Today, as I peruse my long list of blogs and as I consider all that is going on in the world, I find myself a bit overwhelmed. There are so many crises; so many great organizations responding to those crises; so many ways that I can make responsible choices; so many ways that I can make selfish choices – that I find myself at a loss for what to do. I.E. Do I buy recycled shopping bags at $5 each so that I don’t keep collecting plastic grocery bags? Or do I take that $25 and give it to World Vision to help feed a starving child? These are small but important questions. And how do these questions influence what I write and read about?

So – not in order of importance – are the five most important issues that I am focusing on – at least for today.
1. The environment. I finally watched An Inconvenient Truth the other night, and while Gore is a bit stiff to me, I found his argument to be highly persuasive, not new to me, but persuasive still. So I’m working on using less electricity, driving less (which is very difficult in a county with almost no public transportation system), and I’m looking for ways that I can help promote green jobs. Van Jones, of Oakland, CA, has great ideas about ways to keep kids out of jail and also help the environment.

2. Reducing poverty globally. I believe that people cannot make good choices for themselves when they have to just try to survive. It’s hard to eat healthily, much less organically, when you can get more calories at a lower cost for yourself and your children from a McDonald’s value meal than you can from a big, green salad. And so I think we need to raise minimum wage, guarantee healthcare, and provide housing for everyone. Now, I know that this “we” is contentious – should we be the government? or should we be society? For me, to solve poverty WE need both. I just believe that it’s a basic human right to have enough food to eat, enough water to drink, and a place to sleep. These are things we should not have to sacrifice.

3. Education. To be environmental stewards and to raise ourselves out of poverty, we need the education to know how to do that. But more than that, we need a liberal arts education that introduces us to new ideas, shows us new things, and challenges us with new questions. We need to be people who think, and to know how to think, we need to be educated.

4. The Slow Movement. As people, but particularly as Americans, we need to slow down. We need to take time to savor our lives – the painful and the glorious moments. On some days, I speed from one thing to the next so quickly that by the end of the day I’m not sure if what happened that morning actually happened a few hours ago or if it happened days ago. That’s too fast. In the slow movement, people focus on taking their time with eating, spending meaningful time with other people, and supporting local communities through food purchases and neighborhood activities. In one of her books, forgive me for not taking a frenzied run to the bookshelf to find which one, Anne Lamott says that we all need to spend more time laying on the couch and staring off into space. That’s a part of living slow. And by the way, participating in the slow movement is anti-thetical to multi-tasking, a practice which has been proven by the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London to actually make people less smart.

5. Compassionate Globalization. So many times in my classes my students say, “Why should I care about [Insert issue here – HIV/AIDS, using less water, ending racism)? What does that have to do with me?” And I say, as clearly as I can without getting too preachy, that they should care because these things affect other people and that as human beings, we should care for one another. At this point in the conversation, a few students roll their eyes, a few nod, and many more just look at me blankly like my face disappeared. But I do believe this – we should care about the rest of the world because we just should – we just should. Of course, there are self-interested reasons to care – like the government of India could collapse because of deaths from AIDS – but in the end, how sad a world is it when we’re only caring because of what we get out of it. What a horrible world to live in. So I am working to stop thinking of things as “us” and “them” and think of everyone as “us.”

I care about lots of other things – ending war, animal rights, organic food, etc – but these are the big ones for me. I’d love to hear what you’re passionate about. What causes/issues are you invested in? where do you give your time and money? Are there organizations out there that you think are doing amazing things? Write . . . tell us about them.

I’m going to even tap a few folks to post blogs about this topic themselves – Eva, Andi, Gayle, Megan – blog about this if you will, and then tap a four folks yourselves. Let’s see where we end up.

P.S. Thank you for all your kind words about my lovely kitty, Aslan. I had to put her to sleep yesterday, and I’m devastated. I only saved this note to the end of the post, not because it’s not the most important thing on my mind today, but because I need to spend some time doing something that moves life forward at this very sad moment. She was a beautiful companion for nine years, and I will miss her every day. But the time was then so that she went peacefully. A friend dreamed last night that she came back to earth as the newborn baby, born just yesterday, of a friend of ours. While I am not a believer in reincarnation, there is a comfort in knowing that little baby Vivian carries a bit of Aslan inside of her.