Live Well, Do Good
Brandon Sun, August 15, 2011 - David McConkey
My wife and I attended The
Marquis Project annual meeting recently and heard a
remarkable presentation. Principal Laurie Bachewich and her staff and
students are doing the most wonderful things at the Onanole Elementary
The school’s students are engaged as global citizens in holistic, dream inspiring, empowering activities.
For starters, the school is the only one in the province outside of Winnipeg to be associated officially with UNESCO.
Other specifics: purchasing fair trade products, raising money for local food banks, recycling, composting, tackling controversial issues like racism, and creating programs to involve community seniors.
As the meeting chair noted in thanking Bachewich, there was more than one moist eye in the audience!
Her moving presentation prompts me to describe a concept I have had in mind for a while: “live well, do good.”
Here are four reflections on global citizenship in the 21st century:
“Wish not so much to live long,” Benjamin Franklin said, “as to live well.” Franklin, who died in 1790 at the age of 84, was fortunate enough to live both long and well.
Today, despite setbacks like recessions and floods, there are even more opportunities to live well: full, interesting lives that also positively impact the world.
Young people, for example, have informational resources and technologies at hand that offer rich experiences and the prospect of amazing lifelong learning.
At the same time, older people are enjoying more years of healthy retired or semi-retired living that present incredible possibilities.
Too bad the world is so complex! How can you know how to do good when there are so many issues, so many needs? And how can you be sure that you aren’t inadvertently doing harm?
Don’t worry about it.
Yes, be thoughtful, but don’t get bogged down. Do something that you think will make the world a better place. Do whatever suits your fancy, fits your interests, touches your heart.
Help animals, heal the environment, fight disease, encourage the arts, whatever. You – and the world – will be better for it.
There are many ways to do good: like practising simple personal kindnesses, volunteering, becoming a member of an organization, donating food and other items.
And giving money. Manitobans have a well-deserved reputation as the most generous people in the country. Yet many people do not give anything to charity.
So why not make at least one charitable donation every year? Why not set some sort of goal – like giving a quarter of 1% of your income? (If you are already giving that, think about increasing the amount.)
Forty years ago, the book Diet for a Small Planet pointed out that there could be less hunger in the world if people ate less meat. That’s because raising livestock for food usually uses more resources than growing plants for food.
Turns out that eating less meat makes even more sense today. It can reduce our whole carbon footprint; be sustainable development on our dinner plate.
And, as a bonus, eating less meat is often more healthy, economical and interesting than regular meat-based fare.
Why not have one non-meat day each week? It’s an action that can be beneficial in so many ways.
“Think globally, act locally.” Young people, especially, need some reminding of the second half of this maxim. There is so much information and activity on the Internet, forgetting about our own local communities is really easy.
And there is a lot going on locally, wherever you are. Many local activities merit notice and support.
Look for ways to encourage local initiatives, whether in your role as a donor, shopper, voter, worker, family member, or neighbour.
Remember local charities when donating: they may not have the profile of national organizations, but are often very worthwhile.
Consider local alternatives when shopping: the locally-owned restaurant, coffee shop or store instead of the national chain; the local option instead of the Internet.
Sample different venues altogether: like a farmers’ market or community shared agriculture instead of the conventional store.
Check out what is happening locally and experience something different than you normally would. (See “Let’s Do Something!” every Thursday in the Brandon Sun.)
From right here in our own community to the global village, there is a whole world out there.
And we are its citizens.
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