Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Charity Tuesday {Rwandan Orphans Assistance Response (ROAR)}

Rwandan Orphans Assistance Response Incorporated (ROAR Inc.) is a non profit organisation based in Sydney Australia, whose mission is to improve educational outcomes of Rwandan orphans and disadvantaged children. We strongly believe that education is the key to the success of Rwanda’s future, the children of Rwanda. Our aim is to raise funds to assist disadvantaged children and orphans in rural areas of Rwanda in the area of education and health.
We work closely with primary schools in Rwanda to identify those children in need. We are committed to raising funds to help pay school related expenses such as uniforms, shoes and school supplies, on behalf of the orphans and disadvantaged children in Rwanda. To date we have assisted more than 1000 orphans and disadvantaged children at Linganwe School. This year we are extending our projects to include providing access to clean water to the children of Linganwe School, by building a well in the school, that the entire village can share (The information about ROAR was taken from the "About Us" section of the ROAR webpage).

Disclaimer: The Harriet Project does not endorse the charities that are featured on Charity Tuesday. Before making a donation or getting involved in any capacity, please research the charities featured to make sure they are actually involved in the work they claim to be doing. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

What are you?

Source: Fox Searchlight
The movie “The Way, Way Back,” tells the coming of age story of a 14-year old boy, Duncan, who takes a summer road trip with his mother, her boyfriend Trent (played by the awesomely talented Steve Carell), and Trent’s daughter to his beach house in a small seaside town in Massachusetts. On the drive to the house, Trent strikes up a conversation with Duncan and proceeds to ask him what he thought he was on a scale of 1-10. After some thought, Duncan responds that he is a 6. Trent finds Duncan’s response pretty amusing, amusing because he is tickled by Duncan’s audacity to think so highly of himself, and proceeds to tell Duncan that he is not a 6 but rather a 3. Young Duncan does not refute Trent’s pronouncement that he is a 3 and instead seethes with anger and resentment towards Trent. Trent of course is the stereotypical overbearing and pushy boyfriend who is clearly irritated by Duncan but puts up with him to be with his Mom whom he ends up cheating on and whose name you will find as the definition of the word douche bag in any clever urban dictionary. 

Over the course of the movie, Duncan develops healthy friendships with other adult males who reaffirm him and build up his self-esteem that Trent was so bent on destroying. The movie was very witty and well written, however, I could not stop thinking about the opening scene in the car where Trent tries to define Duncan. That scene resonated with me because placing tags on people seems to be the highlight of our culture. It’s not uncommon for some men to label women as dimes and give less worthy attributions to other women they believe do not meet some standard of beauty. Likewise, it is commonplace for women to define other women, a practice that is even more vitriolic than that engaged in by men. But putting people in so called boxes because of their physical appearance was not what caught my attention, but rather doing so because of what society feels they can or cannot achieve. Trent did not think Duncan was a 3 because of his appearance but on the grand scale in the world of cool, cooler and coolest, Duncan wasn’t so hot in his opinion. Funny to think that Facebook started in just the same way, with a young kid sizing up students in a database based on their appearance. 

Truth is, as a group humans can be so vindictive. While we like the warm and fuzzy clich├ęs that celebrate acceptance and decry intolerance, at some point most of us have participated in sizing up and putting people in a box based on our perceptions. They weren’t cool enough, didn’t go to the right school, didn’t wear the right clothes, were not as bright as we would like and the list goes on. What’s ugly about our labels is along that trajectory we turn inward and start to tear ourselves down based not only on what society tells us we are but what our perceived inadequacies inform us about ourselves. Having healthy self-esteem though can sometimes be tricky because it could straddle the fence between a healthy opinion of oneself and pure hubris. So how do we tell the difference? If a person walks into a room and thinks that they are “it,” are they being prideful or do they just think highly of themselves? I’ve often surmised that as long as a person does not think comparatively in terms of “I am the most intelligent in the room and everyone else is ignorant,” there might be room for redemption. It might be healthy to think that one is the most intelligent in the room, but to be aware that there are others more intelligent and to be open to learning from said more intelligent people in the room. If said person thinks they have attained and cannot be students and see others as inferior then that might be considered prideful or no? So how do we define ourselves in a way that is healthy, without bordering on being prideful and refuting labels that others might attempt to put on us?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Charity Tuesday {Mpilonhle}

Mpilonhle, zulu for good life, is a non-governmental organization dedicated to helping one of South Africa’s poorest communities, Umkhanyakude District in northern Kwa-Zulu Natal. Mpilonhle focuses on health promotion and social development of youth, sponsoring mobile health units that visit rural schools and their community to provide health education and HIV prevention services, HIV testing, curative services, and computer training.

Disclaimer: The Harriet Project does not endorse the charities that are featured on Charity Tuesday. Before making a donation or getting involved in any capacity, please research the charities featured to make sure they are actually involved in the work they claim to be doing.

Friday, January 17, 2014

On Being Inspired

Pink peonies, beautiful shoes, breathtaking paintings, larger than life bookstores, old cinema, postage stamps, beautiful weddings, warm scented candles, photography, beautiful stationery, great interiors, hardware stores, the idea of travel, letterpress, investment and entrepreneurship, glossy magazine pages, nature, and love stories crafted by God. These are a few of the things that inspire me. In a nutshell, thinking about these things are enough to change the course of most of my days. I have always been a dreamer, had an eye for detail and a lover of pretty things. At times, it can seem as though I am pretty spread out because I love so many varied things. For example, I love interior decorating and find nothing to be more pleasing than interiors with rich and vibrant colors and one of a kind pieces of furniture. At the same time, I can spend hours walking around Home Depot just admiring the tools and walking through the lumber aisle marveling at the intricacies of wood grain.

It is important to find sometime that evokes passion. Passion that leads to inspiration. Sometimes, those things that inspire us inspire us for inspiration sake. Oftentimes, they can be markers that point us in the direction of a a career, or maybe they awaken a talent deep within that we never knew existed, often they are guardrails that prevent us from falling off into the deep end and importantly, they sometimes hold the key to our destinies. I believe this is why it is important to carefully heed those things that tug at our hearts and examine to see if they are fleeting murmurs or deep callings that can lead to something big. I am not advocating for taking the fun out of life by examining every indulgence under a microscope to see if a love for paint could lead to owning the world's greatest paint shop, but I am suggesting being a bit more deliberate with actions and examining the activities we spend our time on. If a person spends hours in a bookstore or copious amounts of time in a makeup store, I think they might be on to something and are not just inspired by books or makeup for inspiration sake. Truth is a thousand people might be inspired by birds and flight but then the Wright Brothers did not just want to be inspired for inspiration sake and Martha Stewart did not just want to cook for house guests for the rest of her life. So, it is Friday, what inspires you and what inspirations are for more than inspiration sake?

Photo credit- I took this picture a few years ago at the Restoration Hardware Store on Knox Street in Dallas, Texas.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Charity Tuesday

World Bicycle Relief

Every Tuesday, I will feature a charity that's creating some buzz and doing something noteworthy.

Twenty Fourteen

So, it's twenty fourteen. It's the year that in an article published in the New York Times fifty years ago, Isaac Asimov, an American scientist made a list of predictions of what he thought the year 2014 would look like. Interestingly, some of Asimov's predictions are spot on, such as his prediction that "communication will become sight-sound and you will see as well as hear the person you telephone," a guess that has manifested in technologies such as the Facetime feature on iPhones and Skype and other technologies that allow us talk and see the person on the other end in real time. Moreover, Asimov rightly guessed that screens would be used for looking at pictures, studying and examining documents. Surely, Asimov was right about some things, but for all his insight, he could not have foreseen some of the changes five decades would produce.

The world in 2014 is vastly different than it was five or even ten years ago, and in all nothing has wrought more change and some disruption in the manner that social media has. I'm old enough to remember a time when social media was non existent and when news, good or bad was shared in person, via letters in the mail, or over a phone conversation. Now, even so called hallowed news is shared over social media. The personal touch is slowly fading away and new technology is replacing the old way of doing things. I still prefer talking in person and making phone calls because a lot of nuances can be lost in translation via a series of emojis and impersonal text messaging. Last year when I received news that I had passed the Texas bar examination, I made sure I called every member of my family and close friends to share the news. A mass text would have been easier but felt too impersonal. Now I see sonograms and engagement rings on Facebook and that is slowly becoming the new normal. The pictures and posts on social media scream, "consider yourself informed," and too bad if it doesn't come up in your news feed.

Like Asimov, I would like to predict what I think the world might look like in fifty years, but I think that task was easier in his time. I can't even give a semi decent predication for what the world might look like or be like next week. I cannot even keep up with new releases from the Apple store, much less tell what might happen on Tuesday next week. The world today is so terribly unpredictable and I think it is so because human nature seems to be more regressive than progressive these days. It is sad to think that in 2013 people were playing the "knockout game," where teenagers or young adults attempt to knock an individual flat on the floor in one fell swoop or that teenage girls were twerking or that R. Kelly was still singing about panties and radio stations were playing his songs or that in South Sudan humans were killing one another. The nature of the modern day human makes predictions or rather positive predictions challenging.

What is odd though is that individually there is a push for inward growth but collectively humanity does not seem to be achieving that state of utopia. If anything we seem to be moving more towards a state of anarchy. There have never been more self help books or conferences of the same than in our time. Never been so many messages on prosperity or feel good sermons. We are told that we can be anything and do anything and while this is true, humans are much more depraved than ever before. People often say things get a lot worse before they get better, but that does not seem to be the story of modern day humanity. I surely wouldn't dismiss personal growth or look askance at collective efforts to better humanity because we need those self help messages. We need those sermons that massage our pain and smooth out deep wrinkles. But in spite of them, we are still going to have a body count from Afghanistan at the end of the year and these bodies are deaths caused by other humans.

So, what will the next fifty years look like? It will be a spectrum of amazing technologies we never dreamed possible. The next fifty years might bring advances in medicine that cure cancer and regenerate neurons that fix spinal injuries. But who has the cure for the ailments of the soul and will humanity ever be truly progressive whatever it means to be such? Predicting new technologies is easy, but the world might be a better place if we can predict that we will be more compassionate, for after all isn't that what real progress should look like?