS will reach 25 million children.
It’s heavy stuff. It’s happening right now and it’s wrong. I have 2 kids and the thought of losing them is unbearable. Imagine how a third world parent feels when they know their child could have been saved by an injection or a series of simple antibiotics. It’s inconceivable.
I think it is good and right to look after this world, save the whales and the bears and keep it clean and beautiful. But I do worry that we spend way too much time on the environment and animals and not half as much on the people. What’s your opinion?
If you’re keen to help out a little with this problem check out a friend of mine who has set up an abandoned babies home in Zimbabwe. It is an incredible cause with so much need. Just go to

I love stories. Whether it be films, books, chats… I just love hearing the ins and outs of life and learning from them. To let a story move you to tears is a difficult thing to do sometimes. It means letting go of our stubborn ‘western’ control and letting our soul free to roam and grow and be vulnerable.

Some people think it’s silly to cry at a television show. We joke about hormonal women crying over ads, but why not? Ads are designed to move the audiences. Emotions are good! If a story touches your soul, why not be free enough to respond any which way you darn well want to? What is wrong with tears? What is wrong with angst and anger if it is over something worthy, even if it is fictional.

Every person has a story. Even if you think you’re life has been boring, you have feelings and thoughts and events that have crafted who you are today! I love that. I love that everyone is different. We may seem totally out of control crazy to one person and yet to another, completely conservative. Isn’t that wild? We have our own DNA that proves beyond a doubt that we are unique. No one has walked in our shoes, seen through our eyes.

I love hearing stories of the little people. Sure we can gasp with awe at Princess Kate and wish we could marry a prince but at the end of the day, so what? It doesn’t mean that her life is any more important than yours. One of the reasons that the Middle East has gone into meltdown was the protest of one man, Mohammed Bouazizi who set himself on fire to protest injustices in Tunisia. His death shocked the nation which subsequently went into meltdown, sparking mass protests and change in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Algeria, Armenia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Morocco and Oman. This man was a street vendor abused by officials, threatening his livelihood. One man. One extreme and devastating act bringing about incredible change.

Mohammed Bouzazi by Logan

Story is powerful. You can talk to people until their blue in the face about issues that stir your heart and their eyes may glaze over. But when you tell people stories, their eyes brighten, the ears are red with attentiveness and they are instantly hungry to know more.

Embrace your own story. You may not be a princess or a Mohammed Bouazizi but your story can change your world.

What’s your story?

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