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with the talents and resources you have? It's a fairly basic question, but remarkably one I never even bothered to ask myself until the answer was shown to me by accident: I was holding an armful of blankets and wondering what to do with them when a story came on the radio about a cholera epidemic in the Sierra Madres. This inspired a chain of events that resulted in about three years of delivering clothing, school and medical supplies to poor communities in the Mexican highlands and throughout the southwest. You can read about it here.

What I wanted to do was alleviate human misery, and as it turned out the best way to do it was to collect warm clothes from rich people, pack them into my van and deliver them to the poorest, coldest and most isolated people I could find. This simple formula put me through tests and took me to places I'd never even dreamed of, but when I was done I knew that a couple of thousand people were at least slightly better off because of what I'd done. On top of everything else, this sort of project can do wonders for your self-esteem.

I'm sure you're familiar with Joe Hill's final advice: "Don't mourn, organize." To that I'd like to add, "And once you've gotten tired of organizing, just go out and Do Something." Taking from the rich and giving to the poor is a good start, and if you're within striking distance, getting warm clothes to cold people is a damn good way to do it. But for the moment probably the most useful thing you can do is simply ask yourself the question: "What's the most useful thing I can do with the talents and resources I have to make this world a better place?"

After that, check out "Take to the Hills!" and feel free to buy and gift it voraciously. It's a quick read, and only 99 cents.

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Comment Preferences

  •  What's the most useful thing you can do to make (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    freewayblogger, voracious, rebel ga

    this world a better place..."

    Never. ever support or donate to a political party or their offsprings - always donate to specific politicians who most represent what you stand for.  

  •  so I'm supposed to steal... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    some rich dude's pants and give them to a poor dude with a cold?

    On a serious note we need to elect more people willing to raise taxes on the wealthy. We could do so much good if we just had some funding. the rich and Wall Street banks are sitting on a shit ton of bailout money that could be better spent.

    I sing praises in the church of nonsense, but in my heart I'm still an atheist, demanding sense of all things.

    by jbou on Mon Dec 02, 2013 at 03:59:55 PM PST

    •  After awhile I got a bunch of funding (7+ / 0-)

      from Newman's Own. I rented an office, got a phone line, printed up business cards, etc. Ultimately though it didn't make much difference compared to simply collecting, packing and delivering the clothes. It was nice having the gas paid for, but I still could've done it on my own, and that's the point I'm trying to make: you can do a hell of a lot all by yourself just with what you've got once you figure out the best way to do it.

      The key is to do something good with what you love doing anyway: then you're unstoppable.

      When you put a sign up next to a freeway, people will read it until someone takes it down.

      by freewayblogger on Mon Dec 02, 2013 at 04:24:57 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I Blog/Write Diaries. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        freewayblogger, Diana in NoVa

        I have a new one for Christmastime. ❅❅ Ho❅♥ Ho♥❅ Ho❅♥ ❅❅

        Fun; Free Christmas Activities Stories, Plays, Poems, Rhymes, Coloring Pages, Games, Word Searches, And Recitals is a teacher created website with elementary and homeschooling activities: first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade, fifth grade and sixth grade teaching materials and lesson plans.

        Brought To You By That Crazed Sociologist/Media Fanatic rebel ga Be The Change You Want To See In The World! Gandhi

        by rebel ga on Mon Dec 02, 2013 at 09:33:22 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  For this week it is buying canned goods (3+ / 0-)

    for our local food bank. Right now a lot of staples like beef/chicken/vegetable stock and beans are on sale at our local stores. I usually fill up a couple of bags for around $20 and drop them off at the food bank. Our foodbank operates on canned good donation only so donating cash does not increase their buying power.

    "Pulling together is the aim of despotism and tyranny. Free men pull in all kinds of directions.” --Lord Vetinari

    by voracious on Mon Dec 02, 2013 at 04:12:28 PM PST

    •  Getting food to the hungry (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      voracious, elfling, rebel ga

      is like getting warmth to the cold: you don't have to worry much about whether or not you're doing the right thing.

      Love your signature.

      When you put a sign up next to a freeway, people will read it until someone takes it down.

      by freewayblogger on Mon Dec 02, 2013 at 04:29:43 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  THanks (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        freewayblogger, freerad, rebel ga

        And our local food bank is awesome. No one has to income verify. Just show up you get a bag of groceries. This makes me conscious of what I buy. Just because people are poor doesn't mean they should only get my extra hot enchilada sauce I bought by accident, or the jalapenos from the back of my pantry I never used.

        "Pulling together is the aim of despotism and tyranny. Free men pull in all kinds of directions.” --Lord Vetinari

        by voracious on Mon Dec 02, 2013 at 04:44:24 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  At one point there was a Post Office you could (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rebel ga

    mail shoes to. Is that going on any more.

    Could you mail it to Resident c/o podunk, postoffice?

    Why is it easier to buy a gun than it is to register to vote in most states?

    by 88kathy on Mon Dec 02, 2013 at 04:40:42 PM PST

  •  Use less stuff? (3+ / 0-)

    Your warm clothing collection is admirable.  I'm trying to see how much "stuff" I can get by without.  The goal is minimization of consumption of resources and particularly minimizing consumption that results in GHG emissions.

  •  Cultivate (5+ / 0-)

    kindness, openness, and generosity of spirit.
    I find much satisfaction in the mutual exchange of those things with family, friends, and the hospice volunteer work that I do. It seems to have the effect of generating a sense of wellbeing for all.

    Thank you for diarying this question. The world becomes a better place just by considering the question.

    'A civilization flourishes when people plant trees under whose shade they will never sit' Greek Proverb

    by janis b on Mon Dec 02, 2013 at 05:22:13 PM PST

  •  Only do what only you can do (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Computer Scientist Edsger Dijkstra

    In my case, that is working on education for millions of children around the world. Specifically, on Open Educational Resources (digital textbooks and software manuals) for free distribution under Creative Commons licenses. Actually, I have no doubt that others could do much of what I do. But as long as nobody else will do it, the job is mine.

    We could change it to

    Only do what only you are willing to do.
    We need people to do what they can do and I, at least, cannot, including going all around the countries of greatest need. I'm retired on a limited income. But on the Internet, I can go anywhere. I would not be as good at providing food, water, clothing, shelter, health care, jobs, or good government as I am at providing some parts of the education requirements. But I expect that education will produce more people able to work on all of those problems in cooperation with each other, instead of being dependent on outside help.

    Ceterem censeo, gerrymandra delenda est

    by Mokurai on Mon Dec 02, 2013 at 11:18:38 PM PST

    •  Only do what only you can do (0+ / 0-)

      Gets straight to the heart of my philosophy - thanks for sharing it. Figuring out what we're best at, and what's useful, is key, and I coasted for a long, long time before realizing it.

      Our bodies are great, and I've always felt activists can do a lot more with them than have them put in jail, but it's our minds that hold the greatest power. Despite it all, I still think we can save the future. The first step is realizing it's possible, the next step is figuring out how.

      When you put a sign up next to a freeway, people will read it until someone takes it down.

      by freewayblogger on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 09:14:37 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Read this weekend and loved it! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Will also buy a copy for my daughter, who has Kindle.

    Freeway, I also plan to write a review of your book for Amazon.  I just need a spare half-hour to do that, and so far this week I haven't had one. But I will do it SOON, promise!

    BTW, for those of you who haven't read it yet, Take to the Hills is one of the most inspiring books I've ever read.

    "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

    by Diana in NoVa on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 06:53:28 AM PST

    •  Wow! Thanks! (0+ / 0-)

      To be fair though, it should probably be called an essay. Books take a hell of a lot more work. How much more I'll let you know if I ever, ever finish one.

      When you put a sign up next to a freeway, people will read it until someone takes it down.

      by freewayblogger on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 09:16:40 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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