Freaking awesome story of the day

March 10th, 2008

This is so amazing – a kid from Malawi who had to drop out of school because his parents couldn’t afford the fees (all too common in impoverished areas) built a windmill after he read about and saw pictures of them in library books. The windmill provides power to his family compound and makes irrigation possible, among other things. He built his first windmill when he was 14; he’s 20 now.

When I hear stories like this and read about people like Paul Farmer and Greg Mortensen, I wonder why the U.S. government spends over half of its budget on the military and so little – not even .7% (that’s point seven percent), the amount established by the UN Millennium Development Goals – on alleviating international poverty. It seems to me that the best way to fight terrorist organizations is to remove their appeal; people who are educated and well-fed and healthy are less likely to resent the United States, and people who have jobs or school to go to have a lot less time on their hands. When I was in Kenya and Zimbabwe, both of which have staggering unemployment rates [and those are the official rates, which may or may not bear any resemblance to reality], I was stunned at the number of people who literally walk around all day because they have nothing to do. And they’re hungry. And sick with malaria or AIDS or other diseases. If I were any of those things, let alone all three, and someone told me about how much better life is in a rich country (thus making me resent people in that country) and then said that they would give me food and a job and a way to take out my frustrations on the rich country – a country that, despite its incomprehensible wealth, allocates less than 1% of its budget to helping impoverished countries – I’d have a hard time refusing that offer.

So it seems to me that it would be more helpful and much less expensive to prevent a problem instead of trying (with little success) to alleviate the effects of that problem through force. But judging from the current state of affairs, apparently a lot of people don’t agree with me. So there must be another side to the story. Can someone help me understand what I’m missing? I’ll try to be open-minded enough to listen.

I know you’re out there

March 9th, 2008

So I have a very, very unsophisticated hit counter for this little online journal, and when I need love I check it to see if anyone is reading my shtuff. I’m not always sure that anyone is reading it, you see, because precious few readers leave comments.

(Cue “Do You Love Me?” from Fiddler on the Roof, with rewritten lyrics that include saving seats for the First Presidency Christmas devotional, buying whole milk [mmm, delicious!], skipping Norah Jones songs, not closing that difficult-to-open refrigerator drawer all the way, carrying 50-pound bags of ice melt, and [last but not least] commenting on online journal entries.)

Hint. Hint.

I’ll let you all think about that while I make myself some Zimbabwean food. I’m seriously craving some red meat.

Heute

March 7th, 2008

Today lots of things have gone right. (Which doesn’t make today an anomaly – I’ve recently started keeping a list of blessings/positive hap’nin’s, a la President Eyring, and it’s been good to see how God works with me. But today seems particularly blesséd, for some reason.) The weather has been cool and cloudy but not rainy (thank goodness); the sky is the perfect shade of take-a-solitary-walk-or-curl-up-with-hot-chocolate gray, with clouds that look like slate-colored comforters. I’ve had wonderful conversations with two good friends and haven’t worried too much about things I can’t control. I went running along the Charles (!) (because it’s warm enough to do that) and I made it to a 3:30 appointment at exactly 3:28 despite having lost track of time. I finished reading The Color of Water last night and look forward to starting Three Cups of Tea. I have a bowl of spinach soup that I made a few days ago and a few Girl Scout cookies await consumption downstairs. The scent of the lemon-verbena bar of soap I cut in half two days ago has unexpectedly but beautifully permeated the upstairs.

So really, then, there’s not anything earth-shakingly special about today; it’s been relatively quiet but full of small joys. That’s immeasurably comforting, actually. That means that nothing earth-shaking has to happen for me to feel calm and relaxed*; I can tap into this feeling every day, if I want to. I’ve been able to do that more and more of late, thanks mostly to a God who cares enough about me to grant me these little islands in the middle of my usual tense/anxious/rushed/jangled/hyperachieving existence.

Gotta love the Gospel.

*It may seem rather paradoxical for me to expect something earth-shaking to make me feel calm and relaxed, but I’ve never said I was rational, which is a good thing, because I would have been lying.

Today’s lament

March 3rd, 2008

I’m not really into complaining – at least, I sincerely hope not. My life affords precious few difficulties of real substance, and I have little patience for those who complain instead of attempting to resolve a situation through honest discussion or action. I feel like my responsibility is to either seek ways to change things I don’t like or figure out how to deal with them – like the AA serenity prayer says.

That said:

I have several guy friends. We all like to do the same things – go to museums or performances of Shakespeare, stroll along the banks of the Charles or through the Boston Common, listen to community orchestra performances of Peter and the Wolf, drink hot chocolate and watch quirky foreign and/or artsy little films. However, my guy friends, seeking (admirably) to do their priesthood duty, are asking girls out. Since my guy friends aren’t romantically interested in me (this I’m not complaining about – dating any of them would be like dating one of my brothers [I’m not that Southern]), I don’t get to participate when they go on Shakespearean picnics or look at ducks or do any of these other delightful things I would love to do with some of my favorite people.

Or, to put it more succinctly: My guy friends do fun stuff and don’t ask me to play. *sniff*

(looks tragically into the distance)

One of these friends admitted that he used to divide the world’s citizenry into two categories: 1) girls he was interested in dating, and 2) everyone else. I think that’s pretty typical. And although these guy friends work extensively with group 1, they don’t necessarily do a good job of maintaining friendships with the valuable-but-non-marriage-candidate members of group 2.

Now, I know guys are in a damned-if-you-do/don’t situation; if they do nothing but hang out with their platonic girl friends they’re criticized for not dating enough; if the reverse is true, posts like this appear in their girl friends’ online journals. I’m just wondering if there can be a balance, and if it’s possible to express this concern without sounding clingy and dependent. I’ve talked to some guy friends about this before but things tend to return to the status quo pretty quickly.

So maybe that’s just the way it is, and I should continue setting up my own plans and having fun with my girlfriends – which I plan to do, of course. And then I can spend time with my guy friends… when they can’t find a date?

Lord, grant me the serenity…

Assuaged

March 1st, 2008

So this was me all day Thursday:

worry worry worry worry

stress stress fret

worry worry stress worry

fret fret worry

stress stress

fret fret fret fret fret

And this was me Friday after a good talk with a friend:

Oh, OK. Of course. All right.

(sigh of relief signaling the triumph of Stillness and Serenity over the Forces of Fret)

Three cheers for sanity and the friends that promote it!