Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Celebrate Juneteeth, end slavery.

Today is Juneteenth, my favorite holiday. It marks the "end" of slavery in the United States in 1865 and feels particularly relevant because is linked, at least peripherally, to my great-great-granddaddy, Griffin Henry Belk.

But one cannot honestly celebrate Juneteenth these days without recognizing the slavery is not over in the United States or elsewhere. Today there are more people enslaved than at any time in human history. Many of those enslaved are women and girls; many are in the United States.

I often wonder why so many people sat idly by while people enslaved other people like my great grandparents and great-great-grandparents. Many of those people knew slavery wasn't right, wasn't just, but they did nothing. How will history look at us during this time? What are we doing to end slavery?

Here are some things you can do:

* Learn more about human trafficking (slavery). There are numerous websites where you can get reliable information. Try the FBI, DHHS, DHHS, or the New York Times.

* Learn the indicators of modern slavery and report suspected trafficking. The Department of Homeland Security tells you how to do this.

* Get involved. There are numerous organizations dedicated to ending slavery in the US and around the world.

* Spread the word. Post on Facebook. Tweet. Blog. Talk with those you know about what you've learned. Encourage them to get involved.

If you do, perhaps history will look kindly upon us.

"In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free - honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth. Other means may succeed; this could not fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just - a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless." Abraham Lincoln's Second Annual Message to Congress, December 1, 1862.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Send a girl to school.

Happy International Women's Day! One great way to celebrate is to invest in the women of tomorrow and the communities they'll create. You can do that by helping send a girl-child to school.

According to CAMFED, "When you educate a girl in Africa, everything changes. She’ll be three times less likely to get HIV/AIDS, earn 25 percent more income and have a smaller, healthier family."

Consider supporting CAMFED as they help girls all over rural Africa pay school fees, purchase school books and uniforms, and get a life-changing education.

And if you'd like other ideas for today and everyday, check out the So What Can I Do archives.

Enjoy the day!

"It is very important for young people not to be afraid of engaging in areas that are not common to the youth. Get involved in local activities, get involved in local initiatives, be involved in leadership positions because you can’t learn unless you are involved. And if you make mistakes that is alright too because we all make mistakes and we learn from those mistakes. You gain confidence from learning, failing and rising again." - Wangari Maatai

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Sacrifice, save, serve.

Today is the first day of Lent and many Christians are giving up some luxury as a way of preparing for Easter and focusing their thoughts and prayers on Christ's sacrifice for us. If you are giving up something for Lent this year, and if that something costs money, consider donating your savings to a worthy local, national, or international service organization.

* If you're giving up pop for Lent, you could save and donate $30 to help a family use agriculture more self sufficient by supporting Heifer International (where I got this idea).

* If you're giving up desserts for Lent, you could save and donate $100 to help women and babies worldwide live through pregnancy and birth by supporting CARE.

* If you're giving up eating out for Lent, you can save $250 to help a family increase their income through microenterprise through supporting Microplace or Kiva.

Any amount helps your neighbors, your community, and our world. Search the archives of So What Can I Do for more giving ideas. Your sacrifice can not only strengthen your relationship with God, but also be a means of serving God's children.

Blessings to all!

Friday, January 06, 2012

Make it a day/life of service.

I remember one Martin Luther King day many years ago, when I was in grad school, that I spent in the lab. That wasn't too unusual because I generally went to the lab every day. But one of my colleagues (who was also working) asked me why I was in the lab on the King holiday. I replied that I thought Dr. King would want me to get my PhD.

I still think of the King Holiday as a day on rather than a day off, but now that I have finished school, I have a bit more time to be of service to others on that day. Readers of So What Can I Do are likely to feel the same, so I offer two resources to find local service projects for the King Holiday:

* Visit to find a service project in your area. Perhaps you'll prepare a vacant lot for a community garden or provide basic home repairs for a family or neighbor in need.

* Peruse the archives of So what can I do. Maybe you'll decide to donate blood (January is National Blood Donor Month) or sort products at a food bank or medical reclamation facility.

Most importantly don't let it be a just single day of service. Make a lasting commitment to make a read difference in our world. Happy birthday, Dr. King.

"He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8

EITC: Ask for it!

Tax time is upon us once again. You've got a couple of extra days this year - til April 17.

And here's another piece of good news: lots of folks, many of whom don't know it, will qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit. EITC can mean up to $5,751 in your pocket. That's money to pay bills, save for college or a downpayment on your home, or stash away for a rainy day. Find out if you're eligible or ask your tax preparer about it.

Remember you have to file a tax return (even if you're not required to or do not owe) in order to claim the EITC.

You've already earned it. Now go claim it.

"Next to being shot at and missed, nothing is really quite as satisfying as an income tax refund.” — F. J. Raymond, humorist