So many reasons to be hope-full

Humans can be scrappy and perverse, but they are also kind, generous and loving. We need each other. May your life be filled with love.

Although it’s been nearly two weeks since I posted anything here, new people keep finding their way to the blog. Welcome, and may you find many reasons to be full of hope in spite of what can seem like a world gone mad.

Since I began this blog in May 2011, hundreds of thousands of people have stopped by. I’m so grateful to you all for sharing this journey with me.

A partial goodbye

As 2016 approaches, I am turning my attention to the long list of writing and photography projects pulling at me like a dog tugging on a chew toy. Given the realities of the 24-hour day, I won’t be adding new posts here but will leave the blog for you to wander around in when you need a boost.

I will still add to the Facebook and pages, with links to inspiring stories to make you smile, cheer and believe that change is not just possible, it’s happening. So this is only a partial goodbye to a project I started several years ago with the intent of finding 1,001 reasons for hope.

This is #1,329, and I can honestly say casting my net for reasons for hope has been like getting a vaccination against despair. I still see what’s wrong in the world, but I see how much more is right. We have to do something about the former. We need to celebrate and shout about the latter.

My favorite places to find hope

When you start looking for hope, you find it everywhere. But I do have a small list of places I turn to on a regular basis. I didn’t know about any of them until I started this hope journey. Now they brighten my life every week. Here they are:

Some hope-filled individuals who give me a regular boost

You will find me here

As I turn to the delicious projects demanding attention, you will find me regularly in several places. Drop by. Say hello.


The best coffee your heart can try

Logo of the Cafe Femenino Foundation, from their Facebook photos

Logo of the Cafe Femenino Foundation, from their Facebook photos

That first, welcome cup of coffee in the morning will taste even better if you know your purchase is improving the lives of women coffee producers in countries like Peru and Indonesia. Cafe Femenino was started by 464 Peruvian women who formed a non-profit in 2004. Their vision was to improve the lives of women and their families, starting with Peru and expanding around the world.

The film below, “Every Cup Has Its Story”, will touch your heart. Watch it, then read “Stories of Hope” on the Cafe Femenino website. Find out where you can buy it. (In my hometown it’s through the university women’s organization.)

Your next cup of coffee (organic, of course) will be the best you have ever tasted.




iPhone app links strangers for 20 days – a path to peace?

Photo clip from video below

Photo clip from video below

I wrote about this app in May 2014 (see 20 Day Stranger below). That was long before the recent eruption of violent extremism in pockets around the globe. I think it’s time to bring this to your attention once again.

Fear of The Other is nothing new. Neither is storytelling. This free app connects two strangers from different parts of the world. For 20 days they follow each other’s lives via their smartphones. They never learn private details, not even exactly where their partner stranger is from. What they do learn is to see the world through a stranger’s eyes.

At the end of 20 days, all information about the two strangers is deleted. They remain strangers, but perhaps during the 20 days their eyes will have been opened to their shared humanity across geographical and cultural boundaries.

This might be a good time for everyone with a smartphone to meet a stranger.

20 Day Stranger

For 20 days, strangers around the world will be paired via their iPhones. They will send photos to each other, with no identifying information. Their anonymity will be preserved. Each will view the other’s life without ever knowing who the stranger is.

What a curious little experiment. Jordan Graham wrote about it for the Boston Herald, quoting Tinsley Galyean, the co-director of MIT’s Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformation:

“We can start to develop this sense of intimate moments with somebody we don’t know and will never know,” said Tinsley Galyean, co-director of MIT’s Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values. “Sometimes it’s very mundane, but sometimes they’re in the hospital.”

The app is a joint project of the Center and the MIT Media Lab Playful Systems. If it piques your curiosity, apply here.


Sometimes you just have to dance

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Pharrell was doing a show in Leeds, singing his popular “Happy” song. He invited kids to dance on stage with him. 7-year-old Dylan didn’t hesitate. While the other kids jumped around with enthusiasm, Dylan totally cut loose, to the cheers of his proud dad, Pharrell’s amazement, and the enthusiasm of the audience.

Dylan is one child who will grow up knowing his dad believes in him. He cheered the whole time Dylan was on stage and long after.

Both kid and parent were on a high that lasted well after Dylan was off stage. It was an evening neither of them will forget. On some day when the world’s not cheering and dark clouds have rolled in, Dylan can remember his moment in the lights, his dad’s pride, and his utter self-confidence. That’s a shiny stone to tuck in his memory and take out when he needs it.


Would you share a table with the enemy?


Some of the delicious hummus bringing Arabs and Jews together; from Humus Bar’s Facebook photos

The Humus Bar* does not consider Jews and Arabs enemies, but it cannot ignore the growing intolerance of extremists on both sides of that equation. So they decided to offer a 50% discount to Jews and Arabs willing to sit down together over a delicious dish of hummus.

On October 12th, they posted a notice on their Facebook page:

Scared of Arabs?

Scared of Jews?

They went on to say there were no Arabs and no Jews at the Humus Bar, just human beings. What they did have was Arab hummus, Jewish falafels, and free hummus refills for anyone. Plus, since the food is kosher, it is also halal so a good place for people to come together.

Manager Kobi Tzafrir told the Times of Israel the idea has been bringing several tables of Arabs and Jews a day since the ad went on Facebook. He has had kudos from around the world.

The initiative was so successful they are hoping to kick start a world movement. They are challenging every humus-serving restaurant in the world to offer a 50% discount on any plate of hummus shared by Jews and Arabs.

Peace through hummus? Why not? We need some new ideas on that challenging front.

*humus or hummus or…? That’s the problem with transliteration. The bar itself translates the word as “humus”, while Times of Israel writes it “hummus”. Take your pick.


Sama Group is ENDING poverty for thousands

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Leila Janah, founder of Sama Group, from the company’s website

What if poverty were not inevitable? What if your charity donations could help people become tax payers instead of tax recipients? Would that influence your thinking about immigration, poverty, and…why not…the future of the world?

After watching the interview Marie Forleo did with Leila Janah, I’m prepared to throw my hat into the ring of people who believe miracles can be just a matter of caring enough.

Leila Janah is one smart cookie. She’s a Harvard graduate who was a misfit in the corporate world. She met some smart people born into situations that did not just clip their wings. They slashed them off.

But those people were intelligent, hard working and eager. Janah believed they deserved a chance. Watch this interview to see how she provided that chance.

Check out the Sama Group and watch a heart-touching video about one of their success stories, Martha.


Cooking can kill, but these Rotarians are changing that

The stove looks simple, but it is efficient, can be used indoors safely, and saves lives; photo from Stove Team International's Facebook page

The stove looks simple, but it is efficient, can be used indoors safely, and saves lives; photo from Stove Team International’s Facebook page


For millions of people around the world, cooking is a deadly activity. Fire gets away and kills eight times more children than malaria. Fumes cause respiratory, eye and skin problems. Even finding the fuel to burn is a huge problem, and burning that fuel contributes a billion tons of greenhouses gases.

Enter Stove Team International, the non-profit launched by Nancy Hughes. When she met a Guatemalan woman whose hands were burned shut because of a cooking fire and learned of sick babies who could not be intubated because their lungs were choked with creosote, she knew she had to do something.

She galvanized the Eugene, Oregon, Southtowne Rotary Club. They designed a stove that would be more efficient and less polluting. The result was the Ecocina. It uses half the wood, reduces carbon emissions by 68% and particulate matter by more than 86% and produces very little smoke. The stoves are built on site, by local people using local materials.

These Rotarians saw a serious problem and swung into action. They give me hope.

You can follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.


Sometimes the most generous people are next door

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Last week I took a friend for her birthday lunch at a small restaurant with a big reputation. Jason Leizert’s Salted Brick has made a commitment to fresh, local fare from the Okanagan Valley’s farms and artisans. I had heard the food was first rate.

But a few days before that lunch, I learned Salted Brick had already spent a whole year doing something incredibly generous. You see, Salted Brick is in my neighbourhood. My part of Kelowna, B.C. (a small Canadian city on Lake Okanagan) is drop-dead gorgeous. It is also home to a growing number of homeless people.

Liezert’s stomach got a healthy filling each day. His heart didn’t, not when he saw so many hungry people on the streets where his small restaurant attracts a regular clientele. So he started the Bag Lunch Program. With the help of some corporate sponsors and other donors, he started making dozens of sandwiches each Monday morning. Alongside them he popped apples, juice, fruit and a baked goodie. A friendly smile accompanied each bag, as it passed into the hands of a grateful recipient.

The demand has not slowed down. So now Leizert has launched a Go Fund Me campaign so he can buy a food bike or food cart, along with more supplies. He plans to launch a program that lets visitors to the restaurant, or to the food cart, buy tokens. They can give the tokens to homeless folk or use them to buy a bag lunch for Salted Brick to distribute.

As for that birthday lunch, it tasted all the better after I learned about the restaurant’s generosity.


Howard Zinn’s US history project includes everyone, not just rich white guys


Howard Zinn speaking in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, 2009, via Wikimedia Commons

Growing up female in America, I had a hard time believing the official version of my country’s history. What I saw around me was the gritty reality. Women working full time while rearing children. Low-wage workers being exploited. Brilliant minds being dismissed because they were not backed by degrees.

Then in 1980 Howard Zinn came out with A People’s History of the United States: 1492 to Present. Finally someone was telling the stories of workers, women, minorities. Someone was telling the stories I could relate to, the stories of my people instead of far-off “heroes”.

So I appreciate Alissa Bennett’s letting me know about the Zinn Education Project, whose goal is:

“…to introduce students to a more accurate, complex, and engaging understanding of United States history than is found in traditional textbooks and curricula….Students learn that history is made not by a few heroic individuals, but instead by people’s choices and actions, thereby also learning that their own choices and actions matter.”

That’s the secret of hope, isn’t it? You matter. I matter. We all matter. We don’t wait for heroes to change the world. We roll up our sleeves and get to work.

You can follow the Zinn Education Project on Facebook and Pinterest.

Amazon US, Amazon Canada or your public library


Aging together in a chosen community

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The Sooke Marine Boardwalk is one of the many amenities within walking distance of Harbourside Senior Cohousing; photo by Ruth Hartnup, via Flickr Creative Commons

As Boomers edge into their retirement years, many are contemplating an old idea: cohousing. Some are veterans of communal living experiments in the sixties and beyond. Others just prefer to age in good company, with more control than they might have in independent-living complexes.

I’ve written about the Baba Yaga House in France and the ElderSpirit complex in Virginia. One of the newer entries in the senior cohousing field is Harbourside, in Sooke, British Columbia. A group of friends in the Vancouver Island community decided they wanted to grow old together. Months of pot lucks and lively conversations helped them arrive at a plan for a senior cohousing project.

One of them had a 2-acre, waterfront lot a short walk from all of Sooke’s amenities. The lodge on it became the group’s common house, with space for guest quarters and possibly a caretaker’s unit in future. Architectural drawings show gardens, walkways, apartments and duplexes. The members’ bios sound like the kind of people who make up our lively group of friends here in Kelowna, B.C. And the setting is gorgeous.

We sometimes talk about the advantages of intentional community as we age. The Sooke friends have gone beyond talking. Their site is still under construction and will be another model for healthy aging in place.

Learn more: