Monday, October 31, 2005

Eat grub.

The folks at have a great definition of "grub: healthy, local, sustainable food for all; food that supports community, justice, and sustainability." I can get on board with that! Would you like to join us?

* Eat low on the food chain. "The healthiest diet for our bodies and the earth is a whole foods, plant-based diet. Factory farming contributes to massive air and water pollution and global warming. In the process, we also waste vast amounts of grain and other resources-not to mention the cruelty to animals or the ripple effect of antibiotic resistance from over-use of in animals." Learn more at and

* Eat organically grown, in-season, locally-grown, fair-trade and fresh foods. Learn more about local foods, fair-trade foods, and organic foods. You can also garden and grow your own. I'm preparing to grow shitake mushrooms and my compost pile is going strong.

* Help others eat grub. Donate food from your pantry, party, or garden. Support Heifer International and other sustainable development programs. Visit

* Vote with your ballot and with your dollars. "One of the best ways you can make a difference on any and all of the issues you care about is to vote and get others to do the same. Voting about what we believe in happens at the ballot box and the supermarket. Each of our consumer and savings choices has a huge impact." Also, consider the ways you can invest responsibly.

Now that's good eating, for the body, mind, and soul! Enjoy and happy trick-or-treating!

"If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about the answers." - Thomas Pynchon

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Take action.

Since I started Open Letters for Change (the So what can I do companion blog), I've had to find ways to get reliable information that I can use to write my letters of concern. Many organizations provide action alerts that let you know about new legislation, recent injustices, and opportunities for change. You can use that information to contact your elected officials and the media to make sure your voice is heard.

Use the sites below to:

--> Learn about issues that matter to you and how you can respond.
--> Clarify your opinions, suggestions and needs using the information provided.
--> Contact your elected officials, media, and thought leaders to share your thoughts and hold them accountable.

Consider these resources:

* People for the American Way is "fighting to maintain and expand 50 years of legal and social justice progress." They provide numerous resources you can use to communicate effectively with your elected officials, including lists and descriptions of legislations, contact information, and sample letters, and it's an excellent place to start.

* Friends Committee on National Legislation is "A Quaker Lobby in the Public Interest. We seek a world free of war and the threat of war. We seek a society with equity and justice for all. We seek a community in which every person's potential may be fulfilled. We seek an earth restored." They provide numerous resources you can use to communicate effectively with your elected officials, including lists and descriptions of legislations, contact information, and sample letters, and it's an excellent place to start. Quakers have been involved in the peace and justice movement from their beginning. I saw this first-hand during my time at Swarthmore.

* Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting is a national media watch group. Use their media contact sheet and action alerts to "contact national media and make your voice heard" about news content (or lack thereof), advertising, and more.

* Africa Action "is the oldest organization in the U.S. working on African affairs. Our mission is to change U.S. Africa relations to promote political, economic and social justice in Africa. We provide accessible information and analysis and we mobilize popular support for campaigns to achieve this mission."

* New American Dream encourages environmental and socially responsible choices and helps you lobby your officials so that they will make those choices too.

Also, check with any social, political, or professional organization to which you belong. They may also provide resources that increase your lobbying power. Remember, be polite. And when you write or call, it's always best to modify the sample text to reflect your personal experience, community and feelings. So speak up and take action! You may be surprised by the effect you will have.

"Lower your voice and strengthen your argument." -Lebanese proverb

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Donate your organs.

As I write this, there are 89,879 people on the national transplant waiting list. Thankfully, as of mid-October, 8,487 people have generously donated their organs to 16,447 people. But we have a long way to go before all 89,879 people get the organs and tissues they need. But you can help meet that need. Here's how:

* Donate your organs. Learn how to become a donor and make sure that your wishes will be upheld. Make sure you tell to your family about your decision, and encourage them and others to become donors as well. Your organs and tissues can save and improve the lives of over 80 people!

* Promote organ donation in your community through speakers, brochures and other promotional materials. "Despite continuing advances in medicine and technology, the demand for organs drastically exceeds the number of organ donors. You can make the difference in someone's life by helping to increase organ donation."

* Donate time or money to the United Network for Organ Sharing, the National Donor Memorial, or the National Transplantation Resource Center. "Your gifts of money and time help save lives by supporting UNOS in educating the public about the critical need for organ and tissue donation. Every dollar of your tax-deductible contribution goes directly to programs aimed at increasing donation."

* Read donor stories at the National Donor Memorial. "Organ and tissue donors leave a miraculous legacy. They are living proof that death can bring life, that sorrow can turn to hope, and that a terrible loss can become the greatest gift of all. Every day they lead us on a journey of hope, renewal, and transformation."

Thoughtfully, prayerfully, consider all the ways you can donate life: blood (every 56 days), platelets (every 3 days), bone marrow, and organs. It is such a meaningful way to make a difference.

"The main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand." - Thomas Carlyle

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Click now.

Several years ago, my mother's sorority chapter (Little Rock Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta) hosted a mobile mammogram service so that folks in their community would have greater access to mammogram screening for breast cancer. One of the many women tested, who happened to be a member of the organization, learned that she had breast cancer as a result of that screening. Because of early detection she was able to start treatment and extend her life.

Every day, you have the opportunity to make a similar contribution. The Breast Cancer Site donates free and low-cost mammograms to low-income women in exchange for your clicks. And since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, each click is tripled. So far there have only been enough clicks for 408 mammograms. Click now to help them meet the goal of 750 mammograms.

It takes less than 10 seconds to click the big pink button. Click daily, and give some woman peace of mind or help her get a head start on treating the cancer. Want to spread the word? Use the white envelop below to send this information to your friends. It's such a simple way to make a difference.

Don't forget, women over 40 should have a mammogram every year. Won't you help someone make the appointment that could save her life? Click now, click daily.

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." - Aristotle

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Be bioethical.

Later this week, the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities will hold its annual meeting. Bioethicists ask and try to answer or solve the often difficult moral and ethical questions and dilemmas arising from the practice of medicine and life sciences research. When I ask people about bioethics, they often think of the hot button issues like human cloning, stem cells, and euthanasia/physician-assisted suicide. But there are lots of other issues that bioethicists study. Consider health care access, research priorities, health disparities, suffering, and justice (this year's ASBH theme).

Here are a few issues bioethicists are tackling, and some ways you may choose to respond:

***Issue: The shortage of donated organs leads to long transplant waiting lists and difficultly deciding who will receive scarce organs.
Response: Donate life. You may be able to donate blood (every 56 days), platelets (every 3 days), bone marrow, organs, or umbilical cord blood. Talk with your family about your decisions and call 1-800-GIVE-LIFE or 1-888-USBLOOD to find a blood donation center near you.

***Issue: Development and testing of new drugs, medical equipment and medical treatments requires voluntary participation in research and clinical trials.
Response: Support and participate in research programs. Learn more about the purpose of biomedical research, and clinical trials, and decide whether you want to be a subject. You may or may not receive direct medical benefits but you will help improve medical care. If you choose not to participate, you may want to support research programs financially.

***Issue: End-of-life care and decision-making can be difficult and contentious given complicated medical, familial and legal environments.
Response: Get a living will. This legal document makes clear your wishes about certain aspects of your own end-of-life care, and will help your family, your physicians (and the courts) make decisions about your care that, ideally, respect your wishes. Make sure you talk with your family about your decisions.

***Issue: Health care workers need to respect the privacy of their patients while protecting public health, but doing both is not always possible.
Response: Get tested for sexually transmitted diseases and other communicable diseases for which you are at risk. Get counseling so that you understand how the results will impact you, your family, your loved-ones, and others. Act responsibly.

If these topics pique your interest, you may want to learn more about bioethics, moral reasoning and decision-making in health care and research in today's world. To start, check out the Women's Bioethics Project, the Tuskegee National Center for Bioethics, the Center for American Progress' discussion on progressive bioethics, and the American Journal of Bioethics.

And remember that many other issues, like violence, hunger, homelessness, environmental damage, economic injustice, prejudice and more, are involved in health care and biomedical research decision-making. So consider the ethical and bioethical implications of your actions, then revise them as necessary. It's the right thing to do.

"Old bioethicists never die, they just lose autonomy." - Karama Neal, bioethicist and writer

Monday, October 17, 2005

Make a difference today.

So what can I do readers are all about making a difference, so October 22 is the day for us! This Saturday is Make a Difference Day. Here are some ways you can get involved in this "national day of doing good":

* Find a project in your area. Volunteers are needed all over the country to all kinds of work. You're sure to find something you'll enjoy.

* Organize a project to make a difference in your community. You can find numerous ways to contribute as an individual organizer or as part of a non-profit.

* Learn more at, or contact the organizers at 1-800-416-3824 or

But don't let your good works end on October 22. Check out the archives of So what can I do, to find ways to incorporate service into your life every day. You can make a difference today!

"You can't do anything about the length of your life, but you can do something about its width and depth." -H.L. Mencken, writer, editor, and critic (1880-1956)

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Choose your methods.

Although you wouldn't know it by your TV news, the genocide in Sudan is still going on. After all this time, people are still being killed. (Five hundred people yesterday. Five hundred people today. Unfortunately, five hundred more people will die tomorrow.) People are still being raped. (Women and girls are very vulnerable.) People are still hungry and displaced. (Over 2.5 million people, so far.) Although the problem is large and severe, we are not helpless. Thankfully, there is hope. Here are just a few of the ways you can help.

Choose your methods:

* Learn more about what's happening in Sudan. Consider the Genocide Intervention Fund and Let others know what you've learned and encourage them to act.

* Divest from the Khartoum government. Do you want your money to support an unjust and murderous regime?

* Support relief organizations that are working to ease the suffering. Many of these organizations work in Sudan with internally displaced people, and also with refugees in Chad and elsewhere. Consider CARE, Mercy Corps and Doctors Without Borders.

* Assist Sudanese refugees in the US. These folks know a lot about the situation in their home country and may be well-positioned to help friends and relatives there.

* Write a letter of concern to your elected officials. Let them know that the crisis in Sudan matters to you and matters to all of us. Encourage your President, senators and representatives to allocate money and other resources to ending the genocide and brutality in Sudan.

* Send a letter to the television networks asking them to improve their coverage of Sudan. The more people know about what's going on in Sudan, the more likely they are to act to end it.

Years from now, when someone asks where you were during the Darfur genocide, what you did to end it, how you helped your brothers and sisters who were in danger, what will you say? Act now. End genocide, forever.

"To think is easy.  To act is hard.  But the hardest thing in the world is to act in accordance with your thinking." - Goethe

Friday, October 14, 2005

Swim against malaria.

Three thousand children die each day from malaria. But with the help of a $5 long-lasting treated mosquito net, malaria can be prevented. World Swim for Malaria is organizing to make sure families get those nets.

On Saturday, December 3, 2005, they hope to have 1,000,000 people swimming to raise money for the nets."100% of the money raised buys mosquito nets. Millions of them. And every net matters." Here's how you can contribute:

* Get a group of friends together, start raising money, and get ready to swim. 225,005 people have already signed up. You don't have to swim on the third, and the distance and number in your group don't matter. Just register your swim, and do what you can to make a difference in a child's life.

* Sponsor a swimmer in your area or across the world.

* Learn more about malaria and the other ways you can support research, prevention, and treatment.

If you could prevent even one child from dying would you do so? Now you can swim not only for your health, but for someone else's as well. So get out your swimsuit/trunks, or get out your checkbook, and make a difference!

Information on the World Swim is available in English, 日本語, Dutch, Français, Español, Português, Deutsch , Ελληνικά , 中文 (简体字), and Italiano.

"For anyone addicted to reading commonplace books ... finding a good new one is much like enduring a familiar recurrence of malaria, with fever, fits of shaking, strange dreams. Unlike a truly paludismic ordeal, however, the symptoms felt while savoring a collection of one man’s pet quotations are voluptuously enjoyable." - M.F.K. Fisher (1908–1992), U.S. culinary writer and autobiographer.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Fight fires.

Candle fires. Chimney fires. Heating fires. Arson. Wildfires. All of these can cause damage to life, health and property. Fire kills more Americans than all natural disasters combined. 83% of civilian fire-related deaths occurred in the home. And civilians aren't the only ones who bear the burden. In 2004, 117 firefighters were killed while on duty.

October 9-15 is National Fire Prevention Week. You already know many of the things you can do to practice fire safety. Here are a few:

* Make sure smoke detectors are properly installed and maintained. (Check the batteries when we fall back, October 30th.)
* Develop and practice a home fire escape plan.
* Use candles safely. (That's this year's theme.)
* Practice safe smoking (DON'T SMOKE!), safe cooking, and safe heating.

That will help you. But what about everyone else? Consider becoming a volunteer firefighter. Swarthmore, PA has a volunteer fire department and several of my collegemates were firefighters. Whether it was day or night, whether they were in class, at a party, or asleep in their dorm rooms, when the siren sounded, these dedicated and brave students (male and female, large and petite, of all ethnicities) would rush down the hill to the headquarters to risk their lives while serving their community, all without pay. I have the utmost respect for them.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer firefighter, consider these resources:

--> The National Volunteer Fire Council is "a non-profit membership association representing the interests of the volunteer fire, EMS and rescue services. The NVFC serves as the information source regarding legislation, standards and regulatory issues." They operate a national recruitment campaign. Call 1-800-FIRE-LINE to learn more.

--> The US Fire Administration provides "training and educational opportunities for the Fire Service and allied organizations . Also available are fire statistics, public fire education campaign materials, and information on funding opportunities." They also offer a Volunteer Incentive Program, maintain a list of fire-safe hotels and provide information on home fire safety.

--> provides "a place for volunteer firefighters to come and share information with their fellow 'unpaid professionals'. is strictly for volunteer and combination departments and is built to address the unique issues that all volunteer departments share."

Thank you to all the firefighters and other emergency personnel that help keep us safe, paid and volunteer. Be careful.

"People are tested by wealth, just as gold is tested by fire." - Chinese proverb

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Be a good corporate citizen.

Some folks think that running a profitable business is incompatible with running a socially-responsible business. NoSweat, Starbucks, Ben and Jerry's, and many more corporations prove that that is not true.

Nowadays there are numerous resources available to those who want to run a socially-responsible and profitable business. Here are just a few:

* Net Impact "is a network of more than 12,000 new-generation leaders committed to using the power of business to improve the world." They're hosting a conference for business students and others in November.

* Worthwhile Magazine promotes "Work with purpose, passion and profit." Their editorial mission is "to put purpose and passion on the same plane as profit. WORTHWHILE offers a roadmap for business success that is more personally fulfilling and socially responsible."

* Business for Social Responsibility is a nonprofit "global organization that helps member companies achieve success in ways that respect ethical values, people, communities and the environment. BSR provides information, tools, training and advisory services to make corporate social responsibility an integral part of business operations and strategies".

* Business Ethics is "the magazine for corporate responsibility." Their website has a wonderful list of resources for those interested in "progressive business and investing."

* And if you don't have your own business (or even if you do), consider investing in socially responsible businesses so that you can support their good work, while you make money for yourself.

How do you treat your employees? How much does your enterprise pollute the environment? Are your business practices economically just? Consider all the ways you can make your organization more socially responsible. It's just good business.

"No smoke, no mirrors, no tricks: just right down the middle of the field. That’s John Deere." - Robert W. Lane, chairman and CEO of Deere & Company, makers of farm equipment.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Join the anniversary commentathon!

So what can I do is a year old today! We're having a party and you're invited. All you have to do is leave a comment.

For the first 236 comments on this post received between October 6 and October 12, I'll make a charitable donation of 50 cents per comment. Your comment will make a difference in someone's life. Why those numbers? This is the 236th post. The first post was on October 6, 2004 and the blog was officially launched on October 12, 2004.

So click the comment link and give a shout out to your friends. Challenge them to leave a comment too. Found a fun way to serve? Let us know about it. Tell us about your experience using one of the ideas. Wish us a happy birthday. Write a socially-conscious haiku. Anything will do, just leave a comment.

The donation will be split between the following three nonprofits:

* Nyaka AIDS Orphans School in Uganda "provides quality, free education and extracurricular activities, both formal and informal, to children who have been orphaned due to HIV/AIDS as a means to counteract pervasive hunger, poverty, and systemic deprivation."

* Potluck Food Rescue for Arkansas has a mission "to alleviate hunger by bridging the gap between excess food and the hungry." They do so by "rescuing hundreds of tons of nutritious and appealing, excess, un-served food — which otherwise would be discarded — but is used instead to provide hundreds of thousands of meals for hungry men, women and children."

* MedShare International is a Georgia-based nonprofit "dedicated to recycling surplus medical supplied and equipment for use by healthcare institutions in developing countries." Their work not only improves health care across the world, but also reduces the environmental impact of medical waste in the US.

It's been such a joy to write So what can I do. The wonderful work I read and write about inspires me, and keeps me upbeat, positive and hopeful. It's hard to complain when I know there are over 236 ways I could better use my energy. Instead of yelling at the politicians on TV, I write them a letter. Instead of wondering about when there'll be a cure for leukemia, I signed up to be a marrow donor. Instead of complaining about environmental racism, I recylce and spend an occasional Saturday at MedShare.

So what can I do has truly blessed my life, as I hope it has yours. I can't wait for year two! Thanks for reading and spreading the word, and thanks for your comments!

"Be the change you want to see in the world" - Mohandas Ghandi

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Take back the night.

In the US, a woman is beaten every 15 seconds by her husband or parter. Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44 in the United States; more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined. 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men in the United States has experienced an attempted or completed rape at some time in their lives. That means you or someone you know.

Even before the first Take Back the Night gatherings, women and men have marched, rallied, and protested to increase women's safety in and out their homes, during the day and at night. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a perfect time take back the night.

Here's how you can help make the world safer for your mothers, daughters, sisters, cousins, aunts, friends, neighbors and fellow human beings:

--> If you are a survivor of sexual assault and need help, call the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) at 1-800-656-HOPE (1-800-656-4673). You can call from anywhere in the US, and free and confidential counseling is available 24 hours a day.

--> If something about your relationship with your partner scares you and you need to talk, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY). Fax: 512-453-8541 Address: PO Box 161810, Austin, Texas 78716.

* Do the personal work of examining your own belief systems and behavior to learn how you may contribute to social and institutional practices that condone sexual violence. Consider the words you use, the music you listen to, the 'jokes' you laugh at. If you are uncomfortable with the the answers you find, GET HELP.

* Donate financially to your local women's safehouse (shelter) or men's support group. The National Domestic Violence Hotline website lists domestic violence agencies in each state, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

* Volunteer your time to an organization that seeks to end domestic violence. Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 512/453-8117 or to find a volunteer opportunity in your area.

* Donate supplies to your local safehouse. These homes away from home are always in need of things like towels, toiletries, sheets, kitchen supplies and the like. Children's necessities for home and school are also needed.

* Donate a phone. "Through the collection of deactivated cell and wireless phones, an important tool has been provided for victims of domestic violence who may encounter emergency situations. The lifeline provided by donated phones has literally saved lives." Donations are tax deductible. Send your phone, charger and battery to
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
P.O. Box 18749
Denver, CO 80218
303-839-1852, x105

For more ideas, check out NCADV. You CAN make a difference. Please, act now.

"The voice of conscience is so delicate that it is easy to stifle it; but it is also so clear that it is impossible to mistake it." -Madame De Stael, writer (1766-1817)

Monday, October 03, 2005

Stop breast cancer.

Every 13 minutes someone dies from breast cancer. But when it's detected early, it can often be cured before it kills. October, Breast Cancer Awareness month, is a great time to spread the word about preventing, detecting, and treating breast cancer. Here's how you can help yourself and others:

--> Start testing.. Women should do a breast self-exam each month, about a week after their period ends. If you don't have a period, the just do it once a month. Early detection saves lives.

--> Start scanning. Women over age 40 should get a mammogram every 1-2 years. Schedule one with your physician today. Early detection saves lives.

--> Start clicking. Each time you click the big pink button at, you will help low-income women get free mammogram. Click now. Click daily.

--> Start moving. The Susan G. Komen Foundation sponsors over 100 walks, runs and races to raise money for breast cancer research. Get some exercise and do some good while you participate in the Breast Cancer 3-Day and the Race for the Cure.

Do what you can to fight breast cancer, not only in October, but every day.

"Truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it." -Flannery O'Connor, writer (1925-1964)

Saturday, October 01, 2005


I can hardly believe it's fall, and yet, October is already here. Time flies . . . Anyway, Halloween is just a few weeks away, so I thought I post on two great ways to trick-or-treat. You'll have fun, get some treats and do a lot of good for a lot of people. Here's how:

* Trick-or-treat for Sight Night and collect used glasses that will be recycled "for our international missions to developing countries" The Lions Club and Luxottica Retail, which sponsor the event, "will travel on 12 international missions, where they will work with Lions clubs to hand-deliver free eye exams and used glasses to more than 200,000 people in developing countries."

--> Call SightNight toll-free at 1-877-605-4242 for more information or to order your free collection kit.
--> Download collection materials here
--> Order your free collection kit here.

* Trick-or-treat for UNICEF and be a part of a 55-year tradition of helping children worldwide. Collect monetary donations that will save and improve lives. For example, "30¢ provides lifesaving antibiotics for a child suffering from pneumonia. $1 immunizes a child against the deadly disease measles. $10 provides enough high-protein biscuits to feed three hungry children for one month."

--> Call UNICEF toll-free at 1.800.4UNICEF for more information or to order your free collection kit.
--> Download collection materials here
--> Order your free collection kit here.
--> Send a free Halloween ecard to spread the word about about the good work UNICEF is doing.

Order your kits now so that you'll be ready for Halloween. Have fun!!

"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who matter don't mind, and those that mind don't matter!" - Dr. Seuss (Theodore Giesel)