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Originally published at Am I the Only One Dancing?. Please leave any comments there.

Last Week’s Pay Forward

Thank You

Thank You (Photo credit: mandiberg)

Before I talk to you about how awesome The Hunger Site and its affilliated sites are, first an update on last week’s pay forward:

Adelheide was able to get her immediate needs met and was even able to pay forward some of the money people sent her to another individual who had unexpected medical bills and needed a hand.

My sister Janet was able to get badly needed new pair of glasses, which will allow her to drive next week to an interview she has which potentially could solve her money problems once and for all.

Both of them asked me to extend a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to everyone who participated, and I’m going to add my own ‘thank you’ to theirs.

Thank you! (I’d put fancy flash curlicues here, but that would be obnoxious)

And Now, The Hunger Site!

The Hunger Site Button

The Hunger Site Button (Photo credit: amishsteve)

And now, on to this week’s pay forward. I decided to highlight a site I have been aware of now for at least a dozen years: The Hunger Site. Formed in 1999, its concept is simple. Click on a button every day, and money is donated toward world hunger.

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Originally published at Am I the Only One Dancing?. Please leave any comments there.

(Greed is the second in my Deadly Sin series. The first, on Wrath, can be found here, where it unfortunately got enmeshed with the Sandy Hook Massacre).

The Dragon's Hoard

The Dragon’s Hoard (Photo credit: sbisson)

Of all the political oddities over the last several years, none has astonished me more than the Ayn Rand fan boys and the Religious Right jumping into bed together in common cause against the poor. Ew. (And sorry for the visual) I may be missing something.

After all, I’m a Unitarian Pagan who has only read every religious text I have ever been able to get my hands on.


I guess those guys worship the other Jesus. You know, the one that hung around with Roman Centurions and bought and sold businesses while complaining about those lazy Nazarenes who would do so much better if they would just try harder.

The Christian objection to greed is based on Jesus’ teachings — The real Jesus, the one who preached about helping the poor, caring for the sick, and having humility.

He had a pretty good idea there, no matter your religious persuasion.

Like most of these deadly sins, greed is an exaggeration of a state of mind that is positive and useful. Also like the others, it substitutes a positive focus with the ‘worship’ of or obsession with a particular ideal or emotion.

There is nothing wrong with saving for the future and investing and building a safety net for yourself and your family. The problem arises when your family safety net begins to resemble a dragon’s hoard.

Have you ever wondered how the heck dragons sleep on all that gold? It’s got to be incredibly uncomfortable. The same is true for those ruled by greed. This is the curse of the dragon’s gold:

If you allow yourself to be ruled by greed, you become the servant to the dragon’s gold, and it no longer serves you or anyone else.

Mitt Romney personified the end result of the deadly sin of greed when he stated without shame, and without irony, that 47% of the people of the country he was at the time seeking to lead are plotting to ‘steal his gold’. That was a paraphrase, not a quote. Deal. Greed corrupts individuals, communities, and even the entire world. Currently, roughly 40% of the world’s wealth is in the hands of billionaires, while billions of people starve. The root of this greed comes from the idea that no matter how wealthy you are, you ‘can’t afford‘ to let go of even one doubloon, one finely wrought goblet, one half melted (oops) bar of gold, lest disaster fall. Fear. The root of greed is fear.

Pay It ForwardAnd the worst of it is – greed does not contribute to happiness.

In fact, numerous studies have found that after a certain set point (which last I checked was around $70,000 per year in current dollars or roughly comfortably middle class) money does not change overall happiness.

That’s right, Joe and Jane Average.  Mr. Millionaire is not happier than you, he just has a different set of problems.

The opposite of greed is the Golden Rule, nearly universal in spiritual belief systems and belief systems based on secular humanism. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Cast your seeds upon fertile ground, and work to make infertile ground richer and more fertile. “Pay it Forward” or “The Magnificent Obsession”. Give to others. Invest in them individually, and in communities.

There are thousands of ways to express it, but the concept is simple: Be generous with others. Give more than you ‘need’ to, and allow the giving to be its own reward… You see, a portion of greed is greed for the reward that comes from giving, the pats on the back, the recognition, the gratitude of the recipient, for power over the recipient or those who depend on your gifts.

To build happiness in your life, in your family, give of your time, your energy, your money, and your compassion, without expectations. That whole without expectations part? I can’t emphasize it enough. Without expectations. You are going to be disappointed when you give.

  • Some people will misuse the resource you provide (I don’t want to count the number of times I’ve given bus passes to people only to have them trade them for cigarettes).
  • Some people will show no outward gratitude.
  • Sometimes you will be unable to see how you’ve helped anyone.
  • Sometimes you will feel like you’ve made things worse.

The time to stop giving is when you are forgetting to give to yourself. Play as hard as you work. Rest often, and renew. Treat and pamper yourself as you do others.

Another time to stop giving (to a particular person) is if you do not have the emotional energy for the relationship challenges it causes, or when the giving, because of the other person’s situation, is doing more harm than good.

And there are no easy answers here. Sometimes, the thing you need to give most to a loved one with an addiction (for example) is help with the rent and a listening ear, and sometimes the best thing you can do is cut off contact.

What is stopping you from being generous with your time, your love, your money, your friendship?

  • Are you afraid? Of what? Rejection? Acceptance? Added obligation?
  • Are you angry at the person or system?
  • Are you resentful that you never got the generosity that is now being asked of you?
  • Are you overextended? (If so, remember to give to YOU)

What are you sleeping on, holding up gathered to you like dragon’s gold, doing neither you nor anyone else any good? Isn’t it time to let it go and sleep on a softer bed?

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Originally published at Am I the Only One Dancing?. Please leave any comments there.


Diving off the Cliffs Below the Walls of Dubrovnik

Diving off the Cliffs Below the Walls of Dubrovnik (Photo credit: adametrnal)

I Pay Forward at the Grocery Store (randomly):

Today at the grocery store I waited (and waited) behind a very young couple who were carefully counting out WIC voucher foods and food stamps (this being the end of the month). In the end, they found they had to put back a couple of oranges, some strawberries, and some corn on the cob.

I asked their permission, then I paid for the extra items so that they could have them. It didn’t cost me a lot, just five bucks, and hopefully stretched their food a bit farther.  I asked this couple to do the same for someone else someday, when they can (yes, I have read The Magnificent Obsession, several times. Why do you ask?).

I try to pay forward whenever I can. For me, paying forward is an investment in the world I want to live in. Sometimes, like this time, it is an impulse. Other times, its along the lines of planned charitable giving. It’s an inherent part of the shared joy integral to my life.

Your Weekly Opportunity to Pay Forward:

Starting today, I am going to provide my readers with a regular feature every week, pointing out worthy causes for them to pay forward. There is never any obligation. If you don’t have the ability or inclination to help any particular person or cause I point you to, that’s fine. I would greatly appreciate you sharing this post, liking it on Facebook, or tweeting it, to find others who can help. The share buttons are up there at the top of the post. There you go!)

The first two people for pay forward are known to me (one intimately). They have both given me permission to ask for help on their behalf, and I thank you in advance for any help you can offer. 

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Originally published at Am I the Only One Dancing?. Please leave any comments there.

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Building an Earthship

The Preston’s home on fire

Hunter and Samantha Preston lost their home and a dear friend in a fire at their home in June of 2012, in Fort Myers, Florida. They are newlyweds with a small child and couldn’t afford insurance, so they lost everything. Their goal is to rebuild their home as an ‘Earthship‘, a sustainable home. They formed a campaign on Indigogo, which you can read about here.

Unfortunately, their campaign has stalled out and they are still far from their goal with only a few weeks left. If they succeed, not only will they again have a family home, one that is sustainable and a wonderful model for the rest of us, but they also intend to use it as the headquarters for their non-profit business, SLIE (Sustainable Living and Interconnected Education) which will teach urban dwellers in their area about gaining better control of their food chain.

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Originally published at Am I the Only One Dancing?. Please leave any comments there.

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Help to use RSS-feed

I got a shock the other day when I discovered that despite being one of the older and easier ways of finding things on the web, more than half of regular internet users polled didn’t know what RSS was, let alone how to use RSS, and less than 20% use it regularly (and darn it, I can’t find the source that shocked me. Help please?)

How to Use RSS

RSS is really simple to use. In fact, two thirds of ‘RSS’ are ‘really simple’, and the whole thing is ‘really simple syndication’. You can even use it inside Facebook, though honestly I can’t recommend that any more, now that Facebook has decided that it knows better than you do which of your friends and pages you really want to see. (More on that later).

It’s a huge time saver, and available in mobile as well as large formats.

Imagine for a second that you can put together your own magazine of your favorite sites on the web, automatically updated for you every time there is a new post, and attractively arranged for you to read on your choice of dozens of different formats. There is no need to imagine – that’s what RSS is.

This is how to use RSS:

  1. Choose a feed reader (that’s what you call the magazine). The most popular one is probably Google Reader, but there are lots of others out there, most of them free. Pick one that suits you and set up an account. I like Google Reader because I’m already signed in to Google most of the time anyway, can be adjusted by a ton of various browser extensions, and has built in a feature called ‘Reader Play‘ that makes it feel even more like a magazine.
  2. How to use RSSStart adding feeds. Feeds are updates to your favorite blogs and websites that will now be automatically be delivered to your reader. Do you see that nifty orange and white icon up in the top right hand corner of my website? (The one that looks just like the one to the left, there.) That’s an RSS icon. Click on it, and it will invite you to add my feed to your reader, and give you choices as to which reader you use. A second click confirms your choice (it’ll navigate you away from here, so be sure to come back).Look for more feeds. Most websites have a feed, but not all of them are nice enough to make sure that their orange and white RSS icon is easy to find. So you can download extensions for Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Chrome to make it easier.
  3. Read RSS on your phone or tablet. I use an Android app called NewsRob on mine to read my Google Reader account, which is synced between my phone, my tablet, and my computer. It has a free version, but I like the benefits of the paid version enough to have upgraded. There are lots of others for Android and Iphone around as well.
  4. A word of warning: If you use an RSS feed reader on your work computer, your IT department will see it as you browsing hundreds of websites, not one. You really don’t want to be in the position of explaining to your boss that you’re just skimming headlines looking for articles to read on your break (even if its true). I bet you can guess how I learned that one.

So why not Facebook? Don’t get me wrong. I like Facebook. I think, on balance, it’s more helpful than not despite some jerkishness on the part of Zuckerman et al. But Facebook started, in spring of 2012, to decide for you which of your friends and pages are valuable to you, on an algorithm that isn’t close to perfect. It had two purposes in this.

First, it was trying to ensure that you saw first the articles you wanted most to read – your closest friends, your favorite pages – but second, it was increasing revenue for itself.

It is now significantly more expensive for advertisers to use Facebok. It used to be an ‘organic’ way to discover new pages, where you just kind of ‘naturally’ picked them up. Now Facebook deliberately makes it harder for you to find new pages, and the owners of the pages need to pay Facebook for the privilege of making it easier to find them.

I don’t blame Facebook for wanting to make a buck. They’re not in it for charity, after all. But speaking as someone trying to get people to read my website, they are now a very expensive option, rather than an inexpensive one, to let people know about my site.

RSS doesn’t exactly advertise my website or anyone elses’, but it does make it really simple for people who already want to read it to find the new articles I post nearly every day. Really simple syndication – and yet most people who are on the web haven’t figured out how to use it on a regular basis.

Oh, and if you’re curious, my own RSS feed of other peoples’ stuff is fed to the left hand column on my site pages (‘below the fold’ a bit), listed as ‘blogroll’, and the most recent couple of articles are linked on my curated life page (which, unfortunately, is glitchy because of the app used to set it up. Looking for better. Help?). Feel free to add any or all of them to your feed. Happy reading!

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