Two movie reviews – one must see, one must not

We have a wonderful, locally and colorfully run video store in my city. It is organized in a genre fashion, with new releases on one wall. The manager and staff are eclectic people with large hearts and extensive movie knowledge, so it makes it a fun excursion when we go. We stopped by and picked up a couple of new releases to view this long weekend – “August: Osage County” and “The Book Thief.” I will not spoil these movies, but provide observations of what is in store for you if you rent them.

“August: Osage County” is a well-directed and well acted movie about one of the most dysfunctional families you will witness. We rented it because of the talented list of actors: Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, Ewan McGregor, Dermot Mulroney, Abigail Breslin, Juliette Lewis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Margo Martindale, Sam Shepard, Julianne Nicholson, et al. With that said, unless your goal is to watch a loud and hateful train wreck of a family to make you feel better about your own challenges, my suggestion is to put it back on the shelf. There are only three redeeming characters in the whole movie, with all the others cursing and yelling throughout.

On the flip side, “The Book Thief” was a terrific movie based on the novel by Markus Zusak and set in Nazi Germany prior to and through World War II. Liesel is an adopted girl whose little brother dies on the train ride to their adopted family. She becomes the book thief, as she wants to learn to read and is encouraged by her adopted Papa and a young Jewish man, Max, who they are hiding in their basement. Liesel is played by Sophie Nelisse, while Geoffrey Rush plays a very kind-hearted Papa to his wife’s pragmatic and cool Mama played by Emily Watson. Ben Schnetzer plays Max.

Liesel is befriended by a young boy Rudy who is loyal to her. Yet, she has to keep the secret of their family’s hiding of Max or all of them will get in trouble. So, she cannot tell even Rudy until he surmises later what’s happening. The key to the movie is her love of books and how they are essential to keeping their humanity when all around them human decency is under brutal attack. This love of reading befriends her to even the burgermeister’s wife who helps because of her own love of reading, at a time when books are being burned. The woman observes Liesel saving a book from a smoldering fire as she looks on forelornly.

So, I would highly recommend the latter movie and advise you to stay away from the former. “The Book Thief” is also well acted, but the story has characters and a plot that have redeeming value to them.  While drawn to Sophie, I particularly liked Rush’s Papa character. If you have seen either or both movies, I would love to hear your thoughts. Also, if you read “The Book Thief” which I have not, please let me know how it stacks up to the movie and vice-versa.

 

Love your neighbor as yourself (with no caveats)

Two things in the morning newspaper (The Charlotte Observer) caught my eye, one was a local column and the other a national news article. As reported by Cathy Lynn Grossman, of the Religious News Service, a recent survey by the Public Religion Research Institute found 21% of Americans are “unaffiliated” with a church meaning they are atheists, agnostics, religious without a church or not religious at all. The survey noted that Catholics made up 20% and white evangelicals make up 19%. When all Protestant groups are tallied, the total is 48%. These numbers are fairly similar to The Pew Research findings.

The column written by Reverend Nicole Martin, who is the Executive Minister at The Park Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, was called “When a stranger becomes a neighbor.” In it she notes that in Leviticus 19:18b, God told Moses to instruct the people to love their neighbors as themselves. Jesus reinforced this in Mark 12:31, by restating this scripture calling it the greatest of all commandments. I link these two articles together because Reverend Martin’s column reiterates the most important rule that Jesus asked us to live by and as the survey shows our neighbors are likely to be different from us in beliefs.

From earlier posts, readers know I harp on a key theme – when religion is inclusive, it is at its finest. When it is exclusive, it is at its worst. It divides. My blogging friend Roseylinn at http://www.roseylinn.wordpress.com has a terrific post which notes in a comment response how people are arguing about who is more religious and what political party should own a set of beliefs. We both find this ludicrous, as God is above political and country boundaries. In fact, Reverend Billy Graham said about twenty years ago that religious leaders need to be wary of aligning with a political party as you will be used for their purpose.

As the elder Graham notes, God should be above and separate from political party affiliation. I like to surprise people with the following statements on occasion to glean their input. You do realize God is not an American. This one throws them a little, as some believe God ordained the US Constitution. The other one is if God did choose sides, which side was pulling for in the Civil War – the one who believed that an African-American was a possession or the one who fought to end slavery. There were many Confederates who believed their cause was righteous, yet I would argue if God did pick sides, it would have not been that one.

Getting back to Jesus valuing the most important commandment of love your neighbor like yourself, it should be noted Jesus did not offer caveats. He did not say love your neighbor unless they are LGBT, religiously or politically unaffiliated, or believe in the exact opposite of what you do. Jesus also hung out with “the lesser of these” when he ventured from town to town. He was not too keen with the religious leaders who used their power inappropriately. He was not too keen with people who had money tables in houses of worship. He was not too keen with people with wealth who did not help those in need.  He did not say be a good Samaritan unless the person in need is gay or lesbian or Jewish, Muslim or agnostic.

Our country has many aspects of which we can be proud and show as an example to the world. The separation of church and state is one of the paragons. The freedom to worship as you wish is another. When we chip away at these paragons, we lessen our greatness. We lessen the exemplars for others around the world. We are a melting pot of many cultures, ethnicities, religions, and diverse beliefs and sexual orientations. We are all different, which makes us a wonderfully diverse country. But, while different, we have similar wants and needs – to live freely and to have a secure environment to raise our families and ourselves. That is something Jesus would be proud of, even though He is not an American. He is more than that.

Civil Rights Museum reminds of where we have been, but what is left to do

Yesterday, I had some free time in the Greensboro, North Carolina area and decided to revisit the International Civil Rights Center and Museum. Why Greensboro? For those of you are old enough to remember or know your history, the museum incorporates and builds off the actual Woolworth’s lunch counter where four African-Americans started a movement of non-violent sit-ins. The story of this daily sit-in helped bring about change along with many other efforts. Our tour guide whose mother used to bring her to Woolworth’s to shop, said the operative word they had to overcome was “separatism.”

In an attempt to protect the whites from the significant misconceptions about African-American citizens, “separate, but equal” laws were passed to allow discrimination to continue under the guise of the law. These Jim Crow laws, as they were called, came about to show that society need not have to integrate to give rights to its African-American citizens. The ugly truth is separatism was not very equal and continued to put down and discriminate against African-Americans in perceived legal and moral ways. There were some whites who spoke out before the overt discrimination became more apparent, but we had far too many leaders in business, government and faith communities who perpetuated this maltreatment.

The list of examples in the museum of discrimination and the fight to alleviate it are significant in number and impact. It makes you feel ashamed, disillusioned and angry that our fellow citizens were treated this way. The bombings, the lynchings, and the beatings are well documented and illustrated. The separate, but very unequal, train station terminals where whites had bigger waiting rooms, restrooms and easements are eye-opening. The separate, but unequal restrooms in stores, where our guide said her mother would tell her to go at home before they went to the store, are indicative. Sitting in the back of the bus, yielding your seat to white person and even the leather straps for standers in the back of the bus versus cushioned straps in the front showed the lack of equality. The Coke machine with two sides, one for whites at 5 cents with the opposite side for African-Americans at 10 cents is separate and very unequal. The voter laws that made it so very difficult for an African-American to register and vote were definitely not equal. And, so on and so on.

Fifty years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) pushed through the Civil Rights Act in the United States. The next year he followed up with the Voters Rights Act. These key pieces of legislation changed the long term and horrible course of inequality America was on. Forced busing to allow for fair and equal education was passed in 1970 sixteen years following the Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision. LBJ helped change the future in response to the efforts of many from Martin Luther King to John Lewis to Rosa Parks. It was critical that LBJ, a white southerner working with a coalition across political parties was able to shame leaders into doing something for America.

We are much further along than before, but our work is not done. We each need to be mindful of our biases and prejudices we have to various groups of people. We need to be active to voice our concerns over recent state actions by conservatively led states (ironically and sadly like the one in NC) to limit the voting rights of people who are primarily African-American, under the disguise of doing something against voter fraud. Rampant voter fraud has been proven not to exist, even as recently as last week with touted data in an attempt to show it does. Some of these laws have been ruled unconstitutional and others are being sued for such as of the time of this post. Make no mistake, these laws are designed to suppress voters who tend not to vote with the conservative side of the ledger. This is masked cheating, which is straight out of Jim Crow book.

What makes this further disturbing is our Supreme Court ruled that parts of the Voters Rights Act are no longer needed. This is one of several decisions made by this court which puzzle and frustrate me. What country do they live in? I see or hear examples of discrimination almost every day. It often is masked with code words or followed by words like “but, I am not a racist.” It would surprise these folks to learn most food stamp recipients are white. Even Senator Paul Ryan parlayed that misconception in some of recent speeches and interviews. The bottom line is it should not matter, as poverty knows no color. I use this as an example of unstated racism in America. It is those people who are in need of aid, so it is OK to cut benefits.

There are Civil Rights museums in several cities. Please frequent them with your children and friends. If you’re near Greensboro, please stop by and tour this well crafted museum. I was pleased to see two bus loads of school children of all stripes leaving the museum when I arrived. This stuff really did happen and discrimination still exists today. Use these occasions as opportunities to discuss what is happening today with others. Per the play and movie “South Pacific” bigotry has to be carefully taught. The converse of this is also true. Let’s carefully teach that discrimination is not right.

Here is a link to the Greensboro Civil Rights Museum. http://sitinmovement.org/

 

 

Bankers used to be trustworthy, but threw their reputation out the window

Last week, Bank of America was the latest bank to be penalized for fraudulent or aggressive marketing practices. They have had so many fines for malfeasance or aggressive marketing practices that it is hard to keep track of their sins. The latest penalty fined Bank of America $783 million for selling credit card consumers products and services they did not request. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which was newly created a couple of years ago by the Dodd-Frank Act under the tutelage of now Senator Elizabeth Warren, said the $738 million of that fine is used to restore money to those customers who were fraudulently sold these products.

In its first two fiscal years of operations ending June 30, 2013, the CFPB has fined banks and financial entities $942 million of which the significant majority goes to the consumers who were harmed or defrauded. The banks and financial institutions that were penalized include, but are not limited to American Express, Capital One, Discover, and JP Morgan Chase. While the significant majority of the penalty goes to the consumers, the remainder, which is usually less than 10% of the overall fine, goes into a Civil Penalty Fund, which has the following purpose as stated in the CFPB 2013 Annual Report:

“Under the Act, funds in the Civil Penalty Fund may be used for payments to the victims of activities for which civil penalties have been imposed under the Federal consumer financial laws. To the extent that such victims cannot be located or such payments are otherwise not practicable, the Bureau may use funds in the Civil Penalty Fund for the purpose of consumer education and financial literacy programs.”

What is interesting to me is why certain politicians are against this agency? I want them to tell me why an agency designed to protect the average Joe’s and Josephine’s is a bad thing. To state the obvious, these politicians tend to be Republican and tend to be supported by bankers. Senator Richard Shelby, who Chaired the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee from 2003 – 07 is one of the key critics of the CFPB.

This is one area where people who don’t want regulation need to explain how we would be better without it. Would it be OK for bankers to have full license to sell their customers services they do not need? Is it OK for banks to screw people over? I find most people confuse unwieldy bureaucracy with regulation. We need the latter, but need to guard against the former. I also find people who don’t want to be regulated tend to be those who need to be regulated more. The fossil fuel industry comes to mind, but that would be a large digression.

Having worked in Human Resources within a bank back in the 1990s, what I have witnessed is being a banker used to be one of the most trusted professions. Now, it ranks much lower in trust.  And, they only have themselves to blame. Truth be told, bankers used to be trustworthy, but threw their reputation out the window.

The slippery slope began in earnest with the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in the late 1990s. This act had been put in place at the time of the Great Depression and was designed to assure that banks would be banks and not investment banks, security traders or insurance companies. With the feeling everyone learned their lesson and cooler heads would prevail, the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act reopened the can of worms. The real reason for the repeal was banks wanted the fee income that usually came with those products and services. Yet, to add another metaphor, the can of worms became a Pandora’s Box.

What transpired after that repeal is banks pushing the envelope more and cross selling products and services to unsuspecting customers. Two marketing trends emerged. “Bundling” and “Tying.” Bundling represents the concept if you do more business with us, we will give you better terms. By itself, that is not necessarily a bad practice. Yet, when married with tying, it becomes unethical and illegal. Banks started tying business marketing together, so that you had to business with them in one area to get a better deal on another service which was more vital to the buyer. Usually these offers were not made in writing, as some tying can be illegal.

But, the larger trend that occurred is a selling push to reward employees for selling you services you may or may not need. The unscrupulous ones would push the hardest and do things that now get the attention of the CFPB. One of the key reasons the mortgage crisis hit is the better mortgage market dried up and banks had all of these mortgage bankers with nothing to do.

With the push out of the second Bush White House that home ownership was good, the higher risk mortgage market became the target. It was at this time you saw mortgage-in-a-box retail stores competing against banks to sell mortgages to people who did not understand fully what was being sold to them. Variable mortgages and the dreaded Pic-a-payment mortgages that brought Wachovia down after their acquisition of Golden West, were being sold to people who were in over the heads, both economically and educationally. People should have been asking more questions, but trusted the men and women in nice suits that told them they could afford the American Dream. They failed to mention or fully explain terms like “negative amortization” and “variable mortgages” especially what transpires when the rate goes up by 200 basis points.

So, bankers used to be trustworthy, but they threw it out the window. They earned these new stripes. You have to be the navigator of your customer service experience, in general, but especially with a bank. You have to ask questions about why you are being asked to do something. You need to ask why you need another credit card. You need to ask why is the salesperson pushing so hard on this issue. If you don’t, you may need the help of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

With that said, I know many fine people who work for banks. They do their best to serve their customers. Yet, the higher-ups are pushing for sales and align incentives with that push. As a result, even well-meaning people will push the envelope even more. I have been a business for over 34 years and a truism I have learned is you make more money serving the needs of your client long term. You may make more money on occasion by pushing that envelope, but you may do so at the expense of a long term relationship which might come to an end.

For full disclosure, I am a shareholder and customer of both Bank of America and Wells Fargo. These fines disappoint me. I want them to be accountable to their customers, employees and shareholders. But, they also need to be accountable to their regulators. They owe it to all of us.

 

 

 

There are votes and there are votes that count

A couple of events occurred last week that galvanized my concern for democracy in our country. They impede our essential right that each of our votes is important and it should be made as easy as possible for us to cast them. Yet, after last week, it is apparent that all of our votes are not important and they certainly are not equal. We have been evolving toward this, but American democracy is up for sale and it goes to the highest bidder. Unless you have a lot of money, your voice does not really count that much. If your call as a constituent is answered, it will only be after your legislator takes a call from someone across the country that funded his or her campaign.

Last week, our Supreme Court ruled on a case called McCutcheon vs. the Federal Election Commission. In essence, the 5 to 4 ruling said it was OK for someone to spread his or her money around and fund as many candidates as possible. Apparently, the previous rule was infringing on the freedom of speech of wealthy people to have a stake in candidates around the country. When added to one of the worst rulings ever made by our Supreme Court in the infamous Citizens United case, people with money and influence can attempt to buy as many elections as possible. The latter ruling on top of previous ones allows unlimited funding of Super PACs to fund advertisements to discredit an opponent of one they favor. These rulings make it easier for an oligarchy to rule our country and state. My friend Barney has a great post on this topic from last week: http://mountainperspective.wordpress.com/2014/04/page/2/

That was only the beginning of the week’s events. Various states like mine in North Carolina (NC) have put forth similar, restrictive voter suppression laws under the guise of Voter ID. A few months ago, a less suppressive law than the one in NC was found unconstitutional in Pennsylvania. The NC law is being sued for unconstitutionality by four separate entities with multiple parts of the law designed to suppress votes of the elderly, African-Americans and college students. This independent voter will not be surprised to see it declared as such when the ruling is made. In fact, the NC Attorney General told the legislature that this law was unconstitutional before it was passed.

These Voter ID Laws were passed to combat the illusion of rampant voter fraud. As former Secretary of State Colin Powell noted in a speech in Raleigh there is no evidence of rampant voter fraud. Our rampant voting problem in this country is not enough people voting. But, last week in an effort to show there is rampant voter fraud, a study was done and found 765 cases of potential dual state voting cases in the last presidential election in NC. This should be looked into as to why this happened, but let’s put things in perspective and look at the numbers. In the 2012 presidential election, North Carolinians cast 4,499,039 votes. If you divide 765 by 4,499,039 you get a result of .017% (less than 2/100th of a percent). This very low percentage would support Mr. Powell’s assertion that we do not have rampant voter fraud.

So, what should we do about all of this? First, we should mute every campaign commercial we can. Just don’t listen to what the funders are selling. In the last Presidential campaign, FactCheck.org said only 1 out of 3 commercials for Romney was fully correct and 1 out of 2 for Obama. So, with those percentages, you are more informed by not watching. Second, we should get informed about the candidates and not the party they represent. Read and watch reputable news sources and not those who will have a biased spin on the news or cover the game of politics and not the issues. The latter especially includes Fox News and MSNBC which provide a version of the news that is spun to fit the demographics of viewers.

Third, let’s advocate common sense voter laws. Let’s start with passing bi-partisan redistricting laws designed to prevent gerrymandering. Gerrymandering is harmful to governance and it hurts both parties, as we end up with unopposed candidates and makes it easier for politicians who are the party fringes to get elected. Next, let’s repeal all Voter ID Laws like the one in NC, before they are ruled unconstitutional; that will save legal fees and let us replace them with more common sense laws to promote voting. A new Voter law should include automatic runoff voting, which means you rank your candidates, so when a runoff is needed, the system can do a runoff election without another vote. This is far cheaper and runoff elections often vote in a candidate with fewer than 10% of the voters making it to the polls. Let’s also change how we call on people for jury duty. This is an impediment to people signing up for voting. And, let’s repeal any laws that make it easier to influence elections of judges. The change made last year in NC, e.g., is akin to the horrible Supreme Court decisions above as it gives people with money too much influence over judges.

Democracy is under fire. We need to do what we can to make all of our votes count. The above is a start. But, don’t just believe me, I would encourage you to watch Bill Moyers’ documentary from earlier this year called “State of Conflict – North Carolina” to get a better sense of how our democracy has been polluted in my state as an example of what can and is happening. http://billmoyers.com/episode/full-show-state-of-conflict-north-carolina/

Granddaddy

I only knew my step-grandfather. I have been told I met my father’s father and my mother said her real father came by the house once, but the only grandfather I knew was my mother’s stepfather. We called him “Granddaddy.” When I think of Granddaddy, I think of his love of fishing. When we visited him and Big Mama (my grandmother), he would usually take my dad, brother and me fishing on his favorite fresh water lake.

The irony of all of this is his best friend, my real grandfather’s brother, would join us. While my real grandfather was a wanderer (which is the nicest thing I could say about him), his brother was one of the kindest, most loyal people you will ever meet. And, to make the irony complete, the brother was married to one of my grandmother’s sisters until she passed away.

But, this is about Granddaddy. He was a gruff man, one of few words, but I have seen him cry at weddings of his grandchildren. He dearly loved my cousin who had Autism and lived with them for a brief time. His house was also open to my mother’s oldest sister (and another cousin) when her husband was in Vietnam. He was bricklayer and house builder. His hands were very worn and he could pick up a catfish bare handed as he removed the hook. If you know fish, a catfish can slice you open with its sharp fins. When he fished, he would use two rods and reel out of the back of the boat. It was not a fancy boat, seating only three in its ten foot length, but it was his.

My favorite memory was the day the fish were hitting big. I think we hauled in over 150 fish between the two boats – my older brother would be in my Great Uncle’s boat. Granddaddy probably hauled in 80 by himself. He was so quiet when he fished, you could not tell by his demeanor when he was catching fish, even when he was having a very successful outing. This was the day his teachings of how to clean a fish were practiced over and over again. He was very patient as he taught my brother and me how to do it. And, we ate what we caught – fried fish, hush puppies, collard greens, corn bread, etc. Those were feasts, especially after a long morning on the water.

Granddaddy loved my grandmother, but they would have a tete-a-tete on occasion. Big Mama would get mad at him and he would say “Madame” and proceed with his defense. When we heard “Madame” we knew it was not a fun conversation. We also knew he was outgunned. My grandmother could talk, so she would not let anything go without colorful discussion. She would win almost every argument, but even when she was right, he did not want to hear anymore.

One time, I deserved his wrath as before one of our fishing trips, I knocked over a basket of crickets in his house. My dad was the one who carried out the fussing, but I know he beat Granddaddy to the punch. My mother later told me Big Mama heard crickets in the house for months. Granddaddy would only shake his head and curse under his breath.

Granddaddy died of lung cancer. The last few months of his life he could only speak with a rasp, as his doctors actually damaged his vocal chords with some of the tubing he had to swallow to breathe better. He dared not sue them as they were only doing their job. Having been a bricklayer, he knew first hand that mistakes could be made and you fixed them and moved on. He was not a litigious person. He was a hand shake person. But, to his death, he was always thankful for our visits as they meant so much to him. And, vice versa.

Big Mama lived for fifteen more years after his death and she missed him greatly. No more Madames. No more fish fries. No more yin and yang. They were quite the pair. My grandmother, the character who had character, and my quiet, decent, and hardworking grandfather who loved to fish. Thank you Granddaddy. Thank you both. I remember you well.

Dialogue by Chicago – the more things change, the more they stay the same

Robert Lamm, of the wonderful band Chicago, penned a song more than forty years ago called “Dialogue” that could still ring true today. The song resonates with me and is one of my personal favorites of the band because of its theme and musicality, but also the fact Lamm and lead singer Peter Cetera sang it as a dialogue. Two guys talking about the problems in the world. Here are the words:

Are you optimistic ’bout the way things are going?
No, I never ever think of it at all
Don’t you ever worry
When you see what’s going down?
No, I try to mind my business, that is, no business at all
When it’s time to function as a feeling human being
Will your bachelor of arts help you get by?
I hope to study further, a few more years or so
I also hope to keep a steady high
Will you try to change things
Use the power that you have, the power of a million new ideas?
What is this power you speak of and this need for things to change?

I always thought that everything was fine
Don’t you feel repression just closing in around?
No, the campus here is very, very free
Don’t it make you angry the way war is dragging on?
Well, I hope the president knows what he’s into, I don’t know
Don’t you ever see the starvation in the city where you live
All the needless hunger all the needless pain?
I haven’t been there lately, the country is so fine
But my neighbors don’t seem hungry ’cause they haven’t got the time

Thank you for the talk, you know you really eased my mind
I was troubled by the shapes of things to come
Well, if you had my outlook your feelings would be numb
You’d always think that everything was fine

We can make it happen
We can change the world now
We can save the children
We can make it better
We can make it happen
We can save the children
We can make it happen

I heard this song the other day on the radio for the first time in a long while and listened with my daughter as we drove to school. I found myself pointing out how the song is sung and called a dialogue. She thought that was cool. But, it got me thinking about the words. The problems then still exist today. The more things change, the more they stay the same. We have a national and global poverty problem. I am glad Pope Francis is bringing attention to this more.

We have a national and global problem with how we treat women and girls. Former President Jimmy Carter’s said his new book “A Call to Action” on this issue is the most important mission of his life. Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s book “Half the Sky” speaks to these issues as well. I would add global poverty and how we treat women are linked, as woman hold up “half the sky” per the Chinese proverb used by Kristof and WuDunn. If you treat women poorly, in addition to their maltreatment, you are impacting half of your intellectual capital and economic value as a community.

Per my blogging friend George Dowdell, through his vast experience on a mission to help the impoverished, global poverty is also directly traceable to violence and corruption. Corruption takes the money that could be used to help others and violence is the mechanism to keep control and keep others down. These two seem to go hand in hand. Hosni Mubarak of Egypt had a net worth of $81 Billion, while his constituents got by on less than $2 a day, e.g.

Throughout history, the “haves” have taken advantage of the “have-nots.” The “have-nots” do not have a voice or when they have, it has taken a huge effort over time to change the paradigm. It is only with this groundswell of effort that will help change the world. Per Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

So, back to Chicago’s song “Dialogue.” Re-read the final chorus that closes the song. It is repeated as a mantra over and over again. The influence of the “haves” is huge and, in the US has been made easier with recent Supreme Court rulings. The “have-nots” need that voice. They need those committed citizens that Mead and Chicago talked about.

How do we do this? One step, one block, one community, one city at a time. Find your passions and reach out to help others. But, don’t just band-aid a problem. Look to find ways to improve people’s lots in life. Become better informed through reputable news sources. Speak out against injustice or just start asking more “why” questions of leaders and people with strident views that seem harmful. Why do you think that? Why should we do that? Write letters, write emails, make phone calls. Go to events to educate yourself on an issue. Go to protest injustice.

Many of the leaders of efforts to help did not listen to naysayers and blockers who said they could not accomplish change. There is an old line about change. Get people on the bus that will help you make change, not hinder it. We are more powerful than me. So, enlist or join your efforts with others. The operative word is “we” – “we can make it happen.” But, it starts with me.