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My grandson, Robert, graduated from 5th grade.  For him it’s a big deal because he leaves the Jane Ryan Elementary School to enter middle school. As part of the moving up ceremonies, the school organizes a full-fledged graduation and a very special spring concert which includes performances by the string band and their regular band plus a choral concert with the entire 5th grade…about 65 kids,  doing some rousing singing.

(This reminds me that when I was Robert’s age all I did after 5th grade was move up to 6th grade.)

Many kids, including my grandson, got to do a solo. Some of the kids introduced the songs, some sang a short intro at the beginning of a piece, and others brought their instruments to accompany the chorus. We watched 10 and 11 year olds show a wonderful stage presence before a packed house of friends, other students, parents, grandparents and other relatives.

What a shame that when schools think of cutting their budgets it is the arts that get slashed without much thought or guilt.

I have seen my grand-kids learn so much through the arts…about social studies, about writing and reading, and about the community in which they live. And about life.

The 94-year-old Pete Seeger uses his folk singing style to make strong points the lives we live including our role in cleaning up the Hudson River and about making peace rather than war. I saw him perform at this year’s 35th Annual Clearwater Festival.

Have you ever watched Fringe, the series that Fox premiered in 2008? Fun to watch, especially seeing Walter, the slightly crazy genius Dad. All Walter’s craziness aside, he had great insight. Music gives us a reason to live…probably not a direct quote but you get my gist.

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I feel strongly about our kids needing a good education. I hate the back stabbing that goes on in politics.  And I think that the rich are getting richer as most of us struggle to meet our daily bills.

But I am never sure how to make a difference.

Do you describe yourself as an activist?  Where do you think you can make a difference.?

ImageThe 94-year-old Pete Seeger has made being an activist an art. I saw him perform at this year’s Clearwater Festival.

Those of us at Hudson Valley Parent attended the Clearwater Festival in Croton-on-Hudson on behalf of MyFamilyTripPlanner. It was a first time for me and, boy, was I overwhelmed.

Croton Point Park, where the festival is staged, is huge, all 508 acres of it, with campgrounds, beaches, boats, picnic areas, hiking, fishing and plus kid’s play areas. For two days a year for the past 35 years, the park is dominated by Clearwater’s Great Hudson River Revival. 20,000 people attend plus over 1,000 volunteers. 5 music stages with great talent. And as you would expect food and craft vendors galore

But at the core this festival is an activist’s haven.  All the paper and plastics in the food court had to be recyclable. I ordered a large iced coffee. It came with no top. Why? Because the tops that came with this cup did not meet the Clearwater’s recycling standards.

My staff bought some crafts made by women from Nigeria. The vendor comes here for short periods of time to sell the crafts before she returns home. All the money supports a woman’s collective and the money also helps send their children to school.

ImageAnd the music. I must admit I didn’t know many of the performers, but  Buffy Sainte-Marie had the audience standing as she sang about her Indian heritage. Most singers belted their messages through song.  Around 3pm on Sunday, one dad visited our booth as a group performed next to us. “I think I’ve heard  ‘turn, turn, turn’ about 35 times this weekend,”  he lamented.

ImageBesides food, music and crafts, there were the activists. Everywhere I went I met people carrying signs. They stopped me to ask if I would sign their petitions:  GE and the PCB clean-up. Nuclear plant in Buchanan.  Going solar at home.

Eventually I found the section of the festival called ACTIVITISTS” Don’t Move Firewood”,  “May Peace Prevail on Earth”, “Moms Demand Action”, “Save Our Schools”, “Combat Paper NJ”,  “NY for Women’s Equality”…those are just my first  five cards. I have 25 cards in all.

In the coming days I will write about some of the groups I met. If they of interest to you, you can follow up.  I am also going to decide what means the most to me and see where I think I can make a difference.

If we give money to groups like the Red Cross what should we expect in return? And if we don’t like how they handle our money, can we request a refund? A novel idea that just may come to pass.

A recent story in the Times Herald Record print edition (I couldn’t find it online) said that “Seven months after Superstorm Sandy, the Red Cross still hasn’t spent more than one-third of the $303 million it raised to assist victims of the storm. I always wonder how our donations are spent. You will excuse me if I am a bit skeptable about the motives of organizations that collect huge amounts of money…including our government.

“What is the Red Cross waiting for?”

I remember something like this happening after the 911 attack. There was this overwhelming outpouring by many of us who wanted to let those who were affected by the blasts that they weren’t alone and so we game money…lots of money to organizations like the Red Cross. That money also went unspent for a long period of time…I think, at that time, the Salvation Army was called to task.  

According to a Huffington Post article , storm victims could have used more help this past winter. This is was according to Kathleen McCarthy, director of the Center for the Study of Philanthropy and Civil  Society at the City University of New York. And the Red Cross was not there.

It is tough to know which organization is acting responsibility and which needs to be put on the carpet. That is one reason I hesitate to give money. I would rather help those around me…people I know who need a hand. Maybe to cook a dinner or take them to the store. It’s not as easy as clicking online to give a donation but at least I can see the smiles of people who appreciate the a small gesture of kindness.

How do  you handle donations? Have you ever asked for a refund?  

 

I am taking Wal-Mart off my shopping list. I am sure it will cost me more money. I am sure I will miss the convenience of their long hours and wide array of products. But at some time we have to say “Enough is enough.”

All this came about because I needed some beach pails.

My company just developed a new program for family trip planning. We are going to events with a great display to let parents know how easy it can be to plan a day trip and share it with friends and family. Recently we added our newly adopted dog, Bandit to our display.

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(I will come back to Wal-Mart…everyone does.)

We decided that Bandit would love being at the beach. We got him a beach chair, a Yankee Baseball cap and now I wanted some beach pails to fill out the summer scene. No one had them right now but, you guessed it, Wal-Mart. The price…97 cents and, of course, it was made in China.

Think about it…how much was the person who worked in the factory being paid for this pail?  Were they working in clean working conditions?  Were the doors locked so the workers couldn’t get out if there was a fire?

What’s your thoughts? When you trying to save money but still be socially responsible, what do you do?

 

 

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