Do What You Can

Without love – you are nothing. Among the messages in Rev. Dr. Tony Campolo’s guest sermon today at Trinity Presbyterian Church was that no matter what else you have going on in your life, it’s love that will get you through the day – and your life. He also questioned why there is so little commitment today; why don’t we KEEP the promises we make? He says it’s because we IMG_0695 - Copyare weak. My belief is that we give up too easily – call it weak – call it lazy. We feel like making a commitment in the moment – and then we lose interest. Campolo told a great story about visiting Haiti following the earthquake that ravaged the nation. He was solicited by young girls offering themselves to him for $10 each. He took all three to his room, ordered all the Disney movies the hotel had (8) and called room service and ordered four extra-large banana splits. After the last girl had fallen asleep following hours of watching Disney movies and enjoying their ice cream party, he felt as though he had done nothing to really help IMG_0645 - CopyIMG_0687 - Copythese young girls who would be back out on the streets again finding men who would take advantage of them. But Campolo said whether it was his own voice or the voice of God inside him, he heard the message that he gave back the childhood of those three girls if only for one night. He did what he could.

We’ve heard the message a lot recently, especially since the Newtown, Connecticut tragedy: pay it forward; do one nice thing for someone else; if not every day – as often as you can. Do what you can – and the world will be a better place.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside- Think Warm-Think Earth Festival

It hasn’t been this cold in the Philadelphia region for about four years – and I don’t like it. Thinking about baseball might be where I normally wander off to – but this time, I’m thinking about April 27, 2013. The Cherry Hill Art Blooms Earth Festival Art Blooms Earth Day - Color - TEXT - Copytakes place at historic Croft Farm ( 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. – rain or shine). This is the fourth year Sustainable Cherry Hill is collaborating with Cherry Hill Township to put on this free event. We are also collaborating with the Cherry Hill School District to encourage as many of the district’s 17 schools – and any other schools throughout the South Jersey area – to participate. We’re welcoming creative art, science, math or any school project related to the earth and sustainability to be on display at the festival. The event is taking place rain or shine. We have an extremely creative media specialist – Ramona Bregatta – helping coordinate activities from within the schools. We’re talking about a fashion show with students wearing gently used clothing purchased on a budget at Goodwill or a store such as Plato’s EF2012_20120428_23 - CopyCloset (Maple Shade). Or perhaps a fashion show with clothing made from found itemsĀ  – ‘Trashin’ Fashin’ was the title tossed around at our planning meeting.

We are welcoming ‘green crafters’ – artists who are making items that are from materials sourced locally – or at least in the USA; we welcome businesses that focus on sustainable or resource-saving practices. We’ll have a recycling area – still under discussion; our Gardening Task Force is working on its second EF2012_20120428_03 - Copyplant exchange that will be bigger this year; the township will bring in compost so people can pick up plants along with a few shovels of compost for theĀ  garden. Springdale Farms is a return participant; Chimp Ade (benefits the Jane Goodall Foundation) and J-Dogs are scheduled to provide delicious – and healthy – food selections. It looks as though we will have a great moon bounce for the kids – always popular along with other activities that are family friendly which will go along with Mayor Chuck Cahn’s focus on the township’s wellness program.

EF2012_20120428_59 - CopyWe’ll have two entertainment stages with student groups performing throughout the day. Also, the local DG Band (easy listening) is scheduled to sing original tunes. All this happens as the township’s week-long Art Blooms event gets underway in the Croft Farm Art Center. Local and regional artists will have beautiful workEF2012_20120428_19 - Copys on display in competition and art-for-purchase.

To really warm everyone up and promote healthy and safe biking, the second Family Fun Bike Ride pedals off from Challenge Grove just across from Croft Farm at about 9 a.m. that morning. Sustainable Cherry Hill’s Way to Go Task Force is working with the township and police department on finalizing the route. It will be an easy ride to encourage all ages to participate.

If you are in the South Jersey-Philadelphia area and want to keep up with the plans for the Art Blooms Earth Festival, April 27th, go to www.sustainablecherryhill.org and click on ‘Earth Festival.’ You can also send in the information form below and I will send you information if you are interested in being a vendor, green crafter, food vendor, student entertainment group or you have a display appropriate for the family-friendly earth festival.

EF2012_20120428_99 - CopyAnd…since Sustainable Cherry Hill is a 501C3 non-profit organization and any funds we raise goes back into education and outreach, we are welcoming sponsors for our event. I can also send you the information about that when you fill out the contact form.

As I write this, I can feel the warm, power of the sun that (hopefully) will be shining on that Saturday. We have a lot of planning to do – and it’s so exciting to be part of this engaging – and free event that brings several thousand people out to historic Croft Farm.

Wake Up Sunshine

It’s amazing how much energy you seem to get once the sun comes out again. This week seemed to drag on with very dreary days; especially Wednesday and Thursday. Today, I was up and out by 8:30; attended a meeting; ran three separate errands, then got back to the house to continue work.

Now, I’d love to put my head down for a few minutes, but there is so little daylight, I feel as though I have to capitalize on the bright sunshine which seems to feed my brain and soul. So, more work continues until sunset this evening.

 

There is No Such Thing as Away – Finale

Sustainability goes on. There will be mid-course corrections in the process of getting communities, governments and individuals to understand that all our systems are connected. Sustainability is not just about the environment. As I’ve learned in the NJ Learns program, most people do not enter the sustainability topic from the environment. The topic is complex and can be messy; change happens slowly – almost excruciatingly slowly. Many baby steps lead to real change and understanding that steps taken now will preserve and conserve our society, resources, economy and all of the systems within for generations to come.

After about six months of off and on work to complete my practicum, I have ‘graduated’ from

NJ Learns certificate & reclaimed wood frame by Matt Ryan -One Man Gathers Studio.

NJ Learns certificate & reclaimed wood frame by Matt Ryan -One Man Gathers Studio.

the NJ Learns program. Today our cohort heard the final projects from the educators and community participants in our cohort. The enthusiasm, creativity and persistence among all of the participants is admirable. There is a second grade teacher who has the freedom in her classroom and school to teach sustainability across the curriculum. Students are planting gardens; inner city children are learning that their world has much more than the black top that surrounds their school; Boy Scouts are learning how they can cut energy by simply changing out light bulbs; a science teacher who embraced Green Apple Day and got his school on board is also now reclaiming wood and making frames, trays and other objects as a side business. Sustainability never ends. My project is continuing – working with Sustainable Cherry Hill, the Cherry Hill Schools and PTAs and people in the region who are learning that everything we do now affects our children’s future and their children’s future and so on. One big take-away for me is that “There is no such thing as away.” Think of that when you toss something ‘away’ in the trash. Over time, thinking changes – we all change – and for the better.

Watching Camden Up Close

Driving into Camden from the South Jersey suburbs brings home the thought that Sacred Heart Church’s Father Michael Doyle has pressed for many years: there are a thousands miles between the suburbs and Camden. When I heard Center for Transformation staffer Andrea Feirich and board president Mark Doorley talk about how Camden became cut off from the region when the Ben Franklin Bridge, Admiral Wilson Boulevard and 676 were constructed, it didn’t mean as much to me until today. My husband, son and I drove to help at the weekly dinner at Joe’s Place. The nondescript building across from Sacred Heart Church at Broadway and Jasper is in the heart of Waterfront South.

Once we turned left onto Broadway leaving Rutgers-Camden, Cooper Hospital and Campbell’s Soup in our rearview mirror, it was if we’d stepped into a war zone. There’d be a few decent homes or businesses on Broadway or a side street, then vacant sites or more likely, boarded up homes, business and buildings that probably won’t see attention for years. We passed what looked like a group of volunteers serving a meal right outside in a vacant lot. Once we parked and got to the St. Vincent de Paul Society building, we knocked on the locked door. Once Burt let us in, we were welcomed by Sheryl and John along with the other volunteers who have given of their time, their hearts and souls to the community. This was our first time, so we were glad to do whatever was needed to serve dinner and dessert to about 60 people from the community.

Precisely at 4 p.m. when the doors opened, the people appeared. Their faces showed a road map of hard life. Women and men came. Their clothes worn and torn. There were a few little girls with their young mother. One man had a very pleasant conversation with himself the entire time he was having dinner. But he looked me in the eyes and asked for his pie for dessert; then he went back to his seat to enjoy his dessert and continue his conversation. Except for one angry man, each person was so grateful for every bite they were offered. Many had two plates of food and two (or three desserts). It didn’t matter. Our hosts supplied the lovely meal. We were glad to serve and share a little of ourselves with others who have so little.

When we were leaving today, dinner was still going on at Joe’s Place. I was getting in the car when a man walking through the vacant field next to the building yelled, “It’s not over is it?” I realized he was a regular at Joe’s Place and yelled back, “No, of course not; there’s plenty left.” The big smile on his face led me to think this might be his only good meal of the day and maybe for the week. He was carrying a plastic grocery bag. I know he was going to be taking some leftovers with him.

We drove just 50 yards from our parking spot. Looking down the side street to my right was a drug deal happening before my eyes. The person in the driver’s seat gave the man standing outside the car the money; the two shook hands. The deal was sealed. There is so much work to do in Camden. So many lives that need tending to. But in reality, it must start with the youngest of the people in Camden. There’s a way out. The many good people doing wonderful things on a daily basis in Camden can make it happen for these children. The thing is, my hope is that the children see the light with the right guidance, then they will show others like them the way out. For now, we can all do just a little more – a day at a time. Inside Joe’s Place, everyone is good and safe and has a full belly.

Connections

You have to believe in networking. A long-planned meeting with the executive director of Sustainable Cherry Hill took place today at a local eatery. We got tons done in under 90 minutes. As we sat there at the table by the window, a woman who I’ve admired professionally for years walked by. She was coming in with her husband for some lunch. I approached the two of them and let her know I’d love to do work with her and her organization. She seemed enthusiastic about being in touch on that.

Just when you think no one is listening, I get a LinkedIn message from someone who I hoped to do business with. Film at 11.

I still have these ideas I need to formulate about connecting my business communications class and/or creating a new class.. to sustainable programs between Rutgers-Camden students and non-profits trying to make inroads in the city of Camden. More ideas forumlate each day. I’m starting to write them down.

Meantime, our Phillies ballpark seat buddies are connecting with us for dinner in Philly in February. It’ll be totally strange to see them in something other than a Phillies shirt, not to mention seeing them in winter.

OK, so this was a stream of conscience kind of writing day, but there’s lots to be done. Sleep is needed.

Good night.

Time to turn out the holiday lights

Holidays are about traditions. Holidays are about remembering, reflecting and lots of boxes of decorations. For several reasons this holiday season, I put up every decoration on my own. That includes the lights and garland winding around our 7 1/2 foot tree in the living room.

Today, all the fa-la-la of the holidays ended. My guys brought down the mega boxes from the attic and one-by-one, throughout the day, the boxes of ornaments, collected for years and years, were carefully wrapped and put away for another 11 months. As I was taking down the trinkets that adorned our tree this year, I remembered what it was like to begin collecting each ornament; where I found it; how I felt when I bought it; what it was like to put the ornament on our tree for the first time. At first, I felt sad that so many years have gone by, but then I realized, as time marches on, it’s all about reflecting and remembering.

Over the weekend as I watched the Penn State-LSU game, the announcers kept talking about the Penn State quarterback and his legacy. How will he be remembered without a Bowl win? In the end, as Penn State won the close game, it was clear the QB was thrilled, but he’d been annoyed there was so much attention to his legacy and not on the team’s accomplishments. Life is full of so many moments. You string them all together, and you have yourself a life. The QB’s history at Penn State will surely impact his life, but he has so many more moments and milestones to come. I’ve been reflecting on the year past for me. While I have moved on from looking in that rear-view mirror, I now want more impact in my own life.

What’s next? A focus on community and serving, whether it’s within the organizations I am already involved with or extending into other communities that need a leg up. Perhaps I can link one of the group’s I’m involved with to the business communications class I am teaching this spring. I’d like to use my talent as a communicator to better other lives. Maybe the students taking the class can help in Camden or other communities. Now, I have to find the way to make that happen.

Today, the boxes of ornaments are tucked back in the attic, but ornaments that make up my life are being created each day this year.