What's going on here?

I've made a commitment: to do one good deed per day. Large or small, it doesn't matter. Self-sacrificing or not, extraordinary or mundane, it doesn't matter. Just one thing every day, that's all.

The more I do good, the better I feel about myself. Truly, to benefit others is to benefit yourself. I hope this journal may inspire others who also yearn to do good. So join me on this journey, if you will, and think about the difference you can make in your own life.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Sorting the trash

When putting out my trash, I noticed a few bags of mine had been rejected--improperly sorted. Then I noticed how many other people's trash was also languishing in rejection. My town is infamous for its complicated recycling system. It's excellent for the environment on the one hand, but difficult to understand on the other. Many people just ignore it and throw everything in the non-burnables.

ONE GOOD DEED: Sort the rejected trash of my neighbors into its proper bags.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Poetry for a person in need

I love when the good deed finds you. I was sitting here wondering what in the world I could do for today's deed. While thinking, I replied to a person on an email list. When I hit "send," I realized I'd just done my deed. The person had said she was having a rough time, and asked for prayers and poems suitable from a pantheist perspective. I searched my notebooks and sent a few that might fit.

ONE GOOD DEED: Respond to person's request for inspiring pantheist poetry


Here are the poems I sent:

Simile of the Open Queen

This Earth may be compared to a queen who declared her body's love open to all. She sent her animals to call those who had been invited to her bed, but none would come. Again, she sent her servants, saying, "Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my bed with green leaves, I have lined my eyes with dew, sweetened my breath with sea salt, and decorated my dark skin with sprouting things."

Then nine came to call upon the Earth. Of the nine, one neglected her while another took her roughly. A third took her weight and measure, and a fourth sang of her from afar. The fifth and sixth fought over her. The seventh cut the locks of her hair. The eighth made her lie down to be walked upon as a carpet. And the ninth made poetry and went away.

For the Earth has many callers, but few lovers. The nine left her tired, worn out, bitten, and bedraggled. Yet the servants are still spreading her promise: "Look, I have prepared my bed for all. Come. None shall I refuse."

The Earth! So Great (to the tune of Amazing Grace)

The earth! so great, so wide to roam,
That bore a bum like me!
I wandered lost, but now am home
Wherever I may be.

'Twas earth that bruised my tender feet,
And earth that humbled me,
I crawled, then ran, then took my seat
Beneath the ancient tree.

Through desert's fire and ocean's hail,
And dens of wild beasts,
I've passed and lived to tell the tale:
How green the earth can be!

And when these stony feet shall fail,
And earth embraces me,
Then other feet shall roam the pale,
And climb that ancient tree!

The earth! so great, so wide to roam,
That bore a bum like me!
I wandered lost, but now am home
Wherever I may be.

Lectio Divina Natura

The air is dark and dark and goodly so:
The more a subtle sense to open. Hush--!
A log is kicked, it fumble-tumbles slow
O'er withered leaves that crackle crisp and flush
For but a moment... then begins to blush
A spacious silence... next, a rising hum...
And last a voice as from the underbrush
Enrhythms, like to whisper something-some,
You can't quite tell, but all the world is in its drum.

Haiku Collection: Crows in Winter

When winter descends
The somber-veteraned crows
Do not fear the cold

Undisturbed by gust
Nor gale, the well-entrenched crows
Stare down the north wind

While thirsty birds wail
For winter's cruel frozen joke
The crows drink the snow

When others quiver
And curse, the crows swish and swoop
Without a shiver

Hopping and cackling
For a winter breadcrumb's joy
Like a royal feast

In dead of winter
When all else is white as bones
Still the crows are black

Perching on ice-sheets
The crows hold silent vigil
For the coming thaw

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Raising awareness of charities

I posted more charities to the polytheist charity google group today. They're oldies but goodies:

Broadway Cares - mission is to utilize the unique abilities of entertainment industry to raise awareness for and fight HIV/AIDS. Efforts address both actors with HIV/AIDS and all those suffering from the disease.
Amnesty International USA - action for human rights, hope for humanity.
Save Darfur Coalition - acting to end the atrocities in the Darfur region of Sudan.

ONE GOOD DEED: Raise awareness for charities through an email group.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A special thank you

Today I sent an email to one of my dad's friends. She is one of the few people in his life willing to tell the truth to his face, whether he likes it or not. With his current problems--and denial of problems--my only comfort is that he has a friend like that. We all need those friends, annoying as they may be. But some people, when they become dangers to themselves and others, really need those friends.

ONE GOOD DEED: Write a heart-felt thank you to a family friend for being straight up with my dad.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Working late

Today was the first day of a new series of English lessons for the culture club at a junior high school. The students said they wanted to learn more English, so their teacher asked me if I would do it. I said of course I would! Like most foreign English teachers in Japan I am under-utilized, and have a lot of time on my hands. So I was happy to be asked to do more. But this commitment goes beyond normal working hours, strictly volunteer. My supervisor even made it very clear to me that if I got injured during that time, I would not be covered by work insurance. That is total bumpkiss, because all the Japanese teachers work late. But that's the crazy system they have here. So long story short I said yes, and gave my first lesson today. The students and I had a blast giving directions in English to blindfolded friends who had to find their way to the "hospital" (a picture on the floor).

ONE GOOD DEED: Stay late to teach more English on a volunteer basis.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Complements to a teacher

Today I went to an elementary second grade class. I only get to visit that class five times a year, and there's something I've been meaning to say to that teacher for a while: he has excellent communication skills with his kids. Unlike so many that talk to kids like their masters, he talks to them like an older brother. He was grateful for the complement.

ONE GOOD DEED: Complement a teacher on his excellent communication skills.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Prayer following the inauguration

At This Significant Moment
(To These Five Things I Give Honor)

At this significant moment,
When frost hardens the furrows,
Granaries are all but empty,
And sons and daughters tarry beyond the hill in arms,

At this significant moment,
When the snowy field is surveyed by a new worker,
An unprecedented hand grips the plow,
And seeds of change shake in the basket,

At this significant moment,
When weight shifts anxiously from foot to foot,
Ruddy cheeks shiver,
And lips blow on knuckles like dice for good luck,

Let me in my way give honor to five things.

First, to Justice:
That wrongs past and wrongs current be set right,
That all may share fairly and equally in the harvest,
And that poor policies may be like nourishing soil for better ones,

Second, to Prudence:
That this new sower may judge wisely the stars for planting,
That we may hold no unrealistic expectations,
Nor make a savior of the man.

Third, to Fortune:
That the new crop may not bring mere change,
But that it may be change for the better,
And change for the best.

Fourth, to War:
That frenzied wrath may calm,
That enemies may be reconciled,
And that no death may be in vain.

Fifth, to Peace:
That whatever road be taken,
Our sons and daughters may follow it home one day soon,
And by the same road too may fare the safety of all the world's citizens.

At this significant moment,
As the new worker opens the door of the shed,
To these five things I give honor,
And we shall have these, the right tools for the job.

At this significant moment,
As the yoke is placed on the oxen,
To these five things I give honor,
And they will haul us through the difficult ground.

At this significant moment,
As my brow raises to the horizon,
To these five things I give honor,
And my hands know their role in the season of planting.

A prayer

Today I wrote a prayer following upon the inauguration of President Barack Obama. Then I posted it to the various spiritual email lists I'm on. It's not specific to any religion or philosophy, so it is broadly applicable.

People are so excited, not just in America but everywhere. I felt a prayer might help to focus that energy, while checking some of the over-zealous tendencies. I hope it is able to inspire someone.

ONE GOOD DEED: Share the inspiration of the inauguration with a prayer.

Reactions: MLK Day essay

Responses continue to the Martin Luther King Day essay that I posted on the 19th.

Sue writes:
I wanted to thank you for the essay. Very well done! My husband and I had been discussing this very thing Tuesday and Wednesday. He has been looking for a job for almost 3 months and we are trying to scrape by on what I make. We do not have cell phones or many of those trappings out of it not being a necessity. Anyway he was talking about on Tuesday contacting his church (which he has already done) about their homeless ministry. I had mentioned that for the past couple years I wanted to volunteer at the local literacy council to help folks learn to read. I had to wait until our daughter was no longer an infant. She is 3 now and reading is very important to me. Now that she is older I have no excuse not to find out more of how I can help.
We often talk about when we first moved to the place we are renting and how we were terribly excited to buy a chair from Goodwill that costs a whopping $5. Money was so tight then that we had to discuss whether we could afford a single piece of furniture that cost $5. We were happy and always appreciated what we had. With money tight again we have truly enjoyed being forced to do more at home. We like our cooking and have become rather creative with what we have around the house. Amazing what you can create. Admittedly we often ordered out or bought simple things to heat and eat out of laziness/convenience convinced we were too tired/busy. We can not afford to do that now and we are much happier for it. In a strange way even this stuff gives one more of a sense of purpose/self reliance. Shortly before he lost his job we had started baking all our own bread. It is so much part of our week that we look forward to it (most of the time) and prefer our own bread. One day we had to buy a loaf and our daughter refused to eat it. That made me feel really good.

On a side note, this Saturday I am registered to attend a volunteer information session for the Columbus Literacy Council to see if it is as good fit for them and myself. I am looking forward to this opportunity. If my spouse is having a difficult time finding employment then I can not imagine how difficult it is for someone else that can not read at all or very well. Plus I can relate. I had to have tutors when in elementary school and my most difficult task in college was reading. I am very slow and generally have to reread items before I can fully retain/grasp the material. I have worked past this so hopefully my experience may help someone else understand it is okay and that we all have our difficulties. It is merely a matter of how we choose to face them.

Image: "Martin Luther King Jr." by Dave McKeague

Saturday, January 24, 2009


It was our first time to the apartment of the teacher that had us over for movies last night. Wow... I've seen messy apartments before, but wow. I've seen dishes piled high in the sink, but wow. I've met folks who can barely find things in their house, but wow! We all teased him quite a bit about it. Today as I was talking to him I apologized for being so hard on him. To be honest, I actually thought he deserved every bit of it, to motivate him to get his act together! But still I apologized. He appreciated it.

ONE GOOD DEED: Apologize for ragging on my friend about this messy apartment.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Reactions: MLK Day essay

Here is another moving response to the Martin Luther King Day essay that I posted on the 19th.

Anonymous writes:
I know I've thought a lot about these topics, as my hours have been cut further and further over the last 3 months. It finally culminated in me being laid off last Wednesday. After being at a company for 7 years, it's weird not to work there anymore, but to be perfectly honest, I was
getting burnt out and letting the stress get to me way too much. It's also a kick in the butt to finish the book I've been working on and some of my other artistic projects that may prove lucrative somewhere down the line. That and I did get a small severance package, so I can finally afford the dental surgery I've been needing and collect the unemployment while I recover. In many ways, it's a blessing in disguise.

But it is amazing just how much you can really cut back when you have to. And the internet makes it a little easier to bear. (I consider internet one of my necessities, as I need it to be able to do freelance work when it presents itself, not just for entertainment purposes.) You can read
most articles from major magazines online. You can watch many network TV shows online. You can get free entertainment via podcasts online. You can talk to friends and family over the net without running up a phone bill.

With all this free time I'm going to have (because let's face it, there's not much opportunities for work right now in any field, let alone mine), I'm thinking of signing up to volunteer at my local animal shelter. I love animals, and now that I've lost my job I'm not going to be able to get a
puppy like I had planned for awhile longer. Why not give some love & time to animals who don't have homes yet? As far as helping out my fellow humans, I've rounded up a large donation of clothes, shoes, blankets, etc. to give to my local Goodwill. I have a few winter coats I've outgrown that someone else may find useful up here in the frozen North. I find myself going through all this *stuff* I've accumulated over the years and asking myself how much of this was really necessary, and what can I either live without, or give to someone else who needs it? I always prided myself on being frugal for the most part, but now I'm realizing even I have gone overboard in some areas.

Optimist that I am, I just keep telling myself that we're going to be just fine. LOL I'm sure some things are going to be rough once the money starts getting even tighter. But I find myself being rather philosophical about the whole thing. The job I was doing wasn't the right fit for me, but I would've stayed with it for years if I hadn't been pushed out. I plan to use this time wisely and figure out just what it is I really want to be doing.

Image: "Martin Luther King Jr." by Dave McKeague

Birthday cake

The local gaijin* teachers got together today for a movie night. One is having a birthday next week, and dropped hints in no subtle manner that she would love a cake.

ONE GOOD DEED: Give my friend a birthday cake.

*gaijin = foreigner

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Reactions: MLK Day essay

I got a number of eloquent responses to the Martin Luther King Day essay that I posted on the 19th. I'd like to share this one with you, as it puts events into a certain context.

Steve writes:
I can well remember the week after MLK was shot. That was only a few weeks before second grade finished, and even at that age (with a teacher as emotionally warm as yesterday's oatmeal), I could tell the grown-ups were really anxious. When Bobby Kennedy was killed the following June, there was open concern about revolution, or at least a complete breakdown in society. (He had waffled before entering the race, which made war protesters even angrier.) And even the skeptics had to take notice when the Chicago Democratic Convention blew up in everyone's faces in late August. (My aunt was one of the protesters.)

Why the history lesson? Well, I just wanted to echo what you wrote back to you, from a completely different angle. Things are usually not quite as bad as they seem. Sadly, they're almost never as good as they seem, either. America has seen some serious fractioning during Watergate, before, during & after Roe v. Wade, the Iranian hostages under Carter, in the Contra Scandal aftermath, both of W's elections, and 9/11. Mix in all the other momentous events since 1968 (wars and rumors of wars?), and you'll have to agree that the last 40 or 45 years have been stressful for everyone. No one seems to know just how close we are right now to the edge of a financial freefall, or whether G7 countries can shake this all off without class warfare.

My Christian faith and Midwest temperment have stood me well in getting through sticky times, and I refuse to get too pessimistic (or optimistic, even as Obama is inaugurated) about how things are going to turn out. Obama has the unenviable duty of maintaining people's hopes while dampening their expectations- it's a major question whether Americans can stay united behind him until the current mess can no longer be blamed on Bush or the neocons. But until then, when Americans start to ask hard questions about how effective Obama has been, say about late summer or early fall this year (inevitably), it's going to become more important than ever to keep a long-term perspective on short-term decisions.

Not to brag, but I made a point of trying to find out just what was the minimum I needed to survive when I was much younger. In college, I decided to see how long I could go on just water- with all sorts of body fat stored up, I went 8 days without any problem. Not long afterwards, I chose to live in a house that my brother was fixing up for his family- no hot water, no electricity, no reliable locks on the doors. I had practically no money and no companionship (having just ended a serious relationship), but even then I don't think I came close to "hitting bottom." I was borderline homeless (by choice, yes) and starved for attention and intellectual stimuli, if not for food. But the safety net that my family and close friends offered taught me a crucial lesson: what you surround yourself with is never as important as whom you surround yourself with.

That was the real test that I tried to make when I came to Japan. By now you understand just how infuriatingly distant many of the locals can seem, just when you need at least moral support. I showed up in Narita with less than $200, 4 changes of clothes, a few books, and the ability to carry on a superficial conversation in Japanese. When I decided to buy train tickets from Yamanashi to Sapporo, it took 5 minutes, but I convinced the JR ticket seller that I wanted only slow trains, no expresses- he couldn't understand why I would want to spend an extra 28 hours on a train. Jobs were plentiful then- it took me 4 days to find a full time job and move into my own apartment (with the boss' guarantee of 3 months' rent). The place was only one room (8 tatami, 25K/mo) & had a concrete floor. Until I got my first paycheck, I had to sleep on dirty clothes. I wasn't sure how long I could handle this, but I was willing to give it my best shot.

Within a year I had paid off my school loans, lost at least 50 lbs., started dating my future wife, & was doing what I had trained for in college. Things are almost never as bad as they seem.


Thank you, Steve!

Image: "Martin Luther King Jr." by Dave McKeague

Convenience store staff

One of the things I will definitely miss when I leave Japan is convenience store staff. Unlike what I'm used to in America--i.e., apathetic grouches or suspiciously zealous managers--the staff in Japan are curiously cheerful. They're polite, helpful, enthusiastic, and proud of what they do. Today, after giving omiyage treats to a second junior high school, I stopped by a convenience store on the way to the bus. The staff there have been so nice to me, I decided to give them some omiyage too. The ones on shift happened to be a former student of mine and a mother of a student.

ONE GOOD DEED: Give omiyage chocolates to convenience store staff.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

My neighbor's steps

We'll have to give this neighbor a name, because I post about her often enough. Let's call her M.K. I shoveled her steps for her today. The ironic part is, she has a son my age who is home with depression after his job and marriage exploded. I recommended it be his job to shovel, because a little bit of decent work each day is good for raising your spirits when you're feeling worthless. But he hasn't been hot on the idea, and it's always been M.K., a lady my mother's age, who does it. Finally, I went ahead and did it for her. I like it because it's an "easy A" for a good deed--gimme a break, it's hard to think of good deeds to do everyday! It makes me feel good to do it, and as an added bonus maybe it'll shame her son into doing it for her!

ONE GOOD DEED: Shovel M.K.'s steps.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Omiyage treats for a Junior High

Today was my first day back to classes after winter break. Boy, was I glad to be back. Work last week, with no classes and nothing to do, was not the most rewarding of experiences. I love seeing the warm smiles of my students after a break, even knowing how dull they will turn just a few days later once they get back into the semester.

Following the Japanese custom of omiyage, or gifts brought home from travels, I gave treats to all the teachers today. They were nice Russell Stover chocolates from America.

ONE GOOD DEED: Give treats to all the teachers at a Junior High School.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Today is Martin Luther King Day: a Day of Service

If you enjoy this, please pass it on. Post this essay to your blog, email it to your friends, anything to reach as many people as possible on Martin Luther King Day.


How to be happy in a tight economy? On MLK Day, be less materialistic, more charitable

Today, as I write this, it is Martin Luther King Day in America. Barack Obama has called for a day of service today. At this hour when all anxieties focus on the economy, and the entire world feels the pressure, what difference can we make? How can we improve happiness in difficult times? To answer this, we need to remember that the goal is not to help the economy per se, but ultimately to help the people influenced by it. Considering this, two questions arise.

1. Is it really that bad for you?

Some may answer with a legitimate "yes." Others, not so much. Whatever your answer, think about this: can you remember a time when you had less, and were still happy? Chances are you can think of a time, perhaps when you were just out of high school, or even back when you were a child, when ten dollars seemed like a lot of money, because you had so little money of your own. And yet you were happy. Or maybe you can think of a time when you were making do with very few material conveniences, even though money was not in short supply. And even with few material comforts, you were happy. Personally, I was never happier than when I was a student living on very little spending money, eating the cheapest food I could find, and working a low-wage job part of the time while studying the rest. I was happy because I knew I was doing something worthwhile. So economics alone does not mandate unhappiness. A tightening budget that causes you to cancel your cable or sell your car is not by itself cause for anxiety, because there was probably a time when you lacked those things but didn't lack happiness. As Marcus Aurelius wrote:
"Subtract your own notions of what you imagine to be painful, and then your self stands invulnerable."

A change in attitude can help anyone in this tough economy. Yet for some it is not enough. Perhaps they can no longer afford the schooling they need, or can't support their children. Economic constraints are legitimately damaging their happiness. What can be done for the economy to help those who do have it bad? This brings me to the second question.

2. How can you help those for whom it is bad?

So far it seems clear that you can help yourself by changing your attitude, being happier on less. In short, you can help yourself by being less materialistic. And yet, what is it they say helps bring back a struggling economy?--consumers spending money. Thornton Wilder wrote:

"Money is like manure; it's not worth a thing unless it's spread around encouraging young things to grow."

So if we all consume less, won't that make things worse? Won't we improve our happiness at the expense of those genuinely hurt by the economy?

This makes it clear that living happier on less will not solve the larger problem. It's also necessary to revive the economy, recover confidence in loans and investments, and support struggling markets. Spending money actually helps. So how can we be less materialistic and better spenders at the same time?

The answer: don't spend the money on yourself. Spend it on those who really need it. Give to charities. Loan to friends who want to start new businesses, but can't afford it right now. Support students so they can get the schooling they need to be tomorrow's productive citizens.

Spend less on yourself, more on others

We all need to take a hard look at question number one, Is it really that bad for you? If you can in fact be happier on less, then take the money you save and apply it to question number two, How can you help those for whom it is bad? In this way, you can be happier still. Not only will you become happier by foregoing distress over material discomforts, but you will also become happier knowing that you are helping others. You gain twice.

I am not encouraging massive spending. Large-scale expenditure like the multibillion-dollar bank bailout is a matter for governments and the extremely wealthy. Most of us can only afford small amounts, but a lot can be done with a little. Consider how much you can spare, and spend accordingly. Those who can spare a lot should consider philanthropic loans and investments. The majority who can spare only a little may consider donations to food banks and shelters, to support those who have lost their jobs and homes. Those who can spare nothing at all may volunteer their time at shelters and soup kitchens. In doing so, you'll be happier knowing you've done a good deed for others.

One tip: don't give out of guilt, and don't give so much you can no longer support yourself. If you burn yourself out, you'll be of no use to anyone. Keep yourself viable, and keep your giving sustainable. Simply appraise your situation with honesty, and determine how much you can give and still be happy. Give not to ease your conscience, but to cultivate happiness in yourself and others.

At this time of economic hardship and Obama's call to service, at this time honoring Martin Luther King and all that he gave for civil rights, we need to give as wisely as possible. Remember the ten dollars that at one time meant so much to you (and perhaps means a lot right now)? If everyone in the United States spent ten dollars--and that's estimated at over three hundred million people--that would be three billion dollars. Imagine that spent on charity for people who really need it, instead of excess comforts for those who don't. While the government gives billions to banks, let's give tens to charity. Or, let's give time. Whatever you can give, it will make a tangible difference to someone. And it will make a difference to yourself. Confucius wrote:

"He who wishes to secure the good of others, has already secured his own."

That's true. And Anne Frank would add:

"No one has ever become poor by giving."

Ultimately, giving makes you richer, by increasing your happiness.

Remember too that this is not just about America. As I write this I am in Japan, and there is a saying here: "If America sneezes, Japan will catch a cold." Economies are interdependent, and the current slump is being felt all over. No matter where you are, your service affects the entire world. Local action makes a global difference.

If you are reading this on Martin Luther King Day, why not serve? If you're reading this after the fact, your continuing service will make an ongoing difference. Service opportunities are available at www.MLKDay.gov, or you can choose to serve in your own way.

Be happy. Spread happiness. Give.

Please pass this on

To encourage service on Martin Luther King Day, copy and distribute this essay as widely as possible. If you enjoyed reading it, please pass it on.

Marcus Aurelius quote from Meditations, 8.40
Thornton Wilder quote from The Matchmaker
Confucius quote from Analects, 6.28 (or 6.30, depending on edition)
Anne Frank quote from Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
Population figures from "United States" article at wikipedia.com
Image "Martin Luther King Jr." by Dave McKeague

An MLK Day essay

Today I wrote an essay to raise awareness for Martin Luther King Day as a day of service, and sent it to as many sites, groups, and friends as I could. I hope it can reach as many people as possible on Martin Luther King Day, and continue to be a good influence thereafter. I also took my own advice and made some donations.

The essay will follow in the next post.

ONE GOOD DEED: Disseminate an essay to raise awareness for Martin Luther King Day as a day of service.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

More charity links

And today I added quite a few more links to yesterday's pair. All in all fourteen new charities!

ONE GOOD DEED: Raise awareness of important charities.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Shelter and Food Shelf Links

Today I added a few more links to the Polytheist Charity group: a database listing shelters of various kinds, and online food shelf donation site. Raising awareness of charities is often as important as giving to them yourself.

ONE GOOD DEED: Raise awareness of shelter and food shelf charity sites.

PET Bottle Caps

My school has a campaign to collect PET bottle caps to raise money for medicine in developing countries.

ONE GOOD DEED: Bring in the PET bottle caps I'd accumulated over the last few weeks, to be recycled for charity.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Darfur message to Obama

The web site Save Darfur has made it very simple to write to Barack Obama and remind him of his promise to stop the genocide going on there. It took me all of one minute to sign my name and send an electronic postcard to the president elect. I also made a small donation while I was there. If you have a minute to spare, please send a message of your own.

ONE GOOD DEED: Send a message to Obama reminding him that Darfur must be a top priority.

A stranger in need

Today I got an email from a stranger. The person found my profile and articles on a popular pagan web site, and felt an affinity. Her email revealed she was feeling lost and depressed, spiritually blocked, and needed someone to talk to. Now, there are two ways this could go: either the person is genuinely in need, or she is a leach fishing for attention. I've had bad experiences with the latter, and her email showed all the common red flags. But there was still the possibility of the former, so I sent a reply giving some general advice and pointing her in directions that might help. She replied with a simple "thanks." We'll see whether this will turn out well, or turn ugly. I hold out hope for the former.

ONE GOOD DEED: Help a stranger in need of emotional support.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Sharing trash collection

Picking up trash is one of the deeds I do most often, and enjoy the most, but today's was special. As I was walking to the convenience store for lunch, I noticed a 2-liter bottle of Coke lying in the snow drift. I waded in and retrieved it, only to run into a man walking up right behind me. He immediately offered to take the bottle and dispose of it at his house.

What's special about this experience is that it was a shared moment. Either one of us might have passed the Coke bottle by. But because I did happen to pick it up, it brought it to the attention of the other guy, spurring him to action as well. Meanwhile, it reminded me that others are also ready to do good deeds.

ONE GOOD DEED: Share an experience of picking up trash.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Washer fluid for the building entrance

If you've ever lived with snow and a sliding door, you know what happens: snow gets in the track and when you try to close, it won't close all the way. The apartment building entrance usually stays open about an inch until somebody finally gets some windshield washer fluid to dissolve the snow that's obstructing the door. Today I took the initiative and bought a bottle for the building.

ONE GOOD DEED: Provide washer fluid to keep the building door from getting stuck open.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Treats for the taiko group

Today was a special ceremony called Seijinshiki. It's a celebration for those who have turned twenty years old, thus passing into adulthood. At the ceremony, the girls dressed in beautiful kimonos, and the boys in suits. They all participated in a tea ceremony, then had a formal celebration. It was concluded with a song by my taiko drum circle. We had quite some time to wait before playing, so I popped out to the convenience store to get some refreshments.

ONE GOOD DEED: Get cookies for the taiko circle while waiting for a concert.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The old kindergarten principal

The old retired kindergarten principal, one of the most jovial people I've ever met, lives not far from me. It's been a while since I visited him, so I brought over a bottle of the apple cider I make every winter. He was delighted to see me, and tonight I'll be having dinner with him and his wife, son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren.

ONE GOOD DEED: Give a bottle of homemade apple cider to the retired kindergarten principle.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Plastic at the beach

Today is one of those rare winter days which are clear, warm, and beautiful. I went to the beach to eat my lunch, wading through the drifts in snowpants. It was then that I saw a big bunch of yellow plastic binders, tied together into a jellyfish-like mass, had washed up on shore.

ONE GOOD DEED: Clear the beach of plastic garbage.

Omiyage chocolate for the office

The Japanese have a custom of bringing omiyage, or gifts, back from travels. Usually they are small edibles. I love the tradition--it's a great excuse to share food.

ONE GOOD DEED: Give chocolates from America to my coworkers at the Board of Education office.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The neighboring parking spot

I noticed the car was gone from the parking spot next to mine. It gave me an opportunity to clear away the snow that had piled up in his spot.

ONE GOOD DEED: Dig out the neighboring car's parking spot.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


It snowed like mad today. I shoveled out the entrances to our apartment building, as well as to the neighboring one. Only later did I find that my cell phone must have fallen out during that time. Now it's lost in the snow! Arghh!!

ONE GOOD DEED: Shovel the entrances to two apartment buildings

Monday, January 5, 2009

A present for my neighbor

My neighbor invited me over for dinner today. I gave her a present from America: a Christmas bulb ornament that doubles as a beautiful container for small items.

ONE GOOD DEED: Give my neighbor a present from America.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Promoting charities

A few months ago I started a google group to promote charitable donation in the Pagan religious community. Today I researched a number of new charities to recommend.

ONE GOOD DEED: Help others do good by raising awareness of charities.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

A forgotten cushion

The time difference and direction means that the 2nd and 3rd calendar days were compressed into one for me, so I'm making my way back home. Just as we were getting off the plane, I noticed the lady next to me had left her special neck cushion.

ONE GOOD DEED: Return a passenger's forgotten cushion.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Grandma's dishes, again

Today I'm flying back to Japan again. I didn't have much time today, but I managed to do grandma's dishes again before I left.

ONE GOOD DEED:Do grandma's dishes for her.