Succulent Ideas …Floral Friday

The shapes, forms, and colors of succulent plants have interested us for years. Whether it’s a cactus, echeveria, or sempervivum, there’s something about this type of plant that is visually appealing.

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I like to use cacti and other succulents in creative dish or planter arrangements with other elements. It’s fun to combine them with artificial elements to express new visual effects. The combinations also solve the practical problem of different water requirements for elements within the same container.

I came across a Southwest themed pot and shape the other day at the Goodwill store. The tall, odd shaped ceramic object is what captured my attention. Somebody had attached a bit of cloth that looks like a bandanna. The absurd shape reminds me of the Gumby annimation films. I used the widget as the central feature in combination with a small cactus and some small, miscellaneous items for a whimsical arrangement.

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A 1940s vintage green serving dish is the home for a pair of pink succulents and a cactus. Two artificial accents soften the arrangement and act as framing elements for the composition.

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A long, old Frankoma planter doesn’t get used very often because it’s hard to find a need for the thing. I did find out that it makes a perfect base for one of my succulent creations. This enabled a surreal combination of succulents and plastics within an organic stoneware environment.

These are just a few idea starters to kick-start your own weekend project.

Ciao
FF103114dThe Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Erich Fromm. “Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.”

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Rjukan Sees The Light

Rjukan is a picturesque small town west of Oslo in southern Norway. The town has a short, but technologically interesting history. The name is pronounced, “ryou-kahn”. Rjukan-map

A new chemical method to produce nitrogen based artificial fertilizers was developed by Norwegian chemist Kristian Birkeland. The method required strong electrical current and voltage. The company, Norsk hydro-elekrisk Kvælstofaktieselskab (Norwegian hydro-electric nitrogen limited) was founded in 1905 to utilize the new process. To generate power, Norsk Hydro constructed hydro plants at waterfalls.

In 1911, the company opened their second hydro plant at the Rjukanfossen, a 104-metre (341-feet) tall waterfall. The establishment of the plant enabled the founding of the town of Rjukan. Soon about 12,000 laborers from Denmark, Finland, and Sweden, plus the Norwegian workforce, inhabited Rjukan to work in the nitrogen-saltpetre manufacturing facilities.

Norsk Hydro constructed the world’s largest hydro-generating plant (at the time) in 1934 at the falls. The new plant was built in conjunction with a hydrogen factory. It was later determined by Nobel Prize winner, Odd Hassel, that the machinery was producing “heavy water” as a by-product of hydrogen production. Heavy water was important as a component of early nuclear energy research. It is still used in some types of reactors.

Norsk Hydro was taken over by the Nazi Germany occupation forces in World War Two. Hence, the Rjukan plant was the target of sabotage by the Norwegian underground resistance and allied military.

During the 1960s, fertilizer production was phased out of Rjukan and transferred to another Norsk Hydro plant elsewhere in Norway. Town leaders then worked to expand the tourism industry for the area. The waterfall is a famous landmark, and the surrounding mountains are popular for skiers and hikers.

Because Rjukan was built at the bottom of a deep valley, the town does not receive natural, direct sunshine between September and March. Tall mountains surround Rjukan and block direct sunlight from reaching the residents. Back in the day, Norsk Hydro engineer, Sam Eyde, worried that his workers were not getting enough healthy exposure to sunlight during the winter months.

One of his employees suggested that mirrors be placed atop one of the mountains to reflect sunlight into the town. The technology, at the time, was not practical nor even available for the project. To help the town’s residents, the company, instead, constructed a cable car to bring people to the top of a mountain for their rations of sunlight.

The idea of reflecting sunlight into Rjukan didn’t entirely go away. Town leaders found out that a small Italian village experienced the same problem because of its location in a deep valley. The people of Viganella had successfully implemented a series of mirrors to bring direct light into view. Rjukan sent a delegation to Italy, in 2006, to study the technology and its impact on the villagers. After five years of discussion, the Rjukan council decided to build the mirror complex of their own.Rjukan-Mirrors

The design includes three very large mirror panels attached to moveable mounts that track solar movement to align reflected light towards Rjukan’s town center. The result is a large patch of light that people can easily access.

The heliostatic mirrors mimick the natural movement of sunflowers through mechanical means. Sensors detect the path of the sun and feed Rjukan-unveilingthe data to a computer that determines the necessary angles to reflect the light to town. The power for the servo-motors and computer is provided by solar and wind power. There is also equipment to automatically wash the mirrors when needed.

The heliostatic system was hoisted into place by helicopter last summer. The mechanisms and guidance were tested for accuracy and reliability. On October 30, 2013, the mirror system was unveiled and activated. About 1,000 residents were present near the main square as the patch of light appeared. Celebrants enjoyed games of beach volleyball. Other folks simply enjoyed the new sunshine in lounge chairs while sporting their sunglasses.

adjø
Rjukan-NorwayFlagThe Blue Jay of Happiness quotes former Norwegian Prime Minister, Kjell Magne Bondevik. “We have to find compromises. That’s the way it is in Norway.”

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National Hermit Day

I met Yves at the funeral of a friend six years ago. He was the first self-identified hermit I’d ever come across. (Most solitary people do not label themselves as such.) He was affiliated with the monastery, Saint-Benoît HermitDay-logode Nursie of Montréal, Canada. I’m glad I met him. It’s too bad the nature of the social gathering was not conducive to the sort of in depth conversation I like to have with contemplatives.

One of the first qualities of Yves I noticed was that he didn’t fit the popular stereotype of how we think hermits behave. He was quite gregarious and cheerful. His overall aura could be described with the antique word “mirth”.  Although he was Roman Catholic by faith, he more closely resembled the Dalai Lama in his behavior.

Yves said he would have spent most of his life in a cave, except that he couldn’t locate any vacant caves for rent around Montréal. Instead, he lived a solitary life with other men living their own solitary lives in the monastery. Yves said that becoming a hermit was not a struggle to him at all.  He confessed that he’d been typecast as a loner ever since boyhood. He said he just happened to fall in with the right crowd who allowed him to be himself.

Yves told me that being a hermit is nothing special. Most of them are naturally disposed to be that way. There is usually a strong urge to be alone to explore one’s inner nature and become more in tune with one’sHermitDay-tarot heart and whatever the person’s concept of God may be. Renunciation of preconceptions and opinions came easily to Yves, because he could see the superficiality of such concepts. He said that a person doesn’t need to be Catholic to be a hermit. Hermits exist as believers and non-believers, alike.

People who actively choose a solitary lifestyle or those who think of themselves as hermits are the underdogs of society.  In our world of hyper-social networking, many experts would have us believe that there is something fundamentally “wrong” with wanting to live apart from others. This assessment is a far cry from the truth.

People who embrace a solitary lifestyle simply dislike most of the distractions and complexity of society. If it is possible, a hermit would rather live away from civilization in silence. Hermits are often found in urban settings. They may live happily alone in an apartment, where they are free to focus on the ebb and flow of life. Surrounded by the sounds of a city, silence is metaphorical, not actual. The solitary seeker lives beyond the egotistical yearnings of socialites.  She finds contentment in her solitary wanderings through the crowded streets and freeways of a metropolis.

Today’s hermit can embody any of several lifestyle differentiations. The self-imposed “exile” allows the mind to connect with the “deeper” aspects of life that are incomprehensible to the average citizen. The hermit, may simply wish to be her/himself, or to gain some version of “spiritual” enlightenment.

You might know a musician or artist who goes into seclusion for days or weeks at a time. When she emerges from solitude, there might be the manifestation of songs, writings, or visual art. What would appear to be “quiet time”, is actually a busy, living time in the mind of a creative hermit. As they indulge in a late-night drive in the country, a long walk in nature, or a retreat to their apartments, their creative juices are flowing and mixing together. When the situation is perfect, an epiphany flashes into consciousness. Physical manifestation ensues.

There are other folks who just want to be left alone. They may HermitDay-hermitcrabexperience an overarching impatience with people. They’re sensitive to the violation of their personal space and peace being disturbed. When their fellow humans express misunderstandings of the needs of the hermit, the solitary soul will seem to be grouchy and anti-social.

These days, a person must be careful in his hermitage.  Neighbors, or worse yet, law officers might misinterpret solitude for sullen anti-social behavior. The NSA and police may mistake a hermit for a terrorist. There is a world of difference between the two. The hermit aims to improve his own life and often the lives of others in positive, peaceful ways. The terrorist is deluded into thinking that killing and destruction improve society.

The hermit should be left alone. He is not being anti-social, he’s more often pro-social. In his retreat from the hustle and hype of the modern world, he only wants to turn inward to think, meditate, and feel the richness and fullness of life.  Through her or his example, the hermit might influence others to enjoy the luxury of the expansion of space and time that can unlock the riches of inner life and joy.

Anyone can be a hermit for a day or a lifetime. There are no special qualifications nor talent required. Anybody can choose to indulge in solitude instead of activating the fear of aloneness. Instead of feeling abandoned and let down by the expectations of other people or social pressures, the hermit is happy to enjoy being himself. The realization comes that it’s futile to try too hard to please others. It’s healthier to step back to accept the world as it is and yourself as you are.

What is most surprising to most people, is the discovery that living a solitary life can be the most adventurous lifestyle of all, if that is what the hermit wants. Allowing one’s “inner hermit” to shine through, can eventually enable more positive interactions with society.

I was lucky to get a glimpse of the well-balanced life of a hermit when I met Yves during that auspicious afternoon at a funeral celebration of life.

Happy National Hermit Day.

Ciao
moi1988bThe Blue Jay of Happiness stumbled across a pithy quote from Alan Watts. “…I’ll tell you what hermits realize. If you go off into a far, far forest and get very quiet, you’ll come to understand that you’re connected with everything.”

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The ALCAN Highway Is Finished

An acquaintance of dad’s and mine drives his Prius to Alaska every other year. As far as I can tell, the only reason he does so, is because it is possible. Roger is not the average tourist, who goes camping or sight-seeing. He’s only shot a handful of photographs. Roger is only interested in driving from Nebraska to Alaska and then returning.

Some people say Roger became an eccentric after a serious car wreck many years ago. Others say that he was awarded a small fortune from the insurance settlement. There’s probably some truth to the gossip, but I’ve never been able to get him to talk about that part of his life. All I know is that he likes to drive to Alaska via the ALCAN Highway.

ALCANHwy-map

The ALCAN Highway, or Alaskan Highway, or Alaska-Canadian Highway is one of those projects that was built by sheer US assertiveness. The ALCAN Highway history intersects with the histories of Canada, the United States, World War Two, and the profession of civil engineering.

In the early 20th Century, Alaska had only recently attained official Territorial status in 1912. It had previously been a District, administered by the US military. The vast wilderness of the Territory was uncharted and the living was difficult.  Those who lived or traveled there depended upon trappers, bush-pilots, and first nation people as guides. There were only two regional railroads that provided the only mechanized
land transportation aside from riverboats.

Less than 50,000 people occupied the Territory, which is about a fifth of North America. Less than half of those people were white settlers who had migrated during the gold rushes of the 1800s. The rest of the population was comprised of first nation people, including Inuits, Eskimos, Aleuts, and others.  Because of the sparse population, Alaska Territory remained mostly wilderness. The few roads were unpaved dirt and mud paths. Modern water and sewer systems were non-existent.

Even though Alaska had recently been a military District, the territory had very few defenses. Its most vulnerable area was the Aleutian Island chain. The small, makeshift base was run by the US Army Signal Corps.

The first real proposal for a road to Alaska was a 1920s pipe -dream of U.S. Bureau of Public Roads director Thomas MacDonald. Since most of the road would be in Canada, Canadian official support was mandatory. The British overseers and Canadian government felt that there was no benefit to Canada from such a road. Funding was impossible due to the Great Depression’s impact on the economy. The idea was shelved.

There were also concerns that if the US became involved in any war, that a road through Canada would prevent the possibility of Canadian neutrality. However, during British King Edward’s visit to Washington D.C. in 1937, President Franklin Roosevelt suggested that a highway to Alaska would be important as a part of the larger defense of the British Dominion’s interests in North America. FDR wanted a road built as soon as possible.

The onset of World War Two in Europe ended British, and, in turn, Canadian thoughts of neutrality. The Axis alliance with Japan and the US entry into the war, following the Pearl Harbor attack, made defense of Alaska and the west coasts of Canada and the US, imperative.ALCANHwy-postcard

In February of 1942 construction of the ALCAN Highway was approved by the US Congress and FDR. Canadian officials agreed to construction as long as the US covered the full costs, and that the road be relinquished to Canadian sovereignty, after the war.

The objective was primarily military in nature. The entire route from Prince George, British Columbia to Fairbanks, Alaska, was for a “pioneer road” to be completed as quickly as the troops could finish the job. Any refinements could be undertaken if additional time was available. The goal, for completion, was Autumn of 1942.

Survey crews were deployed right away, in February. Aerial photography and local residents helped the engineers map out the route. Seven construction engineer regiments were assigned at different points on the route. They were each responsible for building a 350-mile section of roadway. The route was determined by the need to link the airfields that sent lend-lease aircraft from the US to the Soviet allies.

The 93rd, 95th, and 97th regiments were African-American in makeup. Alaska defense chief, Brigadier General Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr. attempted to bar them from his area of command.  Buckner was the son of a Confederate Army general. His objections supposedly centered around possible “trouble” between the African-Americans and the native Canadian peoples. To placate General Buckner, the three regiments were stationed apart from any settlements.

Physical construction of the road commenced on March 8, 1942 under the command of Corps of Engineers Brigadier General William Hoge. His troops worked through the most extreme conditions. Winter temperatures dipped to minus 70 Fahrenheit. When the weather warmed in late spring and summer, mosquitoes and other biting insects made work even more miserable. General Hoge once told reporters that by the time you got food on your spoon and raised the mosquito net to reach your mouth, the food was covered with insects. Troops couldn’t help but eat mosquitoes with their chow.

The US Army took over equipment like railroads and riverboats.  They lived in prefab housing originally intended for use in California. The engineers had to develop new ways to build through fragile wilderness and permafrost. Methods used on conventional roads had to be re-thought or disregarded altogether. Building roadway through frozen marshes, presented new challenges.

The primitive road was completed on schedule. The last work finished ALCANHwy-01on October 28, 1942. The official celebration ceremony took place, and broadcast by radio, almost a month later, on November 21st. The onset of severe winter weather conditions prevented use by general army vehicles until the next year.

Allied progress against the Japanese, eased the imminent threat of an Axis invasion of Alaska and Canada. So further contracts were not awarded to contractors for highway upgrades.

At the conclusion of hostilities with Japan, it came time to turn over the route to Canadian authority. The original documents required that the Canadian stretch of road must be relinquished within six months from war’s end. On April 1, 1946, the US Army officially transferred the British Columbia and Yukon Territory stretches over to the Canadian Army’s command.

The US stretch of road was improved to gravel surface during the late 1950s and 1960s. Meantime, the B.C. and Yukon stretches were totally paved with a rocky aggregate spread with sprayed on asphalt emulsion, smoothed out by mechanical roller vehicles.

Today, the British Columbia provincial government owns 133 kilometres (82.7 miles) of the road. Public Works Canada manages the rest of the road through Yukon Territory. The State of Alaska owns the remainder of the highway within its state borders.

Perhaps it’s the history of the ALCAN Highway that fuels Roger’s obsession with his regular trips north? He won’t say.

Ciao
ALCANHwy-iconThe Blue Jay of Happiness wonders about this obscure James Allen highway quotation. “The man who cannot endure to have his errors and shortcomings brought to the surface and made known, but tries to hide them, is unfit to walk the highway of truth.”

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It’s Navy Day

NavyDay-poster
Like many families, mine has a history of men and women serving in the armed forces. My dad and several great uncles served in the Army, another uncle was in the Air Force, a second cousin served as a Marine, and some first cousins were in the Navy. In fact, one of my cousins is currently serving in the USN and is stationed in San Diego. If I would have been allowed to serve in the services, my choice was the US Navy, too.

One of my former coworkers, who passed away three years ago, was a Petty Officer,  Third Class on board the famous USS Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier, the second American ship by that name.  During coffee break time, Craig told us about life on the ship during the last years of the Vietnam war. His responsibilities included support work during nighttime sorties. He was one of the mechanics who worked on A-7 Corsair jet fighters.

USS Essex (current photo)

USS Essex (current photo)

Craig was very humble about his stint as a sailor. He claimed he was just an ordinary sailor doing what he was ordered to do. He said his life was never in dire, hazardous danger. Craig attributed his time in the Navy as helping him grow up and expand his world-view. It was the first time in his life that he had been in close quarters with whites and had
actually befriended many.

He said he felt left out of the social revolution of the 1960s and early 70s. The Kitty Hawk was at sea during the “Summer of Love” in California. A part of him deeply wanted to be a hippie like Jimi Hendrix. In the end, he was glad to be a part of the Navy’s ship culture. He and his shipmates were quite naive. Everyone was a close-knit family. They learned to work together and many had to invent solutions to problems that come in wartime.

Craig affirmed the legends about drinking and cursing sailors. He said Vietnam era sailors prided themselves in their rowdy, hard-drinking behavior. He said, he was just a scared kid, in a terrible situation. The bad behavior was just a way of letting off steam. Craig never regretted his Navy service, but he certainly didn’t brag about it, either. As the years ticked by, the Kitty Hawk stint seemed more like a “summer job”. He wanted to live in the present, not the past. NavyDay-sailors

A US Defense Department memo says that Navy Day was established on October 27, 1922 by the “Navy League”. The date was suggested by the league to recognize Theodore Roosevelt’s birthday. TR was a former Assistant Secretary of the Navy. He supported a strong Naval force, as well as the idea of a special Navy Day. Along with that, the date is the anniversary of the October 27, 1775 report authored by a special committee of the Continental Congress that advocated the purchase of
merchant ships to form the foundation of an American Navy.

The last federal celebration of Navy Day occurred in 1949.  After that, Secretary of Defense, Louis Johnson directed that the US Navy’s celebration should coincide with Armed Forces Day in May. That is not to say that the traditional Navy Day is not celebrated. The Navy League continues to keep the traditional holiday alive.

Ciao
NavyDay-iconThe Blue Jay of Happiness quotes USN (chaplain) Lieutenant Howell Forgy. He is reputed to have said this while serving aboard the USS New Orleans during the attack on Pearl Harbor.  “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.” The chaplain said this to the sailors as a way to provide moral support to them.

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Something About The Pony Express

The legends about the original Pony Express are legion and integral to the aura surrounding our ideas about life in the United States during the 19th Century. Most of us learned that the Pony Express was also very short-lived. We were told that the advent of telegraph service caused its end.

During the 1800s, the US was going through massive growing pains. Communication from the more established states of the eastern seaboard to the upstart territories of the West were sporadic or non-existent. Meantime, the Federal government was constitutionally charged with the responsibility of providing mail service to the nation.

After the conclusion of the Mexican-American War, vast new territories were opened up. The discovery of gold in California triggered the rapacious Forty Niners’ Gold Rush for wealth. There was suddenly a more urgent need for communication. Constitutionally mandated postal service to the West Coast was finally established in 1847.

Private contractors were hired by the government with costly subsidies. Stagecoach companies carried the mail through some of the most hostile and rugged terrain in the US territories.  A simple letter usually arrived three or four weeks after it was posted. For instance, along the “easier” southern route, overland coaches left Arkansas, drove through El Paso, Texas and Arizona Territory then finally to California. Powerful private interests funneled money into Washington to maintain their government contracts on the Southern Route. Does this seem familiar?

The area from Missouri and Iowa to California and Oregon Territory was the stuff of our Western Movies. Travel through the massive wilderness inhabited by Indians, trappers, and outlaws was difficult or impossible because of the harsh weather of the Great Plains. The only alternative to overland coach service was via ships that usually took over a month to arrive.

Not only did the settlers in Oregon Territory and California demand news from business and family connections in the East, but the political situation was heating up. More indications of a possible Civil War made it imperative that the gold-rich State of California remain in contact with northern powers. If the Southern States would secede, a Civil War would make the established southern stagecoach routes inaccessible to northern interests.

PonyExpress-Map-USParkSvc

A northern route was absolutely necessary to keep a link between the East and the West. Senator William Gwin of California proposed that the Federal Government provide overland mail service using a mounted horse relay. William Russell, a partner in the Russell, Majors & Waddell freight company smelled opportunity. Since the firm already shipped and provided passenger service from Missouri to Salt Lake City. Russell figured his company should provide the relay service, too. Russell, to the dismay of his partners, but with the support of Senator Gwin, committed to mail delivery via the northern route.

images are clickable

images are clickable

Deliveries were to begin in April of 1860. The service was to be simple, but not easy. The new Pony Express was structured around relays of men on horseback carrying saddlebags of mail along a trail of about 2,000 miles.

On April 3, 1860, the Pony Express officially commenced.  Riders simultaneously departed from Sacramento, California and St. Joseph, Missouri. The relay from California took eleven days and twelve hours. The relay from Missouri lasted nine days and 23 hours. The route was extremely dangerous, but during the lifetime of the Pony Express, only one relay was ever lost.

Soon, the Pony Express boasted of over 100 stations, around 80 horsemen, and nearly 500 horses. The mail was relayed once each week from both directions. The initial schedule lasted only about a month because many of the facilities between Carson City, Nevada and Salt Lake City were disabled during the Paiute Indian uprising in May of 1860. After the battles came to an end in July, mail service resumed and was increased to twice per week, each way. Average delivery time from St. Joseph to San Francisco was about nine days.

One of the most noteworthy and important relays was ridden in March of 1861. Civil War was almost a bygone conclusion, and California’s loyalty to the Union was not fully assured.  People on both coasts worried that the Golden State could align with the Confederacy at any time. Officials knew that the text of the new President’s Inaugural Address must reach California as soon as possible. Californians were deeply anxious about the attitude of Abraham Lincoln towards the pending national emergency.

Because of such importance, the Russell, Majors & Waddell Company made proactive preparations to expedite delivery of the Inaugural Address. Fresh relay horses were at the ready every ten miles on the route and hundreds of new riders were hired. On Inauguration Day, March 4, 1861, the entire text of Lincoln’s speech was telegraphed from Washington D.C. to the St. Joseph Pony Express office. Seven days and 17 hours later, the speech arrived at the Sacramento, California office. It was the quickest trip ever made by the riders of the Pony Express.

PonyExpress-letter

Even though people on the West Coast came to rely upon news relayed by the Pony Express in the early weeks of the Civil War, the company had never been a financial success. The extremely high business overhead and risks led Russell, Majors & Waddell to bankruptcy. The fiscal disaster, combined with the completion of the Pacific Telegraph line on October 24, 1861, meant the end of horse rider relays.

On October 26, 1861, Russell, Majors & Waddell officially announced that the Pony Express was to conclude operations.  The company had lost $200,000 by the end of service. Russell, Majors & Waddell only grossed $90,000, which was just short of the cost of buying the horses for the company.

Even though the Pony Express was only in existence for 19 months, the drama and legends have remained almost as strong today as they were back in the heyday of the messenger service. Those young, skinny, wiry fellows atop their speeding ponies are still alive in the imagination of the American past.

Ciao
PonyExpress-logoThe Blue Jay of Happiness relays a very short excerpt from Mark Twain’s Roughing It. “…Both rider and horse went ‘flying light.’ The rider’s dress was thin, and fitted close; he wore a ’round-about,’ and a skull-cap, and tucked his pantaloons into his boot-tops like a race-rider. He carried no arms–he carried nothing that was not absolutely necessary….”

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Make A Difference Day

MakeADifference-logo
I have two opinions about national special helping days. Certainly a day like today’s Make A Difference Day, can be the beginning of a new chapter in one’s life. It’s a good way to steer one’s compassionate instincts towards constructive activity. I also know that these kind of action days can be superficial. A person might believe that since she has helped in some way, on one day, that she has done her social share of volunteering for a year. Business interests get involved because charity is great public relations.

If a person can get beyond the superficial, cynical view of Make A Difference Day activities, that person can make a positive impact on life.

Certainly one day clean-up projects in public parks and roadsides are worthy of our time. They present opportunities to involve youth and the public at large in something that benefits the whole community. MakeADifference-imagePerhaps clean-up projects encourage the participants to refrain from littering in the future.

Canned food drives for the local food pantry present an opportunity to directly help the needy. Donors need to keep in mind that cleaning out the cupboard of exotic food purchase mistakes is not helpful. Food pantries need healthy basic, staple food, not some peculiar gourmet German mustard that will end up being discarded by the charity.

Some groups have book drives. I’m a bit skeptical of the value of these efforts. Again, donors tend to clear their shelves and attics of dull books and magazines that they couldn’t finish reading. With the advent of the Web, people can readily obtain reading material online. For the unconnected, people who want to read obtain material from public libraries. If you believe a book is awful, donate it to a thrift store or to a recycling center.

On a related note, I’ve often wondered what is up with used eyeglasses that are collected by the Lions Club. As an eyeglass wearer, I know that each pair of glasses is custom made for one individual. I cannot imagine how one pair of my old glasses could even be remotely helpful to another person.  There is also an issue with hygiene. Perhaps one of my readers belongs to the Lions Club and can inform me.

I do like the idea of groups holding community rummage and garage sales to raise funds for legitimate charities. As long as donors contribute gently used items and not worn out things from the basement, the fund-drive will greatly benefit. These are fine opportunities for students and community groups to socialize, too.

Today might be the day that you decide to finally volunteer for the long run. The community pages of the phone book lists volunteer organizations that provide practical, needed services in your own town. I MakeADifference-Carterlooked over the list in the Norfolk, Nebraska phone directory and noted dozens of excellent organizations. The best ones communicate with  people in need, so that our well-intended efforts are not misdirected or harmful.

Communication with those in need is probably one of the most important aspects of Make A Difference Day. This prevents people in need from having to accept unnecessary “help” from volunteers who will then resent interference from do-gooders.  Communication will also enable a team effort that includes the needy gladly working with volunteers on projects.

By all means, if we feel moved to participate in a one-day volunteer activity, today, we should follow up on that urge.  When we physically act to meaningfully benefit others, we benefit, too. Who knows? Maybe helping will become a habit.

Ciao
mini-moiThe Blue Jay of Happiness has a quote from Tom Brokaw. “It’s easy to make a buck. It’s a lot tougher to make a difference.”

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