That COVID ‘Cr@p’

Not everyone will agree with you.

I understand that. I experience that from time to time. Recently I have had a handful of conversations about the legitimacy of the pandemic, the vaccines, the governments response and the government itself. Normally I take it in my stride, recognise that nothing I am going to say to that person will change their mind and nothing they will say to me will get me closer to agreeing with them. So I hear them out, say thanks for sharing and finish the conversation.

A few weeks back I was talking with someone about donating money and their response was, if they donated, “I don’t want it to go to that Covid crap. I want it to help people not kill them.”

This comment stung and it made me so angry.

That covid crap which has killed millions worldwide.

Which has crippled economies and health care systems.

Which devastated India this year.

Which is currently ravaging through Indonesia.

Which has kept millions of families apart.

That covid crap?

We may have different opinions on this. Not everyone has had the same experience of it. But Opportunity International Australia has lost staff members in the field, family members of staff, and clients to this pandemic. Calling it covid crap is pretty rich as you sit in your ivory tower of Australia.

Somehow I managed to keep calm, thank them for their time and respond out of generosity. But some days this is harder than others.

Why should we care about Indonesia?

Most borders are arbitrary. They seem to do nothing. I have driven over them, walked through them and stood on them and you really can’t tell the difference between one State or another, or even one country or another. They are a man-made creation, making up a distinction between people from one place versus people from another, as if coming from somewhere hundreds of kilometres away increases or decreases the value of a person. If you have ever travelled into space and looked back at Planet Earth (I’m looking at you Billionaires), you won’t see any borders marked out on the land.

Islands are a little different though. They have a distinct start and finish, and we can tell easily what belongs to that Island and what doesn’t, but even then, to which country an island belongs is haphazard.

You may not know but Australia is made up of 8,222 islands.

Indonesia is also a country of thousands of islands, more than 17,500 of them.

The reason that Indonesian islands are not part of Australian is historical and chance. If one part of history had gone differently then Indonesia and Australia could have been the same country. But, that’s not how things are and there are strong borders in place. It does not mean the citizens of Indonesia have less value is citizens of Australia. We should care about Indonesia and Indonesians and here is why:

  1. They are our close neighbours. Indonesia is closer to Perth than Sydney is.
  2. They are an economic powerhouse and that will be good for the Australian economy.
  3. It’s the right thing to do. We are all people. Where you are born shouldn’t dictate how or if you live.

The people of Indonesia are going through the most challenging time with COVID-19 right now and it will only get worse. We must find a way to help them. We must do something to help our neighbours.

You can help by donating now at www.opportunity.org.au

I got that wrong

I feel bad now. At the time I was annoyed and I spoke quite harshly to him. But he wasn’t doing what I thought he was doing and he was actually being a bit of a hero.

I can understand my response. It was two in the morning and he had woken me up with his barking. Strike 1.

I could immediately tell that he wasn’t where he should have been. Strike 2.

Plus he didn’t seem to be keen to go back to bed. Strike 3.

I had to physically pick him up and put him back in his pen, making sure he couldn’t get out again.

That was all well and good until a little while later exactly the same thing happened. What is the deal with this dog?

I was not happy and I told him that. In the morning things were a bit icy between us still.

I found out later that our neighbours had four people try to break into their home in the early hours of the morning. Now I think I know what the dog was up to.

I’m not annoyed at him anymore. I’m proud of him.

I’m annoyed at myself for not checking out my surroundings when I was putting him back to bed.

I’m annoyed that I didn’t give the dog the benefit of the doubt. I read the situation very wrong and it has completely changed my perspective of the event. Sorry Jake.

It was a solid reminder to check my perspective of all events that happen, in case there is another explanation for what I am seeing.

Idiot Generosity

There’s the story of a guy who started giving money to a religious organisation that promised him his life would be ‘blessed with wealth and riches’ if he just kept giving. So he did. Until he ran out of money. No wealth and riches came his way. Just hunger and poverty.

What do we do when our desire to help puts us in harm’s way?

What happens if acting generously is causing others harm?

How do we live a generous life without slipping into unhealthy generous acts, saying yes to everything and damaging our lives in the process? Simply put, when is it okay to not be generous?

In the Buddhist practice, there is the concept of Idiot Generosity. Here some examples of Idiot Generosity

  • When people do things with the sole purpose of creating pleasure for themselves by helping others
  • Giving someone something they want because you can’t bear to see them suffer (another name for this is enabling)
  • Showing compassion to someone whilst they are causing significant hurt to others (think perpetrators of sexual abuse being overlooked)
  • Giving of items or services which create more heartache (think donated clothes for developing countries that are not suitable, ruin the local market economy and become landfill)
  • An inability to say no (saying yes to everything removing your ability to live up to the commitments you have already made)

The opposite of this is Wise Generosity which takes into account the context of the situation, other people and long term effects, in order to give wisely. It puts up generous boundaries which helps keep you safe but also empowers others, providing a platform for them to help themselves. This takes longer to figure out and is innately more thoughtful, but worth the extra effort.

Don’t practice Idiot Generosity. Don’t be generous in a way which causes damage to you and those around you.

Practice Wise Generosity. Be generous on purpose. It will be harder to do but it will cause less damage.

Passion is Offensive

I have had some irate phone calls in my time. People who have called me just to tell me how upset they were to receive something in the post, or an email that I sent. I wonder what moves people to do that. What upsets them so much about being asked to donate money to a cause that they simply must call and give a piece of their mind. Often, I wasn’t the one who sent the offending piece of mail or email. But they are offended, and I am the person they know.

That’s okay. I understand that. Especially if someone receives many requests to give money. But I don’t think that’s the reason for everyone who calls. Some people’s reaction is disproportionate to the size of the offence. Their outrage over a letter asking them to support something amazing appears to be never ending. It must be something else.

Here’s what I think it is – they are offended by passion. Have you ever been around someone who is just so excited, so motivated, so passionate about what they are doing that they can’t seem to stop talking about it? The thing makes up much of their lives. It is the thing they are known for. Man, they are annoying. But only if you don’t share the same passion. If you love what they love then you can become best friends, but if you are not on board with their thing then their passion starts to wear thin pretty quickly.

Passion is offensive to those who don’t have it.

Partly because it reminds them that they don’t have it.

As you grow your passion about whatever you care about, know that some will be offended by it. Not because you are doing something evil, but because they are not willing to take the risk of caring deeply.

Generosity Grows

There are many lessons to be taken from nature. Like planting a seed, for example. It gets shoved in the ground where it is dark, moist and enclosed. Not normally a place that I would choose to hang around in. But it just so happens that this specific environment is the exact one it needs to break out of its seedy shell and begin to grow. From there, it is still in a dark, moist and enclosed area so it must keep struggling and growing in its infancy and head towards the light, finally breaking through the surface of the soil to begin its new life as a plant, which (depending on the type of plant I guess) looks extraordinary.

We can find ourselves in many a dark, moist (?) and enclosed place as we journey through life, and it is those specific places that provide us exactly what we need to break out, grow and become extraordinary.

Generosity grows. When the need is great, when things seem dark and enclosed, when the local, communal and global problems seem overwhelming, generosity breaks through and becomes an extraordinary plant which gives life to the world.

I no longer feel afraid for our world, because I know that as the need grows, the generosity of people will grow to meet and exceed that need.

Empowered Mothers are our Ticket out of this Mess

How’s your relationship with your mum?

This is a question fraught with danger.

You might have a great relationship with your mum. You might have an okay relationship. You might have a rocky relationship. You might have none.

You might have had a step-mum instead of, or as well as.

Maybe you’ve lost your mum. Maybe you never knew her.

Or, you might be a mum and love it. You might be a mum and like it. You might be a mum and tolerate it. You might be a mum and hate it…some days.

You might be a step-mum and trying to figure this whole thing out.

You might be expecting and about to become a mum.

Maybe you’ve never been able to become a mum.

Maybe you’ve lost a child.

It’s heavy. Mother’s Day, am I right? It’s a challenge to full encapsulate all if this into one day.

This we know for sure; we wouldn’t be here without mothers. Everyone has one. Everyone needs one. They carry such a burden for their children.

Imagine, as a mother, not being able to feed your kids. Not having some shelter for them.

Having to tell them they need to leave school and work because you don’t have enough money to pay for their education.

But then someone gave you a loan. A small one. Just enough to grow a small business, maybe a small vegetable farm or a tailoring business.

The regular income you earn means you can feed your children consistent, nutritious meals, give them a warm bed with a roof over their heads and a proper education.

You even employ other mothers from your community, giving them an income too.

This is more than receiving money from some unknown person so that you can feed your children, which is disempowering.

It is an opportunity that allows you to take care of your own family. One that you can pay back so that someone else can receive the exact same opportunity. That’s empowerment.

An empowered mother takes care of her family. She makes sure that everyone has enough. She raises kids that are educated and have dreams of what they can achieve in their life. She raises kids that love their family, respect their culture, and give back to their community. She raises the next generation of world leaders.

Empowered mothers are our ticket out of this mess. (‘Mess’ being the issue of global poverty, but also pretty much every other issue we have as a world).

And it all starts with a donation.

Just $100 is enough to provide one small loan to a mother in need in Indonesia or India.

Empowered mothers create a better world.

5 Simple Acts Proven to Promote Wellbeing

The conversation about emotional wellbeing is stronger now than it has ever been. We are all conscious of what wellbeing means to us and our community, but we are still a work in progress when it comes to putting good practices in place.

I came across some research from the New Economics Foundation about the things that we can do which promote wellbeing in our lives, guaranteed. It’s a bold statement, but here are five proven things you can do right now…

  1. Connect to the people around us – building relationships with people
  2. Being active in our bodies – looking after our physical health
  3. Take notice of the world – connecting with nature, seeing beauty in the things that have become normal.
  4. Learn New Skills – trying something new and challenging ourselves
  5. Give to others – being generous.

All five are about looking beyond our current situation and seeking to change the place we are currently in. Generosity really rounds this list out.

Generosity is good for whatever ails you because it shifts your focus from you. Instead of being trapped in your own mind, ruminating on your own thoughts and challenges, it pushes you to reach out to someone else who may be in the exact same situation. A generous act of checking in on someone to see how they are going, buying them a coffee, giving some time and attention to them, is an incredible gift…to you.  

Give yourself a gift by giving to someone else.

What is Self-Generosity?

Self generosity is so important. I think most people can find some energy to be a little bit generous to others, but generosity to ourselves seems to be the hardest thing to do.

There is a troubling dynamic between self-generosity and letting yourself of the hook. It can be a challenge to know if you are being honest with yourself. I still don’t know. Am I being generous to myself (like I would with other people), or am I taking the easy way out?

I’ll be the first to admit that it can take me a little while to understand what is happening ‘within myself’. I will often ask ‘what is the emotion that I am currently feeling’, or, more often, ‘I remember feeling an emotion the other day, what was that?’ I can be slow.

But it’s my emotions that generally stop me from doing something. Like taking on a new challenge, creating an event, or making a phone call. And so, I ask myself how much weight should I give to that emotion? Is this a time to listen to listen to myself and take a break, or is this one of those times that I can push on through? Am I running from a growth opportunity or is saying ‘no’ right now keeping me mentally healthy? Am I over thinking it? Am I underthinking it? Am I asking too many questions?

Maybe you can resonate with that.

The best strategy that I use which helps me manage this process is to sit in the discomfort of whatever the emotion is, name it out loud (works better if you are alone) and articulate what I am afraid of in that moment (fear is always at work).

That is my definition of self-generosity. Noticing what I am experiencing without judgement and sitting with it. From that point I will usually know instinctively what the next step is.

Forged in the Fire

Think of the most generous person you know. If you were to tell me their story, I have no doubt that they have been through some pretty heavy stuff in their life. Yet, somehow, they have made it through all of that and still have a generous mindset.

The reason is that generosity is forged in the fire of adversity.

Not everyone who goes through life challenges emerges as a generous warrior, but the ones that do are very special. Because their generosity is birthed from empathy. They know what it is like to go through difficulties, and they also know how important it is to have people around you who can support you during those times, so they are looking for ways to do that for other people.

As we look across our world we see so many people in need, suffering under the weight of global issues outside of their control. It can be overwhelming because each person has a name, a story, desires for what they want in life, and a potential that is yet to be discovered.

It is empathy that keeps us from becoming overwhelmed and instead, drives us towards generosity. Towards action. Towards seeing each person and seeking to understanding what life is like for them.

Empathy is generosity. Just ask your generous friend.