The month's APLS Carnival topic made me realize something: I've changed. A lot. And it is nowhere more obvious than in my blogging life.
Once upon a time, I wrote only about greening my lifestyle, reaching across the globe to others in need, and embracing American affluence as a means to make the world a better place.
Then something happened.
My son went to kindergarten.
And I became more mom than policy maven. More woman than warrior. My posts shifted away from the global to the local - the intensely local. I'm sure I have lost readers along the way; people who were more interested in changing the world than my child's school. I cannot say I blame them. Indeed, this month's topic made me wonder if my fellow eco-heroes might soon oust me from The Green Phone Booth for not focusing enough on "green" and for worrying more about phone banks than phone booths.
You see, March's Carnival topic involves the participants' favorite charities. Six months ago, I would have lauded Heifer International, Central Asia Institute, or the now defunct Goods 4 Girls. I would have looked at global reach and sought to inspire others, even my children, to stretch as far.
But one day, the stock market crashed. My son's public school lost hundreds of thousands of dollars. The state slashed school budgets even further. I no longer thought about Pennies for Peace but about how all those pennies might save the school librarian.
My favorite charity is not some worthy organization battling climate change or working in the wilds of Afghanistan to heft schools from mountains. It is my son's school. And my devotion to it is a purely selfish.
Without a doubt, the dollars my family has poured into the school's shrinking coffers would have gone further outfitting African girls with reusable menstrual pads or keeping wolves on the Endangered Species list. Surely, the tens of hours I dedicate weekly would have more impact had they been devoted to a buy local campaign for my city or a wetlands restoration project.
The irony, though, is that, in my son's school, I've found the one thing I touted in my greener days. The one thing I sought when working for green task forces and donating to relief agencies. And the only thing that I think will help us adapt to a changed planet. A community.
One that has pulled together to keep our school afloat in rough economic seas. One that struggles to go green without any green - holding rummage sales, hosting bottle and can drives, soliciting carpools, and piecing together a set of utensils so that we can forgo the plastic cutlery at school events. One that shares the burden of the community - swapping clothes for growing girls, sharing snow gear, teaching art and music when the money has run out, donating recycled paper towels and green cleaning supplies, gathering canned goods for local food pantries, composting lunches and gardens, and passing rummage sale leftovers to battered women's shelters and inmates exiting the prison system.
As our climate shifts, water runs dry, food prices escalate, and funds for renewables become a pipe dream, community is the fail safe. The parachute. The landing place. But you have to build it. It doesn't come ready made or with simple instructions and it is not easy. You get out what you put in.
But even if I can just justify my son's school as a "green charity", is it right that we, the global rich, spend our resources on ourselves? That I focus not on the girls learning in the wilds of Africa but on the children in my own community, on my own son?
I cannot say that it is.
But I will say this. The mark of a worthwhile charity is one that opens hearts as well as wallets. One that makes us leap out of our desk chairs and into the storm. One that grabs us by the chest and demands action. One that spurs sacrifice, drives us when we think we are too tired, out of ideas, or out of money. It is true that some of those charities will pull people across the globe, yank them down from a mountain and transform a nurse into a school teacher. Some though will merely entice folks across town - to the plot that becomes a community garden, to the warehouse that becomes a soup kitchen, or to the school that continues to educate.
And that is worthy too.
This is the The Green Phone Booth's submission for the APLS Carnival which will appear at Green Resolutions on March 20. To participate, email your submission to aplscarnival(at)gmail(dot)com by Tuesday, March 17.