Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Daily Prism Pauses for a Brief Interlude




Time is what one makes of it. There's volunteer time, family time, personal time. For the next few weeks, we will make use of those special moments in time.

We'll return soon.

Meanwhile, keep up the good work and remain a force for good.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Food is Free!





The Food is Free Project(501c3 Nonprofit) grows community and food, while helping gain independence from a broken agricultural system.  The Food is Free Project is a community building and gardening movement that launched in January of 2012. We teach you how to connect with your neighbors and line your street with front yard community gardens which provide free harvests to anyone.

The gardens are built and offered for free using salvaged resources that would otherwise be headed to the landfill. By using drought-tolerant, wicking bed gardens, these low maintenance gardens only need to be watered every 2-4 weeks. This simple tool introduces people to a very easy method of growing organic food with very little work. A wide variety of vegetables along the block promote neighbors to interact and connect, strengthening our communities while empowering them to grow their own food.

It’s time we take back our food and meet our neighbors. Invite your friends to join the mission. Transform your own neighborhood by planting a community garden in your front yard.

The Food is Free Project started with one front yard garden. Less than 3 months later, the majority of neighbors on our pilot block host front yard community gardens.  We are documenting the process as we continue to expand, sharing our mistakes and successes, making the information open-source and available to anyone around the globe. Over 300 cities around the world have started Food is Free Projects and we invite you to start one in your community this season. It all starts with that first front yard garden or shared harvest. Let us know if we can offer any advice or answer questions.

Food is Free provides a platform for community interaction that opens doors to further collaboration and connection. Imagine driving down your street, where the majority of homes host a front yard community garden, neighbors come together for potlucks, establish tool-sharing and community composting programs while creating safer, more beautiful neighborhoods.

The Food is Free Project not only transforms neighborhood blocks, but has installed gardens at elementary schools, community arts spaces, farmers markets, churches and small businesses.

We are creating models for how to grow food in unused public spaces that provide opportunities for people to experience fresh, healthy, organic food, and the power of community when we come together for a cause that’s greater than ourselves. We want to learn what has worked for you so share your experiences and #foodisfree photos with us on social media.

--From the Food is Free Website

Saturday, August 5, 2017

A Project on Food and Community





The Project on Food and Community (PFC) is committed to healthy food, healthy people, healthy communities. We study, promote and innovate in service to the food movement, dedicated to relational eating (understanding eating as an act of belonging), rebuilding the living soil, agroecological practices, permaculture principles and preserving and building vibrant food economies such that 50% of our food might come from within 500 miles of home by 2050, a goal that points more to a direction than to numbers.

Local Food Design Lab
We facilitate community conversations and workshops to foster collaborations, partnerships and enterprises to build stronger local food systems. The Local Food Design Lab, a unique workshop with Vicki Robin, has been presented in Brazil, Nelson, BC, Corvallis OR and Whidbey Island.

Local Food Challenge
The PFC also supports the 10-Day Local Food Challenge, a global invitation to eaters everywhere to participate in a shared game: for 10 days eat only food grown within 100 miles of home, allowing 10 exotics, foods from afar you can’t live without.

Everyone Eats
Everyone eats. Everyone, given a real choice, would feed their families beautiful food.

Friday, August 4, 2017

"Something Exciting ... Emerging"




The Daily Prism received this email note recently, and it truly struck a chord. How about you? Are you feeling a surge in creativity? Are you feeling a surge to reconnect with the basics?  Does the following note sound familiar?

***

Amidst all the turbulence and craziness playing out in the political sphere worldwide, something fresh and exciting also seems to be emerging on the planet right now. The silver lining of things becoming so unhinged in mainstream society is that it may be forcing many of us to fundamentally rethink our priorities and to commit ourselves to a more radical path of inner and outer transformation.  
The urgency of the crisis is creating an intense evolutionary pressure to transform. 
In my own work, I've been experiencing a shift in vision away from any lingering notions of personal success toward a deeper yearning to be part of a wider global movement of change. We are moving away from the age of the spiritual celebrity to one in which we together spark an organic movement of life to bring renewal to humanity and the Earth. As Charles Eisenstein puts it, we are in transition from the Age of Separation to the Age of We Need Each Other. 
I have also been experiencing the call to liberate even more fully the wild, vital, creative life-force within, associated with the Earth, the body, and Eros. It's as though the irrational energies of destruction playing out in the collective are calling forth a deeper, wilder, more radical upswell of the creative life force in each of us in response. Our crazy times are nudging us to go beyond the realm of reason to dance the path of crazy (yet joyous) wisdom. 
It is my prayer that the resources offered in this month's Gaiafield Times support you in some way to feel connected to this creative life force and the wider movement for change. May we all find the courage to follow the guidance of our deepest creative inspiration - not just for our own satisfaction, but as our contribution to a deeply meaningful global movement whose potentials we cannot yet even grasp. 
Blessings of Peace,
David T. Nicol, for the Gaiafield Council.


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The World Wants Your Joy


Joy! Joy to the world. Well, if only, right? The following is from the Chopra Center. We edited
"How to Elevate the World Through Your Own Happiness,"  a bit for space

***

There’s a lot going on in the world right now that can leave you feeling helpless and hopeless. It’s tempting to want to retreat into your own little bubble with thoughts like, what could little ol’ me possibly do to shift the political climate, the worldwide hunger epidemic, and seemingly growing divisiveness between people on opposite sides of an imagined fence?

... Is there anything you can do in your daily life that could contribute to a world of more peace, understanding, and love?

Why the World Needs You to Prioritize Your Joy
Imagine you and your friend are walking along in the woods, and your friend falls into a deep ditch. ...The only way to pull a person out of a hole is to stand your elevated ground and pull him up.

...When someone you know is deep in a “ditch” of frustration, anger, grief, or pessimism, it doesn’t truly help him/her if you take on his/her feelings yourself. Be compassionate and understanding, yes, but unless you want to perpetuate and compound that negativity, you must anchor yourself in your own positivity to be of any service.

Refuse to jump into the ditch of negativity no matter what...

When You Make Happiness a Priority, It Gives Others Permission to Do the Same

...Not only is your environment more pleasant when you are happy, but you are giving other people permission to be happy themselves. Become an inspiration for the people around you, and when you do, you will feel great meaning in your daily attention to your well-being...

... Research shows that positive emotions spread up to three degrees of separation, meaning your child, your child’s teacher, and that teacher’s brother can benefit from your own individual happiness. If we all paid attention to our thoughts, feelings, and actions, and aligned them closer with joy, you can easily see how quickly we could change the collective emotional atmosphere.

3 Simple Ways to Turn Your Attention to Joy

1)... Joy is your natural state. Resisting joy is like trying to paddle against the current in a flowing river. When you meditate, practice yoga, or engage in other contemplative activities, you are able to release your unconscious resistance to goodness. In other words, when you regularly quiet and relax yourself, you are able to settle your consciousness down into the deeper parts of your nature that are already happy. You need not force happiness or try to layer it on top of whatever is going on with you. Instead, you must go inside and excavate the joy that is already deep inside. Shedding that which is not joyful will naturally uncover the feelings you seek.

2) Practice gratitude. Gratitude is one of the easiest and most direct routes to happiness. Start and end your day with acknowledging three things you are grateful for, and if possible, share your gratitude with someone else. Try a dinnertime ritual of asking what went well in everyone’s day, or asking each person at the table to say something they are thankful for. When you know you will be sharing your gratitude at the end of a day, you will be more likely to look for things to appreciate. Grateful thoughts resonate at a higher vibration than negative thoughts, so by giving your thanks, you are literally raising the vibration within and around you.

3) Be compassionate. Turning your attention toward joy does not mean turning a blind eye to other people’s suffering; compassion is key. Compassion helps other people to feel understood and socially connected, but also has a positive affect on the person giving the compassion as well. As far as happiness goes, a recent study shows that giving is more valuable than receiving for adults and children alike. While the studies used giving and receiving “treats” to measure happiness levels, gifts in the form of time, compliments, and affection also have a similar impact. So be generous with your love, help other people whenever you can, and at the very least, offer your kindness whenever you are able. Like a boomerang, the compassion you send out will return back to you.


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Soccer Helps Ease Refugee Kids' Trauma



Children coming to the United States as refugees have often experienced trauma prior to their arrival. The process of becoming a part of a new country—joining a new community, learning a new language, adapting to a new culture—should not add to that trauma, but it often does. Two programs on opposite sides of the country have found the same answer to the question of how to help these young people adapt and thrive here: soccer.

Soccer, the most popular sport in the world, seems to be the glue that brings young refugees together,

..Soccer is that universal language. When you have a kid that has fled their country, has had a horrible experience, comes to this strange country, the one thing they understand is soccer. It’s always been an escape for them. In the refugee camps, some of them would bundle up plastic bags to make a soccer ball so they could play. You see kids that don’t speak a word of English, who have been struggling for months. And when they come here, their faces light up when they’re on the field. For kids that were robbed of their childhood, this is one place they get to be kids again. They feel comfortable. They feel confident and happy.

...soccer is the tool to engage these young people and build their confidence.

---Click this link to read the entire story, "Acclimating Refugee Children through Soccer."

Monday, July 31, 2017

"Make Friends Across Religions"



This will be a great week, especially when we wake up to this website and video of world religious leaders asking us to be friends:

The World's Most Prominent Religious Leaders Call On Everyone To Make Friends Across Religions


Welcome to The Elijah Interfaith Institute. On June 14, 2017 many of the world’s most prominent religious leaders made a joint statement encouraging people everywhere to make friends across religions. Friendship and getting to know one another are the antidotes to negativity and divisions in society, enhancing understanding and unity. We invite you to download our toolkits for friendship and study. We pray that the message and example of unity, shown by these leaders, will contribute to bridging divisions by inspiring you and your friends to start new conversations with people of different faiths. Follow the example, spread the message.


Please share this video #MakeFriends

Saturday, July 29, 2017

"Wisdom in the points of the Scout Law"



Scouting, boy or girl, is a part of the American fabric. The following is an excerpt from an editorial written by an Eagle Scout who defines scouting's goals and ideals:

On a foggy evening in London more than 100 years ago, a disoriented businessman named William Boyce received directions from a young man who expected nothing in return. He was a Scout doing a good turn. Inspired by this simple act of kindness, Boyce brought an organization to America that has been part of its fabric for 107 years.

In a time when our politics divides us, the Scout Law reminds us of our duty to ourselves, to one another and to our country. It extols the virtues of citizenship; it centers our mind on service; and it reminds us of our fundamental duty to love our neighbors as ourselves.

We find wisdom in the points of the Scout Law.

A Scout is trustworthy. He can trust his neighbor; his neighbor can trust him.

A Scout is loyal — not to any one political party or ideology, but to his peers and to his country.

A Scout is helpful. He knows that when one of us succeeds, we all succeed. To that end, when he has a hand to lend, he lends it, trusting that the next time he needs a hand, someone will lend him one.

A Scout is friendly, courteous and kind. He doesn’t need a reason to show kindness to someone else, and he doesn’t expect a quid pro quo. He just does what is right.

A Scout is obedient. Whether or not he agrees with a directive, he upholds it, and then later, if he believes it's unwise, he seeks to change it through proper channels. He respects leaders and authorities, realizing that they must make decisions, and he must respect them.

A Scout is cheerful. He maintains a positive attitude even when circumstances appear bleak. When the challenges appear insurmountable, he puts a smile on his face and presses forward because he realizes the only permanent failure is a failure to put forth one’s best effort.

A Scout is thrifty. He uses his time, his energy and his money wisely.

A Scout is brave. He stands up for what he believes is right even if that means he stands alone. Faced with a moral dilemma, he turns inward to confirm what he knows is right rather than looking outward to see what the crowd is doing.

A Scout is clean— in thought, word, and deed.

A Scout is reverent. He puts God ahead of everyone and everything else. He trusts in the divine wisdom of the Lord Almighty to guide him along his path.

In this age of division and incivility, I call upon all Americans to reflect on the values of the Scout Law.

When we’re willing to work as a team, caring more about the job getting done than who gets the credit, we can overcome so many of the self-imposed barriers before us.

When we realize that leadership means putting others before ourselves, remembering the words of the scout’s oath of office (I promise to do my best to be worthy of this office for the sake of my fellow scouts and my troop and the World Brotherhood of Scouting) —which never mention self-interest — we can put ourselves on the path to the more perfect union our nation's founders envisioned some 241 years ago.

For it is in the legacy of one simple good turn by a young man done in 1909 that we are gathered today. With that in mind, go forth and serve your communities and your country one good turn, one service project and one smile at a time, knowing that the impact of your actions will be felt for generations to come.

Benjamin Pontz, a 2015 Eagle Scout from Troop 56 in Strasburg, is a sophomore political science and public policy double major at Gettysburg College. He earned the Bronze Palm, which means he earned five additional merit badges as an Eagle Scout, and remained active in his troop as an Eagle Scout. He’s also a member of LNP’s Generation Next staff.

Friday, July 28, 2017

7 Summer Activities for Spiritual Growth


Many of us first come to spiritual practices in the summer. There is something about the changed pace of our lives during these months that makes it a little easier to dedicate time to growth on our path. Perhaps we have (or recall) moments of heightened sensitivity to the sacred while at camp or on vacation. For some the longer days invite reflection. Others are inspired by being around children on holiday from school; they model play and joy and wonder.

To encourage your exploration of practices this summer, we have designed a month's worth of activities. We've looked for ideas from the world's wisdom traditions as well as in books we've read.

1. GOLDEN DAYS.

Gold is the color of summer. In Tibet, it is known as the color for healing. In the first week of summer, welcome the season by filling your house and your workplace with golden objects, reflecting the color of the summer moons.

2. WALK FOR THE GLORY OF GOD.

"Walking is the great adventure, the first meditation, a practice of heartiness and soul primary to humankind. Walking is the exact balance between spirit and humility," Gary Snyder writes in The Practice of the Wild. Make an intention that the next walk you take outside in nature will be dedicated to the praise of God. Walk slowly, keeping your senses attuned to the wonders that surround you. In appreciation, say this mantra: "Glory be to God."

3. GO BAREFOOT.

Let the child in you come out to play. Taking off your shoes changes your connection with the world. You relax and let your guard down. Chief Luther Standing Bear in T. C. McLuhan's Touch the Earth reminds us: "It was good for the skin to touch Earth and the old people liked to remove their moccasins and walk with bare feet on the sacred Earth. . . . The soil was soothing, strengthening, cleansing, and healing."

4. CONNECT WITH YOUR ANCESTORS.

In The Sacred Balance: Rediscovering Our Place in Nature, David Suzuki writes: "Air is a matrix that joins all life together. . . . In everyday life we absorb atoms from the air that were once part of birds and trees and snakes and worms, because all aerobic forms of life share that same air. . . . The longer each of us lives, the greater likelihood that we will absorb atoms that were once part of Joan of Arc and Jesus Christ, of Neanderthal people and wooly mammoths. As we have breathed in our forebears, so our grandchildren and their grandchildren will take us in with their breath." Get out in the open air and breath in the atoms of those who have preceded you. Thank God for these saints and forebears. Try to imagine someone breathing in your atoms after you have departed this life.

5. TEND YOUR GARDEN

In Creating Eden: The Garden as a Healthy Space, Marilyn Barrett writes: "Although weeding, cutting back, and transplanting are activities that may seem repetitive and never-ending, when seen as a necessary and integral part of the overall unfolding of the garden scheme, they become purposeful rather than boring. In fact, what may appear on the surface to be tedious physical work may, in the actual doing, be spiritually liberating. In taking time to contemplate the small — in observing the details of our gardens — we can experience life on a manageable scale." Get in touch with the spiritually liberating disciplines of attention, repetition, and humility while working in your garden. Experience your time there as a spiritual workshop.

6. FIND A NEW ROLE MODEL

Here's a good exercise by Ruth Baetz from Wild Communion: Experiencing Peace in Nature: "Meditate on a rock. Can you become that silent and still inside? Meditate on a cloud or blowing grass. Can you be that flexible and light inside? What personal quality do you want to develop? Find something in nature that has that quality and be it."

7. WASTE SOME TIME

"It does no good to think moralistically about how much time we waste. Wasted time is usually good soul time," Thomas Moore has observed. Summer is just the right season for idleness and just messing around with things. Quit doing and revel in just being.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Girl Scout Dedicated to Bee Education



Elizabeth Klosky was brainstorming ideas with her father on what to do for her Girl Scouts Gold Award project when she had the idea to do something to protect bees. She and her father had just begun to keep bees in the yard, but when she realized how important they were to the environment – and that certain bee populations around the world were struggling – she wanted to help.

Initially, her idea was to go to events focused on nature and environmental issues, reach out to people there and set up a few native bee houses.

She ended up ... setting up eight native bee houses and reaching more than 8,000 people who supported bee-friendly legislation in New York State through change.org.

Once the Gold Award project was complete, Elizabeth saw how big it had become. With the help of her parents and some “worker bees” (her volunteers), she set off on the path toward turning her project into a nonprofit – New York is a Great Place to Bee.

Through the organization, Elizabeth worked with New York Assemblyman James Skoufis in an attempt to secure a grant to help beekeepers start new hives in the city. Though that didn’t pass, it created room for future bee-friendly legislation that finally did go through.

Her organization also promotes environmental education for children. Elizabeth, with the help of her worker bees, holds events with hands-on activities to help kids understand what bees do and how vital they are to the world. While the projects are mainly geared toward younger audiences, Elizabeth says that volunteers of all ages enjoy making wildflower seed bonbons, small candy-like balls that people can plant in their gardens to help regrow wildflowers that bees depend on for food.

Whether it be for bees or another cause, Elizabeth has advice for anyone who is interested in volunteering.

“Do a lot of research and just find out as much as you can about whatever it is you’re interested in. Use that research to find a place to get involved, and then just go for it!”

--edited for space from Points of Light


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The "Power of Art as Activism"

Documentary filmmakers Zach Ingrasci (right) and co-director Chris Temple have raised more than $750,000 to directly empower disenfranchised communities through microfinance, education and refugee resettlement.
Photo from Points of Light .org
A filmmaker and a humanitarian, Zach Ingrasci is dedicated to using his talents to help empower disenfranchised communities around the world. From living in a tent in a Syrian refugee camp to working as radish farmers and surviving on $1 a day in Guatemala, Zach and his co-director Chris Temple have cultivated an innovative style of documentary filmmaking that sits at the intersection of storytelling and social justice.

Their first feature documentary, “Living on One Dollar,” helped shine a light on extreme poverty and mobilized audiences to take action. The success of the film opened their eyes to the power of art as activism, and led to the founding of Living on One – a production company dedicated to making “films that matter.”

We sat down with Zach to learn more about his work, and what inspires him to serve.

What inspires you to volunteer?

... Growing up on Bainbridge Island, Washington, I felt physically constrained. My first serious volunteering experience was literally just an excuse to get off the island once a week. That experience was so important because I met people there that inspired me to continue to volunteer.


Now it's easy to find inspiration. I've had the privilege of meeting some of the most radically innovative people on the planet; from women keeping their families afloat on less than one dollar a day to Syrian refugees building cities out of camps in the Jordanian desert.

Why do you think it’s important for others to give back?  

There has never been more responsibility on individuals to create the change they want to see. We like to think about critical social issues like poverty, health, war and global warming as separate things, but they aren't. They are all inextricably intertwined and the more that we give back to solve any of these issues the better they will all get. We are seeing funding for critical programs being threatened at a federal level. Now our only real choice is to radically ramp up what we are doing ourselves.

What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer?

I've learned to continually ask, "How can I help?" It seems obvious but the "how" part is often missing. We have to recognize that people are experts in their own lives and we are just partners in helping them achieve success.

Are there any future partnerships, programs, or events that you are excited about?

I'm so excited our new project “Searching for Syria” launched in time for World Refugee Day on June 20. We collaborated with Google and the UN Refugee Agency to create an immersive hub that answers the world's top searched questions about Syria. Definitely check it out, and please share it!

What do you want people to learn from your story?

My career as a filmmaker and activist started with a kind of random volunteer experience. If I had spent too much time worrying what that experience was going to specifically help me achieve in my career path (I was studying economics) I never would have gone ... and that would have been a serious bummer.

Watch the trailer for “Living on One Dollar” and learn more at www.livingonone.org.

--edited for space from Points of Light



Tuesday, July 25, 2017

10 Simple Ways to "Make the World a Better Place"

Just a change in diet to wholesome, local foods can make the world a better place

If you’d like to make the world a better place, but aren’t sure how to fit it into your busy life, these ideas may help:

1. Volunteer.

Volunteering doesn’t have to consume all of your free time. You can volunteer as few hours as you would like! You can find an organization within your community, or you can even volunteer online, through websites that will allow you to help for even a few minutes at a time.

2. Donate blood.

This can be one of the most satisfying ways to make a difference. You can literally save a life with just an hour of your time.

3. Donate used clothing.

There are so many places and ways you can donate your used clothing. Some organizations even offer pick up services, Donate them to a homeless shelter, or an organization that sells them to raise funds.

4. Foster an animal.

This can be such a rewarding experience. If you’re able to part with the foster animals, they leave a hole in your heart, but fostering your next pet helps fill it, and you will be making a difference in the lives of so many animals in need.

5. Spread the word about various causes in your community.

See an interesting fundraiser that an organization is hosting? Share it on Facebook! See an animal that’s up for adoption? Share it. There are so many ways you can help an organization with just the click of a mouse.

6. Donate something you made to an organization that can use it.

I make jewelry, hats, scarves, and other crafty things in my free time. I’ve donated many hats and scarves to homeless shelters, and donate jewelry to a cat rescue organization for them to sell or auction to raise funds. You have talents—use them!

7. Join a bone marrow registry.

It’s incredibly easy to sign up to donate bone marrow, and you never know when you could save a life.

8. Spread some kindness.

Small acts of kindness can go a long way in making the world a better place. Think about a time when someone did something unexpected for you that brightened your day. Weren’t you a nicer person for the rest of the day because of that?

I’m willing to bet that anyone who receives an act of kindness passes it on in some way, even if it’s just by being in a better mood, and therefore treating the people around them with more kindness than usual.

Send someone a kind message. Give a small gift. Make something for someone. Tell someone how much they mean to you. There are so many ways to brighten someone’s day.

9. Change your diet.

Many people will argue with the validity of this strategy to improve the world; however, what you buy reflects what you value.

If you don’t want to become a vegetarian, try having one meat-free day per week. If you don’t want to reduce your meat consumption, how about buying some free range meat or eggs? Or, buy organic food products. There are many ways you can change your diet to reflect your values.

10. Make your purchases support your values.

Every purchase you make supports something. You can either support a large business that exploits people, animals, and the environment, or you can buy items that are local, organic, or fair-trade. It’s hard to change this all at once, especially if you’re used to shopping for bargains, but try changing just a few of your purchases to make them better reflect the things you value.

These are just a handful of the thousands of ways you can make the world a better place! Just remember that every single thing you do makes a difference. Don’t ever let anyone—yourself included—discourage you from trying to be a better person and help others.

---From Tiny Buddha

Monday, July 24, 2017

Heal the Wounds of War in Syria

Former Templeton High School grad working in a refugee camp for Syrians
Several years ago, a then recent high school graduate from a local high school (Templeton, CA), opened my eyes to the tragedy of Syria and other nations undergoing endless war and the subsequent refugee issues.  This young man has no chips in this game of resolving the refugee issue, just inspiration. The issues have grown, and countries like Syria are desperate for good souls to help those caught in the Neanderthal quest for power, conquest and war.

Fortunately, brave people around the world have gathered up their compassion and put it to work every day.  From a recent note from Unify:

Today we invite you to UNIFY with us on a mission of global importance. Our campaign is intended to heal the wounds of war in Syria.  

We begin our efforts with global synchronized prayers and meditations to support the rise of peace and healing within us and all around us. We will transform this unified prayer into concrete "on the ground" assistance for children, mothers and families torn apart by this war.  

We invite you to watch our short film "Hope In Syria" and visit our website with complete details on our campaign efforts and the various ways you can join us, unify with our global partners, participate, and make a difference in the lives of those most in need of help.


Friday, July 21, 2017

Baltimore Program for Students Makes a Difference

Thread photo
Thread engages underperforming high school students confronting significant barriers outside of the classroom by providing each one with a family of committed volunteers and increased access to community resources. We foster students’ academic advancement and personal growth into self-motivated, resilient, and responsible citizens.

Compelling Student Success
Thread engages students in the bottom 25% of their freshman class and radically and permanently reconfigures their social support structure. Each student is matched with a group of volunteers and provided individualized support for ten years while working toward realizing his or her potential.

  • 87% of students who have been in Thread for 5 years have graduated high school
  • 84% of students who have been in Thread for 5 years have been accepted to college
  • 86% of student alumni have completed a 4 or 2 year degree or certificate program
--From the Thread website






Thursday, July 20, 2017

Study Show Connection Between Generosity and Happiness


...a  study published in Nature Communications suggests we should treat others—or just think about being generous—if we want to feel happier.

Researchers from the University of Zurich in Switzerland told 50 participants they would receive $100 over the course of a few weeks. Half of these people were told to spend the money on themselves while the other half were told to spend it on a friend. Before they received the money, participants were asked to think about who they would spend the money on and how much they’d likely spend. The researchers then scanned regions of participants’ brains associated with “social behavior, generosity, happiness and decision-making” using MRI machines  ... While their brains were being scanned, participants also completed a decision-making task where they could "behave more or less generously," according to the study.

Previous studies have shown that being generous can lead to physical and mental perks, but the goal of this study was to see if simply committing to future generosity could yield similar benefits.

... The researchers found that depending on how they'd been directed to spend the money, participants’ brain activity and decisions changed: those who were told to spend the money on someone else were more likely to make generous decisions on the tasks throughout the experiment compared to the “treat yourself” group. 

The generous group also showed more interaction between the brain regions linked to altruism and happiness ... Plus, generous participants reported being happier once the experiment was over ...

... It's important to note that the researchers aren’t sure if these results hold true if your only motivation is to make yourself happier. Meaning just thinking about doing something nice for another person could make you feel good, but it’s in your best interest to actually follow through on that thought .

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Intentions: A Positive Starting Point


While the original intention of The Daily Prism was/is to focus on the good that occurs daily, helping each other grow in good, advice from leaders in the positive movement does fit into this blog's intention. It's a natural growth as we ride out this cycle of time.

The following is a lightly edited (for space) post by Deepak Chopra, MD, "5 Steps to Setting Powerful Intentions."

Intention is the starting point of every dream. It is the creative power that fulfills all of our needs, whether for money, relationships, spiritual awakening, or love.

Everything that happens in the universe begins with intention. When I decide to buy a birthday present, wiggle my toes, or call a friend, it all starts with intention.

In my book The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, the Law of Intention and Desire lays out the five steps for harnessing the power of intention to create anything you desire.

1. Slip into the Gap
Most of the time our mind is caught up in thoughts, emotions, and memories. Beyond this noisy internal dialogue is a state of pure awareness that is sometimes referred to as “the gap.” One of the most effective tools we have for entering the gap is meditation. Meditation takes you beyond the ego-mind into the silence and stillness of pure consciousness. This is the ideal state in which to plant your seeds of intention

2. Release Your Intentions and Desires
Once you’re established in a state of restful awareness, release your intentions and desires. The best time to plant your intentions is during the period after meditation, while your awareness remains centered in the quiet field of all possibilities. After you set an intention, let it go—simply stop thinking about it. Continue this process for a few minutes after your meditation period each day.

3. Remain Centered in a State of Restful Awareness
Intention is much more powerful when it comes from a place of contentment than if it arises from a sense of lack or need. Stay centered and refuse to be influenced by other people’s doubts or criticisms. Your higher self knows that everything is all right and will be all right, even without knowing the timing or the details of what will happen.

4. Detach from the Outcome
Relinquish your rigid attachment to a specific result and live in the wisdom of uncertainty. Attachment is based on fear and insecurity, while detachment is based on the unquestioning belief in the power of your true Self. Intend for everything to work out as it should, then let go and allow opportunities and openings to come your way.

5. Let the Universe Handle the Details
Your focused intentions set the infinite organizing power of the universe in motion. Trust that infinite organizing power to orchestrate the complete fulfillment of your desires. Don’t listen to the voice that says that you have to be in charge, that obsessive vigilance is the only way to get anything done. The outcome that you try so hard to force may not be as good for you as the one that comes naturally. You have released your intentions into the fertile ground of pure potentiality, and they will bloom when the season is right.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Four Thoughts About the Art of Kindness


With a concerted effort of living with kindness, it is possible that this current flood of discontent would subside.

The following four thoughts of developing and living with more kindness is an edited version (for space) of the original post "A Bouquet of Kindness Practices."

Visualize Loving Kindness

"Practice these two visualization exercises daily. Wake up each morning and stand in front of a mirror, seeing your body as the incarnate Name of God. As you go about your day, see everyone and everything as the Name as well. Listen for your angel announcing your true nature, and listen for the angels of others doing the same. In time you will break up the hard-packed soil of the narrow mind and plant in it the seeds of lovingkindness that will soon grow and awaken in you the spacious mind that is your holy and most true self."

Serve Others with Kindness

"A rabbi I know devotes one day a week to simply being of service. She gets up in the morning and dedicates the day to God. She then leaves her home for the city close by and wanders about looking for ways to be of service to others. 'I have no plan for the day, other than to be present to what needs doing and to do those things I can without pride or prejudice. Sometimes I will find myself helping someone move into or out of an apartment, or sitting with the homeless, or walking tourists to their destination. The idea is to be free of any idea other than to serve, to befriend, to be kind."

Be Kind in Speech

"Avoiding hurtful speech has as much to do with how you say something as it does with what you wish to say: Keep it simple; stick to what you know to be true; and move on."


Preserve Kindness

"How do we preserve kindness? We preserve kindness the way we preserve any other value we cherish — we tell stories about it. Preserving kindness means telling stories of loving kindness from your past, but not only your personal past. Working this attribute means exploring your family history to find stories of loving kindness. Talk with relatives and explore your collective memories to sift out these tales. They may be small incidents of kindness that were largely unnoticed at the time, but which, in hindsight, are the stuff of kindness tales. When you find these stories, share them. The more you tell them, the more kindness will take root.

"One of the best ways to practice preserving kindness is to create a ethical will. Writing an ethical will is a centuries-old Jewish practice that is making a comeback among Jews and others. Originally an oral tradition, with parents passing on their values, blessings, life lessons, and forgiveness to their children, ethical wills have been committed to writing for the past one thousand years."

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Loving while Hating Your Partner -- 7 Relationship Survival Steps



It's true, we can't always love the one with are with all the time. Sometimes partners just get on your nerves.  But if we can't always love the one we are with, what steps can we take to make sure those moments of not loving, are pastuerised to remove any lingering toxins?  The following is a severely reduced take of a post from the Greater Good Magazine,  "What to Do When You Hate the One You Love."

Have you ever hated your partner?

You are not alone: It turns out that almost all of us have times when we strongly dislike the people we love the most—although some of us may not even realize it.

In a series of studies, Vivian Zayas and Yuichi Shoda found that people don’t just love or hate significant others. They love and hate them—and that’s normal. The key to getting through the inevitable hard times, as my own research suggests, is to never stop trying to understand where your partner is coming from.

So how do you increase understanding during conflict? Here are seven suggestions for how to think and act to do so.

  1. Instead of asserting your own point of view, try to take your partner’s perspective. Make it your goal to understand why your partner feels the way they do.
  2. Avoid the four horsemen of the apocalypse—criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling.
  3. Give your partner the benefit of the doubt. Assume that their intentions are not malicious.
  4. Take a moment to reflect on your partner’s positive traits. You can even try some gratitude-inducing techniques.
  5. Think of you and your partner as a team, rather than opponents. Your goal is to figure out together why you do not see eye-to-eye and find a solution; it is not to win the fight and prove your partner wrong.
  6. Recognize that it won’t always be easy to follow these suggestions, especially if your partner isn’t playing by the same rules.
  7. Give yourself a mantra to repeat when you start feeling angry to help you remember your goal—even something as simple as “be understanding.”

Friday, July 14, 2017

10 Positive Statements for a Better World


Regardless of one's belief-system, these 10 statements spoken within or aloud, may help lessen the daily challenges and bring a more positive attitude to brighten the world.  The following was written by Jean Houston, Ph.D., a scholar, philosopher and researcher in Human Capacities.

Say aloud and in your heart’s mind (and mind’s heart) the following:

  1. I live in the present moment. I will not obsess about the past or worry about the future. I know that with quantum practice I have access to entering and making whatever changes I wish in the worlds of past and future, for I live in the eternal present.
  2.  I cultivate the art of making connections—cosmic connections, local connections. I pay attention to how my life is intimately related to all life. I become the friend of nature and preserve her beauty and harmony wherever and whenever I can.
  3.  I am thankful for all the blessings in my life. I spell out my days with the grammar of gratitude. I speak forth my gratitude: “Thank you for this food and all who worked to bring it forth. Thank you, Grandma, wherever you are, for teaching me how to cook.”
  4. I practice hospitality in a world where too often strangers are feared, enemies are hated, and the other is shunned. I see no one as other. I welcome guests and even people with very different ideas from mine with graciousness, with deep seeing of the fullness and wonder of the other.
  5.  I seek liberty and justice for all. I will work for a free and a fair world, a world that works for everyone.
  6.  I add to the planet’s fund of goodwill by practicing little acts of kindness, brief words of encouragement, and manifold expressions of courtesy.
  7.  I cultivate the skills of deep listening. I will cross the great divide of otherness. I remember that all things in the world want to be heard, as do the many voices inside of me.
  8. I practice reverence for life by seeing the sacred in, with, and under all things of the world. Everything exists within the field of the sacred.
  9.  I give up trying to hide, deny, or escape from my imperfections. I listen to what my shadow side says, but I will not just live there. I know that I am releasing many of these old forms, these old shadows, and I am bringing in light to banish shadow and to bring me into luminous light and life.
  10. I am willing to learn from the spiritual teachers all around me, however unlikely or unlike me they may be.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

First Step to Happiness: Gratitude





The following is an excerpt from "Three Things I Learned from Teaching Happiness" by
Emiliana Simon-Thomas 

Whenever I teach the science of happiness, I try to leave people with something they can do right after they walk out of the room. Often the simplest, most accessible message is gratitude. Feeling grateful fosters a more accurate understanding of happiness, strengthening our social connections and motivating us to engage and give back to others. Gratitude is often a theme of mindfulness practices, and is squarely focused on the role that others play in our own life’s goodness. Reflecting upon and expressing gratitude is an exercise in capitalizing on enjoyment, building trust, and softening self-focus; we acknowledge what is good and attribute the source of that goodness to others, and this can help anyone avoid the common pitfalls of pursuing happiness.

How can we get better at expressing gratitude? Try this: when thanking someone,
1) say what they did that you are thankful for,
2) acknowledge the effort it took for them to do this, and
3) describe how it was good for you.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

A Morning Prayer


Cholla Garden Sunrise

Prayer for the Morning

by Audette Fulbright Fulson


Did you rise this morning,
broken and hung over
with weariness and pain
and rage tattered from waiting to lawn in a brutal wind?
Get up, child.
Pull your bones upright
gather your skin and muscle into a patch of sun,
Draw breath deep into your lungs;
you will need it
for another day calls to you.
I know you ache.
I know you wish the work were done
and you
with everyone you have ever loved
were on a distant shore
safe, and unafraid.
But remember this,
tired as you are:
you are not alone.
Here
and here
and here also
there are others weeping
and rising
and gathering their courage.
You belong to them
and they you
and together,
we will break through
and bend the art of justice
ll the way down
into their lives.


By Audette Fulson, an ordained Unitarian minister in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Solace for Sidney. Fighting Childhood Cancer

Sidney, an 11-year-old fighting childhood cancer 


There are days when we are so caught up in the world's hoopla of politics and crazy-humanity, that we don't always capture the moments when humanity takes charge and people walk away from political discourse, name calling, war-zones, and all that stuff that is truly temporary and nothing more than humans behaving badly. Today is one of those days. The news is grim and the players and their puppets take the spotlight when they should be reduced to nothing more than dust.  Today, real people with real world issues have stepped up to ask for help and support for the children and the families of children dealing with childhood cancer.

Let's dump the divisiveness and work for our greater good, which includes our children, as exampled in this recent Go Fund Me project, Solace for Sidney.

From the Go Fund Me page:

Solace means to provide comfort in a time of distress or sadness. Imagine being 11 years old and having to face cancer not once, not twice, but three times in your life? Sidney is an AMAZING 11 year old girl who beat Leukemia twice, but has tragically just learned that she has two inoperable brain tumors. Despite all of her challenges, Sidney has remained a light in the world. As the family is forced to once again make heart wrenching decisions, they want to continue to give Sidney opportunities and experiences that will bring joy to her life. Sidney is legally blind from treatments, but that does not keep her from attending music and theater events and amusement parks. We are hoping that through this fundraising, it can help provide financial relief for the family so they can plan special events that they will treasure and remember forever. 

Sidney was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in June of 2007 and completed treatment in August of 2009. After a great year of getting to be a normal kid, she relapsed in August of 2010.  She had a leukemic tumor in her brain that was wrapping itself around her optic nerve, and small leukemic masses all around the outside of her brain and spine.   After several treatments, her end result was limited vision in her left eye (3/200) and her right eye was totally blind. Anything further than 2-3 feet from her face she cannot see. Sidney was getting adapted to her new life with blindness.  Now after seven years, Sidney is back in the cancer world for the third time with tumors that are high-grade, aggressive gliomas. Radiation will begin after the July 4th holiday and go for 6-7 weeks. After that it will be up to her family to determine next steps.  

Help us relieve the financial burden from Sidney’s family so they can focus on what matters most: providing solace for Sidney during this time of distress.

Please see Sidney's CaringBridge site for updates: 
Sidney's CaringBridge Site Updates 

From the page by Sidney's mother:

From Sidney's CaringBridge: 
I’m sorry I’ve been silent for the past 3 weeks. I don’t know what to say. My thoughts are a constant stream of 
“Is this real?” 
“What are we going to do?” 
“Am I doing right by Sidney?”
“How am I supposed to make these decisions?
“Try to be positive Jackie”
“Screw ‘positive’, this sucks”
“How do I DO this?”
“It’s worse this time than ever before”
“What if…”
But in person I’m a constant stream of
“Sidney is feeling good today!”
“She had some good moments today”
“We’re all good on our end today, thank you!”
“Sid is going to kick cancer’s ass!”
“We’re focusing on the good times!”

Because what am I supposed to say? I know I can say whatever I’m feeling…but what I’m feeling is pretty negative and I just refuse to live my life negatively every day. And I refuse to teach Sidney to live negatively…even though she has every right at this moment to live that way! So…I think fearfully every single day but I live positively each day (well, most days I try to! Just ask my fiancĂ© Jared, I’m not perfect at this but I do try!). Because it’s a choice. And I’m hoping it rubs off on Sid so she can get through as much of this with a smile as she can.

Sidney starts 30 rounds of targeted radiation today. She will go to the hospital every week day for the next 6 weeks for radiation and take an oral chemotherapy at night. Doctors tell us this course of action will slow down the growth of the tumors but will not eradicate them. We are told the tumors will never be eradicated and that more tumor growth is likely. We aren’t just sitting around accepting that diagnosis but it’s still a tough one to hear.

At this moment, Sidney is struggling emotionally more than anything. She is 11-years-old and she isn’t stupid. We’ve told her she has brain tumors and that she had surgery so the doctors could look at the tumors and remove some of it. We’ve told her that she is doing radiation to shrink the tumors. We’ve told her that the tumors are pushing on parts of her brain that cause her vision to get fuzzy, that cause her speech to get slurred, that cause her to run into walls when she walks, that caused the facial seizures, that cause her to feel wonky. We’ve told her that all the medication she is taking is to help the swelling in her brain and to help her not have seizures anymore. She understands all of that.

What she doesn’t understand is why everyone is making such a big deal of it. She says, “Why are people so worried about me? People make such a big deal of me being sick. It’s not a big deal, especially for someone like me. I’ll just get better, I always do.” And she’s right. She always has. This time there is just so much uncertainty and there is just not a reason right now to burden Sidney with that uncertainty. After all, she’s only 11. But she has had so many visitors, so many phone calls, so many gifts that she is confused about why she’s getting all that attention. (I am so thankful and humbled by all that attention, it’s honestly wonderful!) We are just trying to figure out how to balance that line between telling Sidney enough so that she understands, but not so much to scare her. So far we’re just doing the best we can.

So that’s where we are at the moment. I’ll end this by saying thank you to all who are praying. I have been struggling to pray because I just don’t know what to pray for. I want to pray for His will but I get so distracted and I just can’t finish one single prayer. He is a constant in my thoughts, but I continue to struggle to put my thoughts into prayer. So, those of you who are praying, thank you.
Jackie

https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/sidney/journal



Friday, July 7, 2017

4 Steps to Increase Your Altruism (& a Quiz too!)



Want to discover new ways to boost your habits of helping? Here are some tips and exercises:


  • Fill a day with kindness. According to research, acts of kindness have a bigger impact on our happiness when we perform them all at once, rather than sporadically. Pack one day a week with five acts of kindness, such as feeding a stranger's parking meter, donating blood, helping a friend with a chore, or providing a meal to a person in need.
  • Get connected.We’re more likely to behave altruistically when we feel close and connected to others. To bolster those feelings, try the Feeling Connected practice, where you reflect and write about a moment when you feel very connected to someone. Also consider adding reminders of connectedness to your home or work space.
  • Feel good about giving. Not all giving is creating equal. When we give in ways that not only help others but also make us feel good, we’re more likely to make giving a habit. Research has found that the most happiness-inducing acts of giving don’t feel like an obligation, and they allow us to connect with others and see the impact of our help. So consider choosing activities where you get to spend time with recipients—like helping a friend move or volunteering at a soup kitchen—or donate to charities that clearly explain where your money is going.
  • Visualize and reflect on giving. According to Stephen Post, we can expand our everyday habits of generosity with a few simple exercises, including journaling about the ways we give to others and receive gifts from them, and visualizing how we could help people we encounter on a daily basis.

TAKE AN ALTRUISM QUIZ AND DISCOVER WHERE YOU STAND WHEN IT COMES TO HELPING OTHERS:    ALTRUISM QUIZ


Thursday, July 6, 2017

Transform Your Words



The Daily Prism has extracted a few paragraphs on words from an essay, Transform Your Words in 4 Steps written by Tony Robbins:


  • If somebody asks you, “How’s it going?” instead of saying, “Okay,” what would be a word that might put a smile on your face to even say, that would break your own pattern? Like, “You wouldn’t even believe how I’m feeling!” with a smile, to be playful with yourself. Or a simple response like “I’m committed” or “I’m lucky” or “I’m grateful.” And then take a moment to think about what you are grateful for. We often lose sight of what’s beautiful in our life because of a few things that are out of line with our expectations.
  • Write down three words you currently use on a regular basis that intensify your negative feelings or emotions. Maybe you use words like “I’m frustrated,” “I’m depressed,” or “I’m humiliated.” Come up with alternative words that will lower the intensity of those negative emotions. Maybe instead of “depressed” you say you are “a little bit down.”
  • What would happen if instead of saying you feel “humiliated” you say you are “uncomfortable” with how the situation was dealt with? You can soften emotional intensity even further by using modifiers like “I’m just a bit peeved,” or, “I’m feeling a tad out of sorts.”
  • Write down three words that you use to describe your experience that is somewhat positive. When someone says, “how’s it going?” come up with three alternative words that will amplify and intensify the positive feelings and inspire you. Instead of talking about how things are “all right,” replace those words with “incredible,” “outrageous,” and “spectacular.” What’s a positive word that if you really thought about your whole life, you could say and own congruently?
  • By carefully and consciously selecting the words you are attaching to your experiences and doing it for a ten-day period, you’ll find an immediate change in how you feel and this becomes positively addictive. I can tell you for those who have lived this ten-day plan,

Friday, June 30, 2017

Chef's Legacy Inspires a Charitable Project



Charlie Trotter’s spirit of mentorship and giving back to the community lives on through The Trotter Project—a 501(c)(3) charitable organization created in part by our Founding President Chef Homaro Cantu and supported by Chef Trotter's mother Dona-Lee, sister Anne, brothers Scott and Tom, and his son Dylan, along with countless alumni and friends.

The Trotter Project seeks to unite budding talent interested in the culinary arts, along with the hospitality and service industries, through a variety of mentorship programs designed to educate and inspire. Our programs inspire the next generation of talent, propel careers and build community through our partnerships with:


  • ProStart Program – The Trotter Project and ProStart Mentor Menu program in all 50 states and U.S. military bases in Europe and Asia, in partnership with the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation
  • Careers Through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) – Paid fall and summer internships for under-served high school students in Arizona, Illinois, Virginia, California, New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, DC.
  • After School Matters – Six-week paid summer internships for at-risk high school teens in Chicago.
  • Fundraising events – Seasonal events and celebrations of Chef Trotter’s legacy. Proceeds go toward funding our mentorship programs, operations and maintaining the site of the original Charlie Trotter's restaurant and studio as a hub for youth engagement and events. 

Charlie Trotter the chef changed the world of cooking through his Michelin-starred restaurant. Charlie Trotter the teacher had an even broader reach as a mentor who fostered a generation of world-class chefs, while also welcoming high school students into his kitchen to learn the art of excellence in service.

Chef Trotter opened his namesake restaurant in 1987. During its 25-year tenure, the kitchen welcomed over 800 aspiring cooks. Many cite Charlie Trotter for cultivating the discipline, skill and curiosity integral to their culinary careers. These include Bill Kim, Matthias Merges, David LeFevre, Mindy Segal, Giuseppe Tentori, Christian Ramos, Michael Taus,  David Myers, Jesse Dunford-Wood and many more from across the country and around the world who have each gone on to open their own successful restaurants.

Charlie Trotter the knowledge center lives on as a hub for youth engagement, programming and events. None of this is possible without generous donations from lovers of the culinary community who believe, like Chef Trotter, “One of the most beautiful things that I can do for you—or that any one of us can do for another—is to serve each other.” 
--from the Trotter Project webpage

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Beer Company Commits to Clean Oceans with Grant Offer

The CODE

Clean Oceans Depend on Everyone


Alaskan Brewing Co. has committed 1% of all proceeds from Alaskan Icy Bay IPA to support the cleanup of waterways and coastlines in an initiative call the Coastal CODE (Clean Oceans Depend on Everyone). The Coastal CODE provides grants to organizations and activities that promote the health of the Ocean and the waterways that lead to it, the Coastal CODE Fund grants money to projects that promote: beach, lake or waterway cleanup activities or water habitat restoration.

Interested in applying?

Download the Coastal CODE Application, which details the application and selection process, as well as grant reporting requirements.

Grant requests and inquiries should be directed to info@alaskanbeer.com

The Coastal CODE Advisory Committee chooses a select group of non-profits to work with each year. The Committee meets once a year to make granting decisions. The proposal deadline to be qualified for the coming year’s partnership is September 1.


Making a difference, one beer at a time


Since the creation of the Coastal CODE in 2007, over 1 million pounds of trash have been removed from cleanup efforts made possible by the CODE and thousands of volunteers. Beaches and waterways from Alaska to California and now the Gulf to the Midwest can all benefit from this beer with a cause.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Groups Now Taking Grant Applications for National Funding

The United Soccer Foundation is one of the many organizations now taking grant applications. C. Coimbra photo
The current newsletter from The Grant Station, a webpage that lists available grants from foundations, corporations, governments, etc., list the following available grant to apply for. Grants range from proposals for program that support a just society, education, health, and safe playgrounds for children.


National Funding
Current Opportunities Throughout the U.S.

Support for Community Organizing for Social Change in the U.S. and Canada
Unitarian Universalist Association: Fund for a Just Society 
The Fund for a Just Society, a program of the Unitarian Universalist Association, provides grants to nonprofit organizations in the U.S. and Canada that address issues of social and economic justice. The Fund supports organizations that use community organizing to bring about systemic change leading to a more just society and to mobilize with those who have been disenfranchised and excluded from resources, power, and the right to self-determination. Priority is given to active, specific campaigns to create change in the economic, social, and political structures that affect their lives. Consideration is given to projects that are less likely to receive conventional funding because of the innovative or challenging nature of the work or the economic and social status of the constituency. The maximum grant amount is $15,000; however, most grants range between $6,000 and $8,000. Requests are reviewed two times per year; the next application deadline is September 15, 2017. Visit the Unitarian Universalist Association website to review the funding guidelines.

K-12 Parent-School Collaborative Projects Funded
Lowe's Toolbox for Education Grant Program
The Toolbox for Education Grant Program, offered by Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation, provides grants of up to $5,000 to public K-12 schools, as well as school parent-teacher groups associated with public schools, throughout the United States that develop projects to encourage parent involvement and build stronger community spirit. Preference is given to funding requests that have a permanent impact such as facility enhancement (both indoor and outdoor), landscaping, or cleanup projects. The Fall 2017 grant cycle will open on August 7. Visit the program’s website during the grant cycle to submit an online application.

Grants Address HIV/AIDS Issues in Local Communities
Kent Richard Hofmann Foundation
The Kent Richard Hofmann Foundation is dedicated to the fight against HIV and AIDS. Grant requests from throughout the United States are considered, with particular interest in smaller communities and rural areas. The Foundation supports community-based nonprofit organizations that focus on HIV/AIDS care and direct services, education, or research. Grants are provided to developing or established programs, with emphasis on those that provide direct benefit to clients or target audiences. Requests are reviewed two times per year. The upcoming deadline for letters of inquiry is September 1, 2017; invited grant applications will be due September 22, 2017. Visit the Foundation’s website to submit an online letter of inquiry.

Soccer Field-Building Initiatives Supported
United States Soccer Foundation: Safe Places to Play Grants
The United States Soccer Foundation is dedicated to enhancing, assisting, and growing the sport of soccer in the U.S., with a special emphasis on underserved communities. The Foundation's Safe Places to Play Grants are provided for field-building initiatives in four categories: Synthetic Turf, Lighting, Irrigation, and Sport Court. Eligible applicants include community organizations, schools, municipalities, and other groups that offer soccer opportunities to youth. Requests for Safe Places to Play Grants are reviewed three times per year. The upcoming deadline for letters of interest for the 2017 Fall Grant Cycle is September 29; invited applications must be submitted by October 6. Visit the Foundation's website to learn more about the application process.



Monday, June 26, 2017

Tech Applications for the Greater Good



Predictions for the potential of artificial intelligence wax poetic — solutions from climate change to curing disease — but the everyday applications make it seem far more mundane, like a glorified clock radio.

Thankfully, the future may be closer than we think. And the miraculous feats are not happening in Silicon Valley X-Labs — in a plot twist, nonprofits are leading the charge in creating human-centered applications of the hottest AI technologies. From the simplest automated communications to contextual learnings based on analysis of deep data, these technologies have the potential to rapidly scale and improve the lives of our most underserved communities.

Chatbots
Take chatbots for example, a new spin on mobile messaging that has historically been human-powered. Organizations like mRelief have for years used simple mobile messaging to meet users where they’re at. Recently, tech nonprofits are taking a new approach. Raheem.ai, a Facebook Messenger bot for reporting and rating experiences with police officers, engages with users to walk them through reporting police incidents and provide follow-on support. The interactions are simple, but powerful.

Machine learning
Crisis Text Line still implements a human-to-human volunteer model, but the tech nonprofit has the largest open source database of youth crisis behavior in the country, and has been able to use AI to dramatically shorten response time for high-risk texters from 120 seconds to 39. Crisis Text Line leveraged machine learning to identify the term “ibuprofen” as 16 times more likely to predict the need for emergency aid than the word “suicide.” Now using AI, messages containing the word “ibuprofen” are prioritized in the queue.

Machine learning even allows you to select the energy source that powers your home appliances. WattTime creates software that enables smart hardware devices to prioritize clean energy with a simple flip of a switch. Their product relies on machine learning to detect when to tell smart devices like thermostats to pull from the power grid, based on surges in clean energy. This means your A/C may turn on five minutes earlier or later than it typically would, because the algorithms instruct your utilities to capitalize upon instances of excess clean energy from sources like windmills, thus minimizing the use of dirty power.

Natural-language processing
Quill, a free online tool that helps students measurably improve grammar and writing, discovered that natural-language processing was essential to remedy students’ struggles with sentence fragmentation. Using open source tools and online training programs, Quill’s technical team built its own fragment detection algorithm powered by a combination of machine learning and natural-language processing. Quill’s methodology is exemplary for resource-constrained tech nonprofits. It leveraged Wikipedia to amass a dataset of 100,000 high-quality sentences, integrated the natural-language processing tool Spacy.io to break the sentences down, and incorporated Tensorflow for data classification.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

We Are Connected to Everything


John Duns Scotus (c. 1266-1308) was a Franciscan philosopher and theologian who in many ways paralleled Bonaventure’s ideas. Duns Scotus helped develop the doctrine of the univocity of being. Previous philosophers said God was a Being, which is what most people still think today. Both the Dominican Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) and Duns Scotus said Deus est ens, God is being itself. The Dominicans said everything other than God participated in being only by analogy and by attempts to make connections, but it was not really the same being as God’s being. Yet Duns Scotus believed we can speak “with one voice” (univocity) of the being of waters, plants, animals, humans, angels, and God. We all participate in the same being. God is one (Deuteronomy 6:4), and thus reality is one, as well (Ephesians 4:3-5).

This gives us a foundation for understanding the sacredness of everything and our connection with everything. We are already connected to everything—inherently, objectively, metaphysically, ontologically, and theologically. We don’t create the connection by going to church or reading the Bible, although we hopefully enliven the connection. In Francis’ worldview, we begin with “original blessing,” as Matthew Fox rightly said. Our DNA is already divine; that is why we naturally seek to know and love God. There has to be a little bit of something inside you for you to be attracted to it; like knows like. You are what you are looking for!

A heart transformed by this realization of oneness knows that only love “in here” can spot and enjoy love “over there.” Thus true spiritual teachers see fear, constriction, and resentment as blindness that must be overcome. These emotions impede growth. Thus all mystics are positive people—or they are not mystics. Their spiritual warfare is precisely the work of recognizing and then handing over all of their inner negativity and fear to God. The great paradox here is that such a victory is a gift from God, and yet somehow you must want it very much (Philippians 2:12b-13). God does not come unless invited.

The central practice in Franciscan mysticism, therefore, is that we must remain in love, which is why it is a commandment (John 15:4-5), in fact, the great commandment of Jesus. Only when we are eager to love can we see love and goodness in the world around us. We must ourselves remain in peace, and then we will see and find peace over there. Remain in beauty, and we will honor beauty everywhere. This concept of remaining or abiding (John 15:4-5) moves religion out of esoteric realms of doctrinal outer space where it has for too long been lost. There is no secret moral behavior required for knowing or pleasing God, or what some call “salvation,” beyond becoming a loving person in mind, heart, body, and soul. Then each of us will see all that we need to see!