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:



You can live in a happy city – here’s how

In my home town of Kelowna, British Columbia, the city's waterfront development has made the downtown a destination

In my home town of Kelowna, British Columbia, the city’s waterfront development has made the downtown a destination

Charles Montgomery has turned his research and writing talents to urban design and written a book that is fascinating from cover to cover. Casting his net around the world, he has pulled in examples of some of the most people-friendly places to live. These are places that are paying attention to the needs of walkers and cyclists and are creating community gathering places that transform urban anonymity into city friendliness.

The good news is that retrofitting cities is not the economic drag most people think. It actually leads to economic gain, social equity, and an improvement in overall health. Montgomery makes a strong case for urban design as a means of shaping human behaviour. The cities he describes are places I would want to live.

I nibbled this book one small section at a time. Since I live in the downtown core of my small city, I had the chance to take my usual walks with eyes open to possibilities. Fortunately, our city planners seem to be onside with much of what Montgomery praises in this book, but we have a long way to go before we adopt enough of these ideas to make this a truly pedestrian- and bike-friendly place. I’m lucky to live where I can walk to nearly everything, but most of our city residents are still too far from shopping, services and recreation to lure them out of their cars. The Happy City gives me hope that one day we can all live in cities that enhance our quality of life.



High school student designs pram for moms in wheelchairs

Sharina Jones takes baby for a walk, thanks to the invention of Alden Kane; photo from video below

Sharina Jones takes baby for a walk, thanks to the invention of Alden Kane; photo from video below

The waterfront walk near my home is a favourite spot for running moms. They pop junior in an expensive pram and get their exercise while baby gets fresh air.

Absent on the scene are moms in wheelchairs. Pushing a pram is not in the cards. Or at least it wasn’t. But a Detroit high school student, Alden Kane, designed a stroller that latches onto a wheelchair. Baby is safe. Mom is mobile.

The 16-year-old senior at University of Detroit High School took on the design challenge for his STEM (science / technology / engineering / mathematics) class in spring 2015. He was assigned a mother in a wheelchair and told to create something that would allow her to easily carry her baby. The adaptable stroller was the result.

The prototype is not yet at the sale stage, but the idea is such a good one I have no doubt it is headed for market.

Thanks to my friend Judith for the tip.


The $70,000 minimum wage is working

Dan Price, CEO of Gravity Payments, from the company's Facebook page

Dan Price, CEO of Gravity Payments, from the company’s Facebook page

I confess when I wrote about Dan Price and his shocking minimum wage, I gulped, crossed my fingers and held my breath. The CEO of Gravity Payments had announced that over the next three years he was going to even out the pay scale. Everyone in the company would make the same salary, $70,000.

My equity-driven soul screamed, “YES!” The cautious side of me quietly wondered if the company would crash and burn.

So here is an update. According to, business is soaring, and profits have doubled. When a job opens, thousands of people apply. Employees are ecstatic. Once customers lifted their dropped jaws off the floor, they signed on.

Price had to put up with a lot of ugly skeptics. (Think Fox News.) He did not back down. His announcement went viral. Gravity’s payments-processing system became an industry darling. Employees who liked being top dogs grumbled a bit, but everyone knew they would be making enough to pay their bills and have a decent quality of life.

So hats off to Dan Price. His gamble is paying off. Now I hope he’ll talk to the board of my bank, where the CEO makes an obscenely huge salary but keeps front-line staff hungry. What Gravity is aiming for is “enough”, that point where workers can concentrate on doing a good job for a company they love instead of on clawing their way up a competitive pay scale.

Is everyone happy? We’re talking about human beings, not automatons. Of course some grumbling still swirls around the coffee machine. But however this experiment turns out in the long run, Dan Price deserves praise for making such a bold step toward equity.