Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Your ‘family footprint’ in the midst of chaos

Peak oil. Gas crisis. Housing crisis. Credit crisis.

And by the way, we’re destroying the earth.

It’s no wonder that people are becoming discouraged. As one poster to my site wrote this week, she would like to hear “some positive, feel-good news!”

It’s easy to be frustrated. But it’s also easy to make positive changes, even on the most local level you can: Your neighbors, friends, family and coworkers.

No Impact Man wrote yesterday about "The questions of love, kindness and the end of oil." In it, he reminds us that at the center of taking care of the earth should be the legacy we create for others in our lifetimes and for generations to come. The impact of how we live our lives today should not be ignored.

"What we need is not to draw lines between people," he writes. "We need to draw lines around them."

Quoting his father, he writes: "You should worry less about your carbon footprint and more about your family footprint."

It’s true that in an increasingly chaotic life – one that threatens our most basic needs of safety, security, housing and nourishment – that often we tend to be egocentric in our approach to solving the problem(s) at hand. But perhaps it’s time to take a larger look at how we can make a better difference and improve our "family footprint."

  • Are we making amends to others? Rebuild bridges to those we have crossed (or have been hurt by). Even a simple “I’m sorry,” or “I forgive you.” Forgiveness can work wonders, for you and for others. Even if you’re not a spiritual person, think of the health benefits of the reduction of stress that has built up from holding in those grudges.
  • Are we building community? When is the last time you said more than a passing “Hi” to your neighbor? Get to know your neighbors, your co-workers, the people you worship or attend classes with. Call an old friend; send a real e-mail (not a forwarded joke) to a family member. Share a meal or a drink; take a walk together. Research continually shows that the more people we know – and know better than just being friends on MySpace – the healthier and happier we tend to be.
  • Are we reaching out to others in need, based on what we can provide? You don’t have to give large sums of money to make a difference. Perhaps it’s a ride for a cancer patient to a treatment session. Or a meal to a new mom or a displaced flood victim. Or a few cans of corn for the local food pantry.
  • Are we teaching others? Share your skills, or learn a new one. Whether it’s fixing a hem, cooking a meal, potting a tomato. All of us have skills and talents that we can share with others that can make a difference in our lives. If nothing else, you’ve helped save someone the cost of a house call or outsourcing work if they cannot afford it.
  • Do we have faith? Faith in your God (if you choose to believe in a particular religion)? Faith in other people? Hope is essential to get through troubled times.

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