Category Archives: Blooming Society Sunday

Blooming Society Sunday

A bloom is a small idea of how to improve our world.
Tend the garden of humanity with me by blogging with your own idea on any Sunday.
If you do, feel free to pingback here so we can keep the conversation going.


Today’s Bloom: Plant a Tree

Trees have always felt like a refuge to me. They’re the cathedrals of nature. Walking amongst them is guaranteed to impart a sense of belonging in the world at large. Maybe it’s because a tree can become home to literally hundreds of creatures. Maybe it’s because we didn’t climb down from them all that long ago.


There is a tree just outside of where I live.

Well, there was.


A few of the tree’s branches were beaten by storms. Its roots were grasping at the earth beneath a utility box. Its existence had become inconvenient.

When I saw the orange paint streak of death on its trunk, my heart sank. It’s been a few weeks now. A tree-like bush that grows pink flowers has taken its place.

There are more of these elsewhere on the property. They’re pretty, but it’s rare to see an insect on their branches. The leaves they grow are sparse. The shade they offer is weak.

The entire plant sways in the wind like a child learning to walk. It will never learn to stand on solid ground, the grip of its roots is too weak. I don’t imagine its tendrils will ever wrap around wires. It will never grow strong or tall. Its branches will never dent a car. It will never offer refuge and will rarely be called home.

The demolition of the former tree ripped the grass from the ground. So, the green and yellow blades were replaced with dainty squares of pre-grown grass. The seams left behind by this unnatural planting have started to fill in. In the city, nature takes what it can get.

I live in a state where temperatures in the summer are expected to reach and hover around Fahrenheit’s triple digits. I live on a planet with a finite source of drinkable water — a planet where people routinely do not have access to clean water, let alone drinkable. Yet, every day I see concrete being watered as inept sprinklers fail to spray the precious liquid on grass that will never stay green anyway.

Even in the massive metropolis where I reside, there are stretches of highway that cut through open fields. But every time I travel them, I notice the open spaces are shrinking. ‘Land for Sale’ signs are the orange paint of meadows.

I recently saw a wild sunflower patch flattened. What replaced it? A parking lot for a hotel. Want to know how many hotels were already standing in a one block radius? Three.

I’m not against cities. I live in the fourth largest metropolitan area in the United States. I throw no stones. Still, I think to most of us, this massive and invasive urbanization feels wrong. Humanity’s main problems stem from choosing hubris over harmony.

Planting a tree is reaching a hand out to Mother Nature. I just hope she’ll take it.

The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.
-Chinese Proverb

Get 10 free trees from the Arbor Day Foundation
Apply for tree seedlings from the National Wildlife Federation
Learn how to plant a tree


Blooming Society Sunday

A bloom is a small idea of how to improve our world.
Tend the garden of humanity with me by blogging with your own idea on any Sunday.
If you do, feel free to pingback here so we can keep the conversation going.

Today’s Bloom: Let People Speak for Themselves

If you read my recent post, you know that I was discouraged by a study I learned about that turned out to be falsified. The study claimed that when people who opposed same-sex marriage spoke to queer canvassers about their lives and why they opposed marriage equality, their stance was likely to become more liberal and stay that way in the long term. Not only that, they were likely to change the minds of others they knew who shared their previous opinion. Furthermore, the personalized method was also said to be effective when canvassers who had an abortion spoke to anti-abortion voters.

The study was largely falsified and the stories behind the results were almost entirely fabricated. The study was a sham, but what about the idea behind it? Is the key to lasting empathetic change polite personal conversations between conservatives and the people whose rights they oppose? It’s so simple. It certainly can’t hurt, right?

I don’t know how large a change can be wrought from a short conversation between strangers. If a significant change of mind is experienced, I don’t know how long it might last. I do know that humans don’t like to be proven wrong. Even when facing direct evidence of our wrongness, we tend to dig in our heels twice as deep.

As someone looking to affect lasting social improvement, I am loathe to dismiss a possible solution, especially one so straight-forward. I do what I can to speak out and up — to improve the world by filtering my experiences and relating the lessons learned to others. Yet, speaking is only one part of the empathy equation. Listening is the other.

There have been many issues that I have wanted to speak about, but have held my tongue instead. I make this choice when I know others will speak better than I can. It is time to listen when others’ experiences are relevant and mine are lacking. Many times, I have no experiences to distill at all. I do a lot of listening, but I don’t think I have done enough to boost the signals of the voices I turn to.

This means more retweets and shares and reblogs, but it also means deferring to others more eloquently and regularly offline. Humans digest stories more readily than statistics. Co-opting narratives does little to help anyone. We must help each other be heard, rather than yearning to be the loudest.

Two videos that explore today’s bloom:

Blooming Society Sunday

Every Sunday I share a bloom – a small idea of how to improve our world.
Tend the garden of humanity with me by blogging with your own idea on any Sunday.
If you do, feel free to pingback here so we can keep the conversation going.

white flowers
This Week’s Bloom:
Treat Children like People

This is simple. Children are people, after all. Yet this is an ideal that I have seen violated my entire life. As long as the phrase ‘seen and not heard’ is used to describe children, we have a problem. Youths have a different chemical and hormonal makeup, their experience level is low, but that does not make them unimportant or unoriginal. Their personalities and behavior are as varied as adults. So, how do we stop belittling the little ones?

Talk to Them
This is not the same thing as talking at them. Children are given instructions and commands more often than they are engaged in conversation. A lot of adults ignore children to the extent that aliens would be surprised to learn that children are capable of thoughtful speech. Don’t be one of those adults. Their interests and worries may be different than yours, but that is true of most people. If you can uncover something they care about, they’ll make you care about it too. Share in their enthusiasm and wonderment, they are far more interested in life than most adults.

Answer their Questions
If you talk to a child long enough, you are going to get asked a question. You may get asked fifteen questions in one minute. Take the time to unpack their curiosity and give them a clearer view of the world. All of that fantastic wonder comes from the very lack of experience that society chides them for. If a child asks you a question that seems ‘inappropriate’, answer them anyway. Keep it basic, but avoid the ‘you’re too young’ response if at all possible. If they’re asking, they aren’t too young. There isn’t anything in this world that children can’t understand except for the illogical notions and nonsensical expectations society takes for granted. They have not been weighed down by opinion or disappointment and all they really want is to know how the world works. If you help them, odds are good that you’ll end up learning something new yourself.

adult hand holding child hand

Admit Mistakes
People lie and cheat. People are mean and incorrect. Not everyone all the time, but everyone sometimes. We have a tendency to deny our shortcomings, especially to children. This is a mistake in itself. Children are learning what to expect out of life, what is considered okay, and what is not. When we are dishonest with children, when we cover up the darker parts of who we are, they are given a skewed perspective. Marking out our mistakes does not teach them right from wrong, it teaches them to hide. Most adults struggle with what to show the world and what to keep inside. This starts with the mixed messages we are given as children. Admit mistakes and apologize, especially with regards to children. You’ll make the next generation a more genuine one.

Respect Them
Children are not half-people, they are whole. Their needs and wants are no less important for their small stature. They are not minions to be ordered around. They are not automatons mindlessly obeying every whim. When they speak, listen. When they ask, answer. When you wrong them, apologize. Their inabilities do not make them burdensome. Their ignorance makes them a privilege to know.

Blooming Society Sunday

Every Sunday I share a bloom – a small idea of how to improve our world.
Tend the garden of humanity with me by blogging with your own idea on any Sunday.
If you do, feel free to pingback here so we can keep the conversation going.

This Week’s Bloom: Recycle Yourself

When we think of giving, we think of money. Money is a valuable resource in our society; it buys food and shelter, clothes and transportation. Money equals security in our minds. So when someone is in need, it’s easy to assume that giving money is the best thing we can offer. Ink on paper has changed the world innumerable times, but money alone can never cure what ails us.

Giving of ourselves isn’t as easy as swiping a card or writing a check. It requires time, effort, and commitment. More than that, it requires compassion and empathy. When tragedy strikes, it’s normal to ask ‘What can I do?’ and be met with crushing helplessness. This is especially common when serious illness hits. We pace, cry, implore, cook, clean, care, and hope. But what more is there to do?

You can give a piece of you.
That’s right – literally donate your body. Or at least a part of it.

k2nnvLLLYou can donate blood, platelets, and plasma. And you can do it often. You’ll get a cookie, some juice, and a genuine thank you. Plus, you’ve likely just helped someone stay alive. And that’s just the beginning. Every year, around 130,000 Americans are diagnosed with a serious blood disease. The best treatment for those diseases usually involves a bone marrow transplant.

Only about 30% of the patients who need a transplant will find a donor among their family members. That leaves 70% to depend on the kindness of strangers, but only 2% of the population has registered to be donors. Registering is ridiculously easy. All you have to do is sign up online. They’ll send you some special swabs to collect cell samples from your saliva and an envelope to send them back in. You’ll get a call if you might be a match. More than 25,000 patients have received bone marrow transplants from umbilical cord blood donated by the mothers of new babies. You can find out about cord blood donations here.

Giving blood can be done in less that an hour; donating hair is a bit more of a commitment. After all, it takes time to grow out at least 8 inches worth of usable hair. When the face in the mirror isn’t one you recognize, it’s hard to feel yourself. So losing hair to alopecia, burns, cancer, or another affliction can make a difficult situation worse. Organizations like Wigs for Kids, Beautiful Lengths, and Children with Hair Loss take hair donations to make real hair wigs at no cost to the recipients. (And yes, there is a reason Locks of Love isn’t mentioned.) If you’re considering a drastic hairdo change, take the time to mail in your hair for a good cause.


Do you have that cute little heart that says ‘Donor’ on your driver’s license? Yes? Excellent. No? Well, why the heck not? Whether you choose to be cremated, buried, or turned into a tree, you will not be needing your organs after your body has died. Your kidneys, pancreas, liver, lungs, heart, intestines, tissues, and corneas can enhance and extend the lives of as many as 50 people. Register now. It is an amazingly quick online process. Most states let you choose which organs you want to donate and whether or not they can be used for research purposes if they aren’t fit for transplant. After you register, talk to your family to ensure your wishes are carried out. Read this myth-debunking fact sheet so you can address any concerns they might have. If you’re feeling particularly compassionate, consider being a living donor.

Recycle yourself and donate life. What better gift can be given?

Blooming Society Sunday

Every Sunday I share a bloom – a small idea of how to improve our world.
Tend the garden of humanity with me by blogging with your own idea on any Sunday.
If you do, feel free to pingback here so we can keep the conversation going.


This Week’s Bloom: Shop Conscientiously

 I’ve heard it said that we all have a choice in where we spend our money. I don’t think that’s always true. We are limited by our geography, time, and budget. Still, when the opportunity arises, we should choose to shop responsibly.

Most everyone has heard of the Fair Trade Federation. Their seal of approval is on products around the globe and their commitment to equality has been spread with every purchase. 1% for the Planet is another international organization making a name for themselves. When you see their seal, it means that the manufacturer contributes at least 1% of their annual sales to environmental causes. Seeing either organizations’ insignia makes it easy to choose between similar products.

Sites like Shop With Meaning and Green America are great resources for finding online and local retailers who care about the social and environmental impact of their products. If you’re a reader of used books, check out Better World Books. They take book donations and rescue discarded library books to sell on their website. Every time a book is purchased on their site another book is donated to one of the hundreds of non-profits they work with. Through grants and fundraisers, they have given millions of dollars to literacy programs around the world.

Credit: ACFE
Credit: ACFE

Another important measure of a company is how they treat their employees. Every year, the Human Rights Campaign compiles a massive guide based on their Corporate Equality Index, which rates companies based on they treat LGBT employees. Here is a PDF of their 2015 guide. It’s a ton of information, so they have also developed handy apps for Apple and Google.

Choosing where to spend your money is only one side of the consumer coin. Choosing where not to spend your money is equally important. Boycotts have been around since the late 1800s and can have a lasting impact on the practices of companies big and small. Ethical Consumer keeps a running list of current boycotts on their website alongside their product guides and company ratings.

If you do any of your shopping online, check out Green Any Site. It is a bookmarklet that will allow you to donate a portion of your purchase cost to environmental charities at no cost to you. That’s a no-brainer if you ask me.

Do company policies have an impact on where you shop?