Today is the second anniversary of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011.
The massive destruction and loss of human life was compounded by the threat of radiation from four damaged nuclear reactors. Two years later, reconstruction is still uncertain in many areas hit by the disaster because of the dangerous radiation levels. Unitarian Universalists gave very generously to a joint UUA-UUSC emergency relief account, eventually donating over $560,000, of which the UUA granted half to historic faith partners in Japan carrying out relief and UUSC granted to Japanese social organization focusing with women and immigrant workers. (more…)
The following post was written by Rev. Kathleen McTigue, director of the UU College of Social Justice (UUCSJ). She just finished coleading a service-learning trip to explore justice for rural India with the UU Holdeen India Program.
Our delegation just traveled to India’s western state of Gujarat, where we spent the day on Friday with the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), a UU Holdeen India Program partner.
Though we had read about SEWA’s work empowering some of India’s most impoverished women, nothing could have prepared us for the morning we spent with the rag pickers. We met with these workers in the place they labor each day: the municipal garbage dump of Ahmedabad, where they pick through fresh mounds of trash to glean the scraps of plastic, paper, and cloth that can still be sold for recycling. Standing high atop the literal mountains of garbage that stretched out on every side, we listened to the women talk about their lives and the difference it has made to have a union that helps them fight for their rights.
We heard Jasiben describe the ways she and her coworkers had been preyed upon by people who buy their gleanings — and how that changed when SEWA opened a competing scrap-buying stall that caters only to women. This stall actually paid market rates for their collections and forced others to raise their prices as well. We learned of SEWA’s tireless efforts to press the government to provide an education to the children of the rag pickers so that the next generation can find alternative employment and an easier life. Epitomizing the end of this particular cycle of poverty, Jasiben’s face shone with pride as she told us that her own daughter has just entered her first year of university. (more…)
Yesterday evening the UUA received news that Typhoon Pablo had impacted the UU Church of the Philippines headquarters in Dumaguette City. News from the UU congregations throughout Negros Island is still coming in, but so far most of the damage reported by them is to agricultural projects such as rice, corn and banana trees. In Siapo and Upper Nato some houses lost their roofs, and at least one UU family’s house, in Dumaguete, was wrecked.
Describing the situation, UUCP President Rev. Rebecca Sienes wrote: “There is so much damage in the city of Dumaguete. The pier was greatly damaged; storm surged occurred in the pier area; some of the pine trees by the boulevard were uprooted, the roof of some of the shops by the boulevard were blown away by the wind; the boulevard was filled by ocean water up to knee high. The wind was very strong.”
UUCP headquarters staff have already been hard at work clearing damaged trees, and they are making plans for necessary repairs.
UUA President Peter Morales offered words of support: “My caring thoughts and prayers are with everyone who has been impacted by Typhoon Pablo, especially the leaders and members of our UU congregations in the Philippines. The UUA will partner with the UUCP in all recovery efforts.”
Further news will be posted as it arrives. Please hold our UU brothers and sisters, and everyone effected by Typhoon Pablo, in your thoughts and prayers.
Checks may be sent to the ICUU Finance Office, attn: Susan Greenberg, P.O. Box 300, Hastings on Hudson, NY 10706 USA
Be sure to indicate that your donation is for UUCP Pablo Relief
Update: The following UU congregations have reported that they were gladly not impacted by the typhoon: Doldol, Malingin, Calapayan, Aquino, Caican, Samaka, and Bicutan. News is still awaited from approximately 12 congregations.
Update 2: The UUA and the UU Partner Church Council have agreed to cover the costs of repair to the UUCP headquarters.
Update 3: Congregational impact -
Kalomoyan congregation – All’s well
Cansauro congregation – Some damage to member’s houses and agriculture
Nagbinlod congregation – Lost electricity, but UU families are fine and no building damage. The UU Mango farm has suffered.
Culipapa congregation: All’s well.
Samoyao congregation: Some damage to member’s houses, and agriculture damage.
Nataban, Bagong Silan, and Ulay congregations are doing fine.
Update 4: Banaybanay congregation - The congregation was hit severely. Seven (7) UU families evacuated to UU church to seek refuge. Their fruit trees were uprooted, banana plants were down, roofs & walls of several houses were blown away and GI sheets could not be retrieved. One house is no longer habitable. The Barangay/Village gave financial assistance at 500.00 ($12.50) to each family affected. About 20 UU families were affected by Pablo It was the strongest typhoon that they had experienced.
Photos from Dumaguete City and the UUCP headquarters:
Our November 3rd , the UU-UNO’s 50th anniversary celebration almost didn’t happen. Just days before, New York City and the surrounding area was hit by Hurricane Sandy. We had worked on this event for over a year. Scott Seale and Marilyn Mehr headed a 50th anniversary celebration committee that worked tirelessly for months to prepare for a New York City Gala event to celebrate the UU-UNO’s 50 years of service at the United Nations. We debuted a wonderful documentary film of our 50 years at the UN.
The film, like the event itself, was the product of a lot of volunteer help. Emmy Award winning actor Andre Braugher volunteered his exceptional narration skills for the film. Gavin Grace, who is not a UU, volunteered his talent as a videographer because he so admires the work the UU-UNO does for international LGBT rights. All our speakers on the video also volunteered their talent and time, as did All Souls NYC Archivist, Lorraine Allen. We benefited from a grant from the UU Funding Program to allow us to put the video together. LDJ Productions, volunteered their exceptional production skills to give us a flawless evening at the NY Times Center.
So with all this preparation and the volunteer support of so many wonderful people, we are more than prepared for biggest bash in the 50 year history of the UU-UNO.
People were flying in from all over the USA and Canada for the event; and then America’s most destructive storm hit New York and New Jersey doing some $70 billion worth of damage. While hurricane Katrina cost more lives, because of the built-up nature of the New York Metropolitan area, hurricane Sandy did far more damage. My husband and I hunkered down in our powerless apartment and wondered if all our planning would be destroyed along with so much else in New York City.
We worried that the NY Times Center might not have power. Senator Stevenson might not be able to fly in from Chicago. The catering firm might not be able to fulfill our food order. As New York City quickly began to restore infrastructure to many parts of Manhattan, we also picked up the pieces of our event and pulled it off in grand style. Some of our out-of-town friends decided not to brave post hurricane Sandy New York. However, all our speakers arrived from near and far. We had guests fly in from California, Canada, Texas and elsewhere to attend our event. Some of our staff had serious transportation problems and some volunteers left powerless or damaged residences to carry off a grand evening. Given the havoc of just days before, our grand gala was all the more special signaling the courage and persistence of the UU-UNO determined to weather all storms to, in the words of Rev. Peter Morales, “not just to survive, but to prevail.”
Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill
The Speaker of the Ugandan Parliament announced to cheers from parliamentarians that she would allow the infamous anti-homosexuality bill to come up for a vote before Christmas as her Christmas gift to the country. The international community with the UU-UNO playing a leading role has kept this bill at bay since 2009. It seems at long last, after so much effort, the Ugandan Parliament will ignore the best advice of human rights advocates from around the world and pass the bill. It is yet unclear what the bill will entail. In its original form, it called for the death penalty for homosexuality and for prison sentences for anyone who fails to report a homosexual to the police within three days. There are some rumors that some of these more egregious provisions will be modified. The death penalty might be reduced to life in a Ugandan prison at hard labor. It will likely remain impossible for health care workers to provide care to those who have same-gender relationships, thus eviscerating Uganda’s national HIV/AIDs strategy. With passage of the bill seemingly an inevitability, the only hope is that the Ugandan President may veto the bill. He has said that Uganda already has still laws which criminalize both homosexuality and the promotion of homosexuality. The latter law has been used recently to end any discussion of LGBT rights. Most societies, including our own, find it a long and difficult process to accept sexuality different from the majority. However, such change is possible in a society which guarantees the right of free speech. Laws in Uganda, Nigeria, Russia, Iran and elsewhere make it difficult or impossible even to discuss such matters making change that much more difficult. We are calling on people to pray for all those oppressed by all those regimes which oppress individual expression and speech. There are many petitions that we urge people to sign to convince the Ugandan President to veto the bill should it pass. My personal favorite is on AllOut.org. As it happens, Andre Banks, Executive Director and co-founder of AllOut.org will be one of our two keynote speakers at our April 4-6, 2013 Spring Seminar. Register online for the spring seminar using “trip code” HIP7061.
UU-UNO Spring Seminar
As you’ve just read, violence and oppression against the LGBT population in Uganda is getting worse. It’s also getting worse in Nigeria which also about to pass legislation against same-sex marriage, which is already illegal in Nigeria, but the new legislation will also include prison terms for anyone who performs a same-sex union, witnesses one, or advocates for one, whether this is done in Nigeria or anywhere else in the world. This and other global events will be discussed on our upcoming April 4-6 Intergenerational Spring Seminar entitled Sex, Love, and Violence: Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation in a Globalized World. Youth arrive at the host congregation on the evening of April 3rd. Our keynote speakers are: Charles Radcliffe: Chief, Global Issues Section of The Office of the UN High Commission for Human Rights Andre Banks: Co-Founder and Executive Director of AllOut, “Adding people power to the historic fight for LGBT issues”.
Early Bird Rates (until March 1st)
Senior (65+) $295
Young Adult $225
Day Rate $160
Rates after March 1st until March 15th Deadline
Senior (65+) $355
Young Adult $285
Day Rate $160
Online registration is now open. When you are asked for a “trip code”, please enter HIP7061. The UU College of Social Justice is collaborating with us and we are using their website, which is usually used for UU service learning trips, to register people for the seminar. They will pass your name on to us and we’ll send you registration materials. You can also send us an email (email@example.com) after you register and we’ll send you materials about our exciting seminar. Remember registration includes the cost of most of your meals at the seminar and also accommodations at 4thUniversalist Church NYC for youth.
Since disembarking from our plane in the Mumbai airport last Saturday evening, it feels as if I have been trying to drink from the proverbial fire hose of experience. The flow of sights, sounds, smells, tastes, feelings, and thoughts is at a rate that is completely impossible to imagine, must less take in.
From the seaside of one of the world’s immense cities, we came here, to the modest, bustling campus of Vidhayak Sansad, the center of such astounding activity in this area of such astounding need and opportunity. We were greeted at the gates by a procession of over 200 tribal schoolgirls clad in navy blue and white, and they enthusiastically paraded us in a pulsing procession to this remarkable place.
We’ve been learning from local tribal activists — union leaders — who have unpacked accounts of their decades of work. The depth of their clarity, conviction, and commitment easily transcends the barrier of language, which often requires translation from Marati, the state language, into Hindi, the national tongue, before making its way into English. Their accounts are of creative, powerful, often clever, and always strategic efforts to lift themselves and their people out of a complex web of oppression and exploitation.
Yesterday included a visit to a nearby small village where a centuries-old Hindu temple rises like a fortress above the swarm of the street. We were there not just to see that spectacle but to hear from other union activists about their work in organizing the temple staff to demand fair wages. Their actions included a hunger strike staged on the steep steps leading up to the temple. They also chose not to discard (as was their responsibility) the mounds of marigolds offered in homage to the deity but to fill the offices of the trust officials who employed them with the wilting blooms until the trustees agreed to negotiate.
The needs of the so-called adivasi — the “first people,” whose legal rights to these lands have been so abused — are as foreign as so much we’re encountering and as familiar as all struggles for justice and equity in which the members of our delegation are engaged. Our learning — and my learning — is taking place at the intersection of this way of strategizing for change and our individual and congregational efforts to work with immigrants, the economically deprived, the homeless, the incarcerated, and all those deprived of full equality and adequate opportunity.
Our learning continues, today with more activists, tomorrow in excursions into outlying villages to observe and document what we experience and understand about the work of these courageous agents of creative change. I’m profoundly grateful to be having this experience and look forward to unpacking it and exploring aspects of it with my congregation in the coming days, weeks, months, and years.
Cross-posted from the UU College of Social Justice blog.
On Tuesday we traveled from Mumbai to Usgaon, the village where partner organization Vidhayak Sansad is based and where it has organized a school for 254 tribal girls from 5 to 18 years old. We received an unforgettable welcome from the children, who had gathered at the gates to meet us. They offered each of us a traditional blessing, anointing our brows with yellow and red powder and greeting us with the words that mean, “I greet the light of the god within you.” Accompanied by drums, the girls then danced up the pathway and led us to the main center, where we learned about the power of collective action in rural India.
Vidhayak Sansad is a key partner of the UU Holdeen India program. We were privileged to meet throughout the afternoon with nearly a dozen women and men who are major leaders of the union associated with Vidhayak Sansad. Nearly all of them are adivasi, or tribal people, who still have to struggle and often risk grave violence in order to secure their most basic rights. Some of the leaders we met were among those who had been bonded laborers before the birth of the union in 1983.
Though it seems unthinkable in this modern era, the entrenched systems of power and privilege in rural India have made it frighteningly easy for the equivalent of slavery to persist. In so many areas, the laws that were meant to protect the adivasi people and their rights to land and water have been ignored; more powerful farmers from higher castes simply took the land and began planting it, hiring back the former owners for well below minimum wages.
The adivasis have undertaken recent efforts to recover land and water that has been stolen from them and, in some cases, to insist on minimum wage. Women play a key role in these struggles, and gender equality is one of the union’s principles.
Vidyulata Pandit, who founded the union with her husband, Vivek, and a group of former bonded laborers, lifted up a vivid example for us of the way women’s empowerment is linked to the entire struggle for justice. A meeting had been called to convince the workers that they had the right under the law to stand up and demand the landlord pay them the minimum wage (at the time the men were being paid 4 rupees a day and women just 3, but they were all legally entitled to 7). Both women and men attended the meeting but, as has been traditional, the women kept silent and only the men spoke. The men were unwilling to act, saying that nothing really could be done.
The meeting ran late into the night with no progress made, and then just as it was breaking up one woman finally stood and found her voice. Turning to the men of the village, she said, “You’re always saying that the men are the brave ones that have to go out there in the world and the women must keep silent and stay home. We have just heard of the way to find our freedom. If you men are afraid to do it, then take these bangles from my wrists, wear them yourselves, and go home!” Other women then stood with her, and the women walked out of the meeting and led a march — joined finally by the men — around the landlord’s home demanding fair pay. The next day a spontaneous strike began. The landlord buckled after two weeks and agreed to pay all farm workers the minimum wage.
This is just one of the dozen moving stories we have heard from people whose lives have been so changed by the power of collective action. We are deeply inspired by what we’ve heard and are so privileged to be among them.
Cross-posted from the UU College of Social Justice blog.
The following post was written by Rev. Eric Cherry, director of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s International Office. Cherry was one of the leaders of the UUSC-UUA Supporter Journey to Tanzania and Burundi.
Service-Learning trips through the UUSCJ are a terrific way for UUs to get to know the social justice strategies and methods of partners around the world. Many of the partners that UUCSJ interacts with through S-L trips are secular in their approach. But, some of them are faith-based – and even Unitarian/Universalist. In those cases, the experience for trip participants offers a unique opportunity to connect spiritual practice and faith with outreach ministries. And, introducing the team of UUCSJ service-learners in East Africa to the leaders and members of the Unitarian Church of Burundi was a great example of that connection.. Together we explored the ways that Unitarianism is pursuing social justice work in Burundi.
The Unitarian Church in Burundi was established by Rev. Fulgence Ndagijimana in 2002 as a liberal religious alternative to the dominant Roman Catholic presence in Burundi. Rev. Fulgence is, in fact, a former Dominican novitiate who discovered Unitarianism while studying in seminary. After leaving seminary and pursuing a correspondence with a Unitarian minister in the UK he was inspired to start the church in Burundi’s capital, Bujumbura.
Since then the congregation has grown in strength, numbers, and outreach ministries. In 2011 the congregation dedicated the first Unitarian church building constructed in an African country in decades. And it serves as a home for their church services, as well as a meeting place for activists.
The outreach work of the church has taken many forms including:
Capacity Building and Advocacy work with Burundi’s Batwa community
Domestic Violence prevention through workshops and other intervention
Supporting Micro-finance initiatives
Partnering with a local School
Establishing scholarship programs for University students
Leading a coalition of Unitarian churches in development in Francophone African Countries
All of the congregation’s work is done in the context of the slow recovery – and the struggle for truth and reconciliation – taking place in Burundi following its Civil War. Burundi needs liberal religious leaders, and the Unitarian Church in Bujumbura is serving that role.
During the visit we were inspired by meetings with a former combatant who now operates a small restaurant, and a team of women who are operating a vegetable stall at the women’s market in the city – all beneficiaries of the church’s micro-finance initiative.
We also visited the local school that the church is partnering with. Here, nearly 2000 primary school students have found a secure place to begin their educational journeys. Through assistance from its partners, the Unitarian Church has helped the school bring electricity to its classrooms – and will now attempt to set up a water system for the school.
Participants in the University scholarship program also met with us. They explained how nearly all of them were the first people in their family to attend University, and that completing a degree is the fastest way to escape poverty in Burundi. We were inspired by the path they have chosen.
And, on Sunday, we gathered for church with 60-70 Burundian Unitarians. The singing was fantastic, the prayers were social-justice centered, and the sermon by Rev. Fulgence was prophetic. He took a text from Jeremiah which advised those surrounded by devastation to build up their cities, and display show signs of hope. The members of the Unitarian church clearly appreciated and embrace his message. We visiting friends are challenged to do the same as we return to our homes.
The Tanzania Gender Networking Program (TGNP) is hosting a UUSC-UUA delegation of supporters in Dar es Salaam this week. Participants will join TGNP in their work on the constitutional process in the country. Tanzania’s political parties passed a very controversial law in 2012 that sounded the starting bell for the country to adopt a new constitution by the end of 2014. You may think three years is enough time. TGNP and civil society do not.
Yesterday we met with the founding members of TGNP and learned about their groundbreaking programs to raise awareness, mobilize grassroots constituents to demand their rights, and change law and policy to make the rights of women and men more real. The current constitution was adopted in 1977 and amended during the years since, but it contradicts itself, especially concerning the equality of men and women. In Tanzania, women may not inherit property, and marriage age for girls is 14 and for boys is 18 — but the constitution provides that all Tanzanian children have the right to education to the fullest of their potential. These “gaps,” as the Tanzanians call them, are just some of the issues TGNP is working to change. They want to see the human rights of the people — including the right to water, to health, and to education — more clearly expressed.
But they first had to reform the law that guides the process. In Tanzania, the constitution, all the laws, and the court decisions are in English. English is taught in secondary school, so Tanzanians who complete primary school only (to age 14) do not learn English. TGNP and their coalition partners at the Civil Society Constitutional Forum (CSCF) worked to require that the constitutional process be conducted in Swahili, the language the vast majority of Tanzanians use in daily life.
TGNP and CSCF are conducting civic education on the constitutional process. However, that is another “gap,” as they point out. The law passed by both ruling and opposition parties limits and regulates civic education. TGNP and CSCF must apply to conduct civic education on the constitution, disclose their funding for the program, and have the content authorized by the Constitutional Review Commission. If they violate this process, they could be fined 5 million Tanzanian shillings or be jailed for 3 years. This while the political parties are openly passing out talking points during the “open forums,” the first step in the constitutional process.
During our delegation visit, we saw boxes of the current constitution in Swahili at the CSCF offices we visited. They had printed them and are now distributing them. TGNP and CSCF want the time table changed; they want to slow the process down so people can learn about their constitution and what is at stake, and then be able to form their own opinions. The parties want to have the constitution wrapped before the 2015 elections.
Who knows what other surprises are waiting in the wings. Possibly land reform that would give away large parts of Tanzania to major foreign farming firms? That would privatize water rights? Diana, the director of CSCF, assured us they will include the human right to water. She had been without water in her home for the past week.
The delegation was inspired by the dedication, insightful analysis, persistence, and what cofounding member Subari termed the “love” that they express through their work. I agree, Subari, it is one of the highest expressions of love to dedicate your time and heart to changing the highest law of the land, the constitution.
On September 18, 1887 Hajjom Kissor Singh started the journey of organized Unitarianism in North East India. And, on that same day in 2012, 125 years later, the anniversary celebration and worship of the members of the Unitarian Union of North East India were spectacular. It was an honor for me to participate in many of the Anniversary events – along with Derek Mitchell (the Director of the UUA Holdeen India Program) and Richard Van Duizend (Past-President, UU Partner Church Council). Together we brought a message of solidarity, faithful partnership, and commitment to a shared future from the UUA and its congregations to our brothers and sisters in North East India. And, we returned with a sense of awe at the strength and hope of Unitarianism here – as well as inspiration from the unrestrained joy and pride that members of Unitarian Churches feel for their faith in this part of the world. I am a better UU – and I expect all of us are – by virtue of experiencing the faithful example of Unitarianism during this anniversary.
Among the special events that took place was a parade through the streets of Shillong a few days ahead of the anniversary. 1,000 Unitarians, representing every congregation in the UUNEI – some traveling 10-12 hours to attend – marched through Shillong amidst cars and trucks with immense lit-up flaming chalices on their roofs. We sang Khasi songs, cheered and laughed throughout the 5k parade. And upon arriving back at the Madan Laban Unitarian Church the festivities exploded into music and dance. I don’t know that I’ve ever had as much fun being a Unitarian.
On the night before “Unitarian Day” – a special Holiday in the state of Meghalaya – we gathered in the town of Jowai which is home to the UUNEI’s largest church, and the location from which Hajjom Kissor Singh organized Unitarianism. The church gathered for an evening service, followed by festivities in members homes. At one of those homes we shared a prayer of gratitude for a child who had recently been declared cancer-free following treatment for leukemia. After some socializing a guitar came out, along with some song books, and the men in the room began singing some of our favorite UU hymns (brought back to the Khasi Hills by Rev. Helpme H. Mohrmen after his visit to a recent UUA General Assembly). I have never heard Blue Boat Home sung so sweetly. And it was a beautiful surprise, as they reached the chorus of another song, that the women who were gathered on the balcony of the home suddenly joined in like angels – almost from out of nowhere. Such a special evening – among many
On Anniversary Day itself there were three church services – morning, afternoon, and evening. Each service was SRO (standing room only) – or nearly – and included excellent anniversary sermons/prayers and music. Between services we visited some of the most elderly members of the Jowai church. And, just prior to the evening service, a torch procession through Jowai took place. There may have been another 1,000 Unitarians participating – not only with lit-up chalices – but with more than 125 flaming torches (like Birthday candles) as well. As we processed through the town I couldn’t help but wonder: What could inspire 1,000 US Unitarian Universalists to do something similar with the same immense pride and joy?
The visit continued beyond ‘Unitarian Day’ including a trip to the remote Umru Unitarian Church and School in the Ri-Bhoi district that straddles the border of Meghalaya and Assam, and many other events in Shillong.
My deep thanks are extended to the President of the UUNEI, Rev. Derrick Pariat, as well as the UUNEI’s General Secretary, Rev. Nangroi Suting, and many other committed Unitarians who taught me – a life-long UU from the US – about the depth and power of our global faith in a unique way. What a precious gift.
Barbara Du Mond is a member of the UUA delegation that recently visited the “Every Child is Our Child” program partners of the UU-UNO in Ghana, earlier this month. In this blogpost she shares reflections on economic status, opportunity, and the ECOC program’s importance in the lives of many children in Ghana.
They are the hidden ones, the ones you don’t see as you drive down the road or walk in the streets. But they are there, doing the work, helping others to succeed and survive. They are the people with physical limitations. There are no nice sidewalks with curb cuts, no wheelchairs, no stoplights to halt the traffic so you can take the time you need to cross the street, and no carts to hold your goods for transport and to help steady yourself as you walk. There are no special shoes, no tools for reaching high on shelves, no special toilets.
As we sat on benches outside under a tree to give us some reprieve from the afternoon sun, she came towards us. With flip flops on her hands, she crawled on the hot hard baked earth for the 40 feet from her home to where we sat. As she sat herself on the bench, you could see the thick pads of flesh on her knees where her body had adapted to her crawling. She is the mother of two students who are part of the Every Child Is Our Child program. Her husband passed away several years ago and she is not able to find employment, so she and her children are considered “at risk” and are able to participate in the ECOC program. Barely able to provide for her family, she is also hoping to accept an HIV/AIDS orphan into her home. She and her children rely on the health services that they can access because of ECOC. Because of the program, her children can go to school and receive at least one meal a day, which in the particular school is provided by the school district. Not all schools have this benefit. Only those with the poorest students, where the children are needed to earn money to survive, where children would not attend school except for the ability to get free food. In this school, the number of students doubled from around 200 to around 400 in 2 years because of the student food program.
There are so many things that I am able to take for granted because of where I live and my economic status. What force in the universe placed me in my circumstances and not in hers? What resources am I claiming for myself, and what impact does this level of consumption have on others and our environment? What minor luxury must I forgo in order to provide education and medical care for her children for one year? I am both blessed and cursed by over-abundance. Middle-class guilt permeates my being. I am daily challenged to be as generous with my personal and financial resources as this mother.