Monthly Archives: August 2010

I Envision a World Without Salt Packets

There are so many things that are packaged within paper, and the waste can be enormous.  I think about the time, manufacturing costs, the transport, the packaging, when we look at individual salt packets.  My guess is, forty granules of salt are contained within a tiny salt packet.  And we’ve got to enclose it with paper, and then put it in another big package to transport it.  There are so many ways that we use paper that are not allowing us to be effective stewards of our environment.

There was an interesting write-up of editorial letters in the Chronicle the other day.  In it, one might think people were against plastic bags, and they were.  But they were also against paper bags.  All of the letters pointed towards using canvas.  And many of them even stated we should feel guilty for using trees to transport our lunches, groceries, or other sundries.  We’re facing quite a revolution here in being thoughtful about how and when we use our natural resources.

We can live consciously and thoughtfully about how we use paper.  When you write a note, could you also reuse it again, and use the other side?  When you receive a card, is there a portion of it that’s not written on, that could be used for a casual note to a roommate, spouse or friend?  Or perhaps you could even use it for a to-do list.  When you receive a box containing a recent book or item of clothing, you can save it for holiday gifts.  Let’s think creatively about our trees.

I remember my very astute four year old niece, when I took her to the restroom, after we had got brunch.  With two young nephews waiting in the restaurant, age 8 and 10, and as the sole aunt caretaker, I hurriedly pulled out two paper towels and dried my hands.  “Shame on you, Aunt Pamela.  They teach us in school that that’s a tree.  You’re not supposed to do that.”  Lindsey was absolutely right.

What if every time you picked up, or used a piece of paper, you envisioned a beautiful evergreen, redwood, or eucalyptus tree?  Would we then be so quick to crumple it up?  Would you crumple up a cherry blossom tree?

Water Is the “New Diamond”

An Expensive Proposition: The Rising Price of Water

Why is it that we walk into an airport, go to a water fountain and get free water?
Actually, water is not free.  It costs money to purify it.   Someone has to maintain the pipes and the appropriate flow of water.  Maintenance teams are needed. Cleaning services must ensure the sanitation of the fountain.
I wouldn’t be surprised if soon in the future, you walk in the airport and the drinking fountains are coin-operated. “50 cents for a glass of water.”  Why shouldn’t we pay for it?
The easy answer is that we should: In many emerging nations, children are starving, dying, due to lack of clean water.  As a “developed” nation, it certainly doesn’t seem that advanced for us to be getting water for free, even if it appears there is plenty.   Meanwhile, two million people in the developing world are dying every year because they can’t access clean water.
It’s not just emerging economies.  Let’s look at the city of Shanghai, which is considered the “Paris of the East.”  Residential water prices skyrocketed in this past month.  The cost of water has now risen 25%. In business, it’s double that.  Corporations in Beijing experienced a 50% increase in the cost of water.  This is despite the country NOT facing droughts over the past few years.
Maybe we won’t have water fountains in the future.  Maybe it just doesn’t make sense.
What would this look like? People might be forced to buy bottled water. They’d view it as it is  – a cherished, expensive and rare commodity. Quite soon, and even by certain nations, water already is the new diamond.  
Society is realizing that the most expensive, prized and honored possessions in our world are things that we actually cannot possess, the things which are not optional.  Unlike diamonds, water can’t fit in our jewelry box.   We don’t keep it in a safe and take it out to admire it.  Its beauty rests in its active presence in our lives. Its beauty rests in the continuation of life.
The new luxuries are things that we must use to survive. They are becoming rare, but we must use them frequently, on a daily basis.  Our new luxury is about survival.
 Water is the New Diamond. Treat it preciously.  


I Am the Developing Person–A Journey to Peru [Part 4 of 4]

This is the fourth of a four-part series entitled I Am the Developing Person. This is an unedited account of a personal journey and will be followed by stories from a few more of my international volunteer trips. Many of the experiences on these trips would become the impetus for founding UniversalGiving™.  You can see additional photos here.

Please note that at the time of this writing, plastic bags were not yet outlawed (they are now forbidden in San Francisco) and Farmer’s Markets were not as available, thus the references to using plastic bags and Safeway.


Appreciate the Heaven We Live

We exist in a current heaven.

And that is when the refrigerator overwhelms me
When I see food shriveling and not cooked and not claimed in the plastic vegetable bin
When I see lettuce beginning to wilt or extra flour or rice unused

Or when I go out to dinner once every six weeks

I take the bread and give it to homeless people on the street, or use it for leftovers….

Simple Bread
For the restaurants according to law must throw it out

They throw it out food that others so desperately need…
They throw it out
And my sunshine ladies in Peru rising above the dust would like to partake of that meal with me, bread, simple bread

Sometimes when you keep the leftovers in your fridge, no matter how tiny, you realize that sometimes you don’t need to eat that much

And that you are grateful you saved that morsel
For you really didn’t need to prepare anything else

And I never buy plastic bags
I just use the ones from Safeway which I get my fruit in
And I use the paper bags for my garbage bags

And did you know that carrots on special are .39 cents a pound
For 40 cents you can get 5 huge carrots which provide more than enough vegetables for meals

Just be conscious

Just appreciate

You can be Perfectly

And grateful for so many things

That you can walk

That you can walk
That you can walk down the street safely
That you can walk down the street safely and cross the street
That you can walk down the street safely and cross the street with traffic laws people obey
That you can walk down the street safely and cross the street with traffic laws people obey into a grocery store where you can buy


Heaven: 30 different types of fruits
2 for 1 offers
and most people never ever think that they can’t afford Safeway

but not true in the developing world…..

and so I am developing


I am the developing person
Because I appreciate our two worlds


What they teach me about community, spending time together, being, presence, slow, relationships, communing community


And what I learn about how they would like to be helped 


Helping us both to be whole… both to Live consciously and kindly


So sometimes
I get very moved

By the thought you never even

A piece of bread
A scoop of jam
An apple, a piece of fresh fruit

I will appreciate
And sometimes I will get overwhelmed by this simple thought
So please excuse me if I must gently leave the dinner table
To take a deep breath
To connect with people all over the world
To send them the food I have received tonight
Through my heart
To their spirit

May the Universe

It is not millions of people without
It is billions
I did quietly



Float Gently, To Realize

Float gently,
To realize

And that is what shocked me about Peru. That realization

That realization that graspingazation, strivation

That how I live is so
From the world’s norm

And yet this is my home
I sometimes can’t breathe-fathom-decipher-actionate-whattodonext-help-find-give

Beat beat, patter, heart  breathe/patter breathe/patter  breathe/patter   breathe-breathe-breathI am so crushed by learning how so much of the world lives

Help me feel whole, help me hold me, peace, hold me peaceful

So manytimes

I now


can you believe how my life has changed by
a thought

can you believe
do I even grasp
how why I get a bit overwhelmed

some time


many times
Next time?
going again… feeling again…reentering again


I am the developing person



You can take action.

Give $40 to provide fruit for orphan children.

Give $75 to feed a family for two weeks.

Volunteer at an elementary school in Peru.

I Am the Developing Person–A Journey to Peru [Part 3 of 4]

This is the third of a four-part series entitled I Am the Developing Person. This is an unedited account of a personal journey and will be followed by stories from a few more of my international volunteer trips. Many of the experiences on these trips would become the impetus for founding UniversalGiving™.  You can see additional photos here.

A Simplified Room

Often when I am abroad, and I stay in a simplified room. 

A thin woven bedspread.  White or cream painted walls.  A simple mirror; two local paintings; perhaps, maybe, a small plant kindly placed.  A gentle embroidered mat underneath a plastic tray, with a cup of water on the table.  A Modest, flatly filled, flat flattened pillow.  

You lie on your back and feel as if you have been cleansed.  There is not much to organize, be distracted by.  There is not a T.V., a menu, writing paper or a commercialized welcome card. And there is not usually a room key. 

It’s just a room.

Sometimes my rooms have been a very tiny, thin converted windowlesscloset with a broom in the corner.  Sometimes my floor is cement, and I learn to feel its softness, or gentle roughness against my feet.

Sometimes, when I come back home to the United States, I am overwhelmed.

The softness of my sheets; the pad of my bed

The blue tile of the bathroom that gleams in color

The water which comes out immediately hot

                                                A luxury of itself, its                        


Toilet paper, which is
On a roll
A holder for Kleenex
Flowers, in a bathroom….

Shutters which open and close

Shutters whose flaps are clean.

Toilets that flush fully the first time.
That are white.
It’s almost as if our toilets here are treated with extreme kindness, care… kid gloves

There is silence, clean air
It feels as if someone is taking care of me

Who takes care of them

And there is no squeaky
As  I turn on the water
To wash my face

Grateful, grateful I am for hot water, water warm, on my face
Grateful of not just a kind home but kind parents who love, love me, love home, I love them, love our home

And there is a wash cloth
And my nose jolts as the scent, fine, of a sweet soap with a fragrance
Opposed to the drier rougher soap for some days
And I am bit stiffened to take in the high level of this soap

And I cannot stop thinking about
The millions
That I saw


That I didn’t see

Who will never smell this soap
Who wonder what a real bed is like
Who have never pondered





This Time

Times Two

This time what shook me was putting 2, and 2, and 2 and 2 and 2 and 2 and 2 together from numerous trips.  I had seen the poverty before… but now, it all came together.

This time

I realized that

       What we experience in the United States

                                  What people experience in


Is an overwhelming anomaly

And I stay silent

I stay even more silent

And try to appreciate the Heaven that is present in both worlds
For both have love in different ways


You can take action.

Give $25 and bring water to villagers

Give $100 to provide a student with housing

Volunteer with impoverished children in Peru.

I Am the Developing Person–A Journey to Peru [Part 2 of 4]

This is the second of a four-part series entitled I Am the Developing Person. This is an unedited account of a personal journey and will be followed by stories from a few more of my international volunteer trips. Many of the experiences on these trips would become the impetus for founding UniversalGiving™.  You can see additional photos here.

“Somewhere Around There” 

There are no taxis where I went.

The taxicab driver didn’t even know the streets, and as we got outside of Lima to the barrio of Salvador, we stopped several times to ask the exact street, corner, turn, wind of road, crisscross to the next section type of address…

It was certainly a group effort!  One elderly lady selling fruit showed us up this street, down that street, look left, take a left, “somewhere around there.”  And so it goes until we had pulled over and asked 8 times! 

The model of love practiced and practical in our lives

We visited a collaborative of heartfelt women striving to learn skills, grow and develop personally, and support their families… as well as model a new future for their children.  It continually amazed me that the primary concern that one had to address, prior to job training, was “auto estima.”  Auto estima, of course, is translated to “self-esteem.”  No matter how many resources we get thrown at us, the lesson they shared with us is that we have to first…


And this belief begins primarily in ourselves. That we are worthy, capable and able to do something, to succeed, to have a better life.

We all forget sometimes, when we view homeless people in our own community… that we all need auto estima before getting a job. And to believe in ourselves, we need to have people who believe in us, almost to have the example and model of love practiced and practical in our lives. Then we recognize the Good in life – recognize the Good in ourselves – and there you have the beginnings of auto-estima.

I say that and my heart lifts! It is a bit easy…or at least beautifully accessible…for all of us to love one another a bit, right…?  And from that belief in ourselves from others, and then our belief in ourselves… we can then contribute.

The example of these women was profound: They so cherished their time together. Not just the cooking facilities or the fact of making something.  They honored the leadership.  They honored companionship, encouragement, collaboration, kindness, growth, The subtext floated throughout the room: I want to get better, help me get better, let me help you get better!

It was inspired, chills-up, making the whole trip, in that one subtext moment, special all its own, dear Peru….

This One View…in this Invisible War

At this time, after our meeting, I turned to walk down the hill from this beautifully spirited and tin-roof rusticated cooking shed. 

Here was this view.

This One View of overwhelming clouds of dust, broken shale, cement crumbling homes, a simple mass of gray air, rubble, homes cascading down the hillside with perhaps 20 feet visibility 

So from a top of a rubbled hill,

of homes upon home upon more…

admist dust arising rubble. 

Seething dirt clouds smolder from the ground

Covering miles

Wavering, wafting upwards

 As if they had a right and a home and a place and an everenduring mark

manifestation in their lives

I saw no



Which echoed backed to me from this valley canyon of dust rubble warred homes, without a visible war.

In this invisible war I looked back at the women
of course they noticed nothing

rock shamble
home craft shift

This was home

Could it have been a war zone?  Yes poverty warzone which tries to strike and marginalize and destroy devastate through its ugly poverishness

I still have that image with me.

Love Beyond the Dust

But remember dear that the women smiled on you as you left the tin hut

They smiled at you and your dust backdrop.  My auto-estima, thankfully, tells me that home is spiritual and where love exists, and that these women’s gazes reflected Love 



Cascading over and beyond and flailing dust

“We have an opportunity” say their faces and hearts.  Thank you for sharing it with us today.

Thank you for sharing it  

               Thank you for coming 

               No one comes to see our lives 

              (many of us have had someone had a parent come see us, encourage us, cheer us on…why do we take that for granted?)

Thank you to those I love.   And yes, thank you my many loves in my life whom I love dearly and they love me back… my heart misses them tremendously as I face this alone grey….. And turn again to face the brave unrelenting rubble

with a bit braver heart

Try Pamela

Don’t cry

 Don’t even keep it in

     Please don’t let them see my tears

 Please Joy come to my consciousness and show me how to give here, how to have hope

The dust does not represent the love of a group of women that simmers and grows and burns above

               a dimming, smoldering, sifted out rubble becoming dust.

Do not be deceived by the dust. 

I try my very best
My absolute concentration
My adherence to and attention to the present moment

To love now amidst whatever dust seems to swirl.  Love beyond the dust…. Love rises above the dust.

And I try not to get overwhelmed.


You can take action.

Give $150 to help a woman lift her family from poverty

Give $115 and bring light to villages

Volunteer in community development in Peru.