Friday, January 14, 2011

An Unconventional Birthday Gift

This post is a follow-up post from A Very Very Un-Birthday in the Making...

What I love about this whole birthday thing, perhaps more than anything else about it, is believing that people have been thinking about what would make a real difference in Kaya's world. If nothing else comes of it, I know that this, in itself, makes a real difference...

I'm eager for more, however, and I'm VERY driven to inspire you!

So, in response to our Evite and recent blog post about Kaya's birthday celebration, we heard from a number of people about their ideas for our Global Wish List. Here's how the List reads thus far (feel free to continue to add your ideas in the Comments section):

The Staton-inspired Global Wish List for 2011

--increased use of "alternative" forms of transportation
--improved train systems in the U.S.
--greater or total use of renewable energy including solar, wind and micro-hydro
--the beauty, unity, and the sacredness of all life restored
--rekindled connections, being of generous spirit, and cultivation a peaceful heart
--more trees
--the promotion of girls’ education, literacy and peace
--social skills fostered in our age of technology
--preservation of more of Oregon's forests
--increased time spent with each other face to face, voice to voice
--peace between Jews and Arabs in Israel (through development of bilingual and multi-cultural schools)
--increased reduction, recycling and re-use of plastics
--even more trees
--eating more healthfully for yourself and the earth (organically/locally)
--a world where people authentically connect, are seen, and are loved. it's about being with each other and really being present.
--presence and connection to the natural world
--peace created by being peace, love created by being love, balance created by being balance
--U.S. education a higher priority than blowing people up in foreign countries
--health care for everybody
--constant availability of non-GMO food to nourish our bodies
--an international 'socio-ecological score' (SES), similar to a credit score, where people are evaluated on their environmental impact and sociological contribution to society at large

So, as you may know, for Kaya's 2nd birthday, my gift is to inspire others to make a real difference in her world. Many of you have been thinking, as evidenced by the above ideas, about WHAT would make a difference. Others of you may feel more overwhelmed by the request, wondering where or how you'd even begin.

So now for the HOW.

Imagine, for a moment, the power and influence that exists in ALL of the people that are, have or could read this posting. Really imagine. I think, for example, of a friend of mine who is wanting to start a reading program to improve the literacy of children nationwide. I am thinking of another friend who spends her time running an organization that provides support to sexually abused women. In smaller ways, too, many of us have an impact that we rarely know is felt by others, even if only through the smile that we give as we walk down the street.

What if ALL of those people (yourself included!), were to accept my invitation to make a real difference in Kaya's world?!

I see three areas in which you could make a commitment, if you were so inspired and dedicated.

The first area is the most inspirational and exciting for me:

Think of an area where your passions lie in regards to making a difference in the world. This is the concept I've been asking some of you to think about to add to our Global Wish List. For me, I think it would make a big difference if people were inspired to travel more often in ways other than by car. I'm also completely inspired by the idea of rekindling connections and cultivating a peaceful spirit.

Within this area of passion (positive or negative!), think of ONE action (or set of actions) that you'd be willing to take on that you could realistically fit into your life and have 'completed' by April 22, 3 months into Kaya's 3rd year. It might be something that you'd only do once, like plant a tree, or maybe it would be something on-going, like eating organic for one week a month. From my example above, I might institute a carless day in our family one day a week, or (re-)connect with one person a week that I'd love to have (back) in my life. For some of you, with dreams in faraway places like India and Iran, your commitment might look like research that you'd be willing to do to find out about what you could do locally to make a difference. Or it might look like a donation to the organization of your dreams.

Whatever your "ACTION" would be, my request is that you take on completing the commitment within 3 months--with this request, I'm hoping to avoid overwhelm and procrastination and thus increase the likelihood of us making a real difference.

The other aspect of this whole concept that really gets me excited is the sharing part. I'm repeatedly bumping into experiences in life that remind me of the power in sharing ones dreams. I also love the idea of Kaya being able to look back and really know what commitments people made to make a real difference in her world--I'm sure that would inspire her down the road, too! So, my request is that, along with committing to ONE action, you take a photo of yourself (and any others that may be involved) completing or participating in what you've committed to doing. Along with your photo would be a short blurb that you'd write for Kaya, about the commitment that you made and why you chose the action that you did.

The second option:
So, it's clear to me that the above ideas, while completely exciting and wonderful to some, may be just WAY to much for others. I'd love it if everyone were willing to at least consider taking some action, as outlined above, that they weren't planning on taking otherwise. AND I also completely accept that what is, simply is.

Thus, I thought of this idea.

We are going to be planting 2 trees in front of our house for each of Kaya's two years of life. We have chosen a Flame Maple, to represent the fire in her spirit, and a Korean Maple, as a symbol of multicultural understanding. We will be planting them on February 19th, with the help of Friends of Trees and their Cathedral Park neighborhood planting. We would LOVE it if you could join us, not only to plant trees in our neighborhood that day, but to help create a ceremony around planting Kaya's two trees in front of our house.

The third option:
And for those of you who are wanting to do SOMEthing but simply can't take on any more commitments, we'd love it if you'd join in with us on a group donation to Friends of Trees. Friends of Trees is a local, Portland organization dedicated to restoring public natural areas and green spaces between freeways and neighborhoods. Since 1989, they have planted more than 400,000 trees and native plants! On our Wish List, we noticed that a number of people mentioned a wish that included trees...we thought a donation to Friends of Trees, as well as a tree planting, would be the perfect way to honor those wishes and help preserve a world of green for our growing daughter!

So, now what?

If you are clear on the commitment that you are ready to take on, then we'd love it if you'd share it with us by January 22. In this way, we can benefit from your inspiration, and spread the wealth! I'd truly love it if you'd share it in the comments section below--that would allow others to find inspiration from your idea. It also gives you the opportunity to come back to it later if you lose focus. It would also be great to read or hear about your commitment if you are able and willing to join us on Jan. 22nd for our face-to-face celebration! (If you're interested in coming and you haven't received an invitation, please let me know!)

If you are clear that you want to take something on but are still in the process of formulating, I'd encourage you to talk to as many people as possible as you can in the next week about what you're wanting to create. Possibilities will open up out of that action alone. Remember, as well, that I'm a resource, not the one with the whip. =) In the past, I've tended to be a "do-er"...AND someone who has gotten overwhelmed easily. I have a history of being able to chunk things down. I'm also taking a course over the next three months dealing with exactly THIS. I would love it if you bounced ideas off me! I'd also encourage you to nail down an idea in the next week, if you part because now is when the ball is rolling, and there's more energy when it's already in motion. However, if you don't come up with an idea by then, forge ahead with your excitement. An idea will come, I'm sure, especially the more people you tell.

If you are unsure as to what to make of all this, and don't see yourself as making a commitment at all, I'd love it if you'd remain open to the possibility of inspiration. Maybe an opportunity will fall into your lap that you could take on that you might normally have avoided had it you not read about any of this!

I'm so excited!
So excited to think about the possibility of passion as the driving force behind the actions that you might take to make a real difference in our world!


  1. I love this idea! Nice work! Ralph and I love to hike. When we lived in Hawaii, we spent just about every free minute in nature. On our hikes we used to carry a garbage bag in our packs and pick up garbage on the trails. Since we've lived in Oregon, we have been spoiled, in the sense that the trails are so clean that we've gotten out of the habit and haven't done this in years. Recently visiting one of our favorite parks, Kelly Point, where the Willamette and Columbia rivers merge, we were surrounded by all sorts of goodies that had collected on the beach, undoubtedly from visitors to this place as well as upriver. We talked about how sad it was that it was so filthy and how much potential this little beach had if it was only clean. Why are we waiting for someone else to do this? Our plan is to make a personal committment to keeping our outdoor areas clean and beautiful by making sure we always have an extra garbage bag in our pack and we'll start w/Kelly Point Park. It may seem like a daunting task, but with each visit, we will pick up garbage as we walk along in the sand and throw the stick for the dogs. After all, it takes as much energy to pick it up as it does to step over it: )
    Marci Donaldson and Ralph Sawyer

  2. Marci, what a wonderful comment! Thank you for leading the way on this, your details and excitement for change will surely help others come up with ideas themselves! I love your idea, and am motivated to do the same...I have so often gotten into the mindset where I would wait for someone else to take the reigns and make something happen, having told myself that I'm too small to really do anything that would make a difference.
    But if 4 of us are picking up garbage, THAT will really make a dent! I can't wait to hear how it goes at the end of three months...! I don't know if you saw the comment on the evite that my friends posted about recycling, but after my recycling challenge that I created last year, they collected 7 32-gallon bags of non-curbside-recycled plastics! I love thinking about the idea that it really does matter what we do, and it's so much more obvious when we bind together and share!

  3. Dear, Kaya
    I received your mom's greeting regarding your birthday present on Saturday night. I must admit that I was a bit daunted by the task of thinking of something 'monumental' or 'earth-shattering' that would really blow your socks off (or at least your moms). I truly had no idea what to do so I closed the message and figured I would think about it for a bit. The next morning, I sat down to eat some yogurt and sprinkle on a bit of my Bare Naked granola. I usually don't even have time to sit down and eat it, let alone read the packaging. (And by the way, Bare Naked granola is great - no artificial flavors, no cholesterol, no hydrogenated oils, no high fructose corn syrup, you get the idea). On the back it says "Bear Naked Sustainable Packaging Project". I go on to read that Bear Naked is partnering with TerraCycle in an effort to rethink how packaging affects our planet - and Bear Naked has decided to help reduce the number of bags that end up in landfills by collecting them and repurposing them into unique accessories and products like umbrellas, shower curtains and tote bags. Hmmm, seems like a good idea to me. Then it says, as I keep reading, that I can join their efforts. Me, little ole me. When I'm done with my bag, I can go online, get a form and then return it to Bare Naked and they will turn it into something else. So there you have it. I will start with one bag, in honor of you, and send it in. I think I will even note on my form that this bag was donated in honor of Kaya's 2nd birthday, so they will know that you are the inspiration. And then, after I send in that one bag, I will be started on the journey to keep repurposing items as much as I can. Happy Birthday, little one.

    Love your friend,
    Cynthia Teeple

  4. Dear Cynthia,
    If Kaya could write, here's some of what you might get in response to your wonderful comment and commitment:
    Mama made it. Cynta do it. help. Helfe. Again, again.
    Dats funny. Cynta gehen (go). Do it.
    Du auch, du auch (you, too). (she really means, me, too, me, too)
    Cynta start small. One bag. Two bag. Two bags.
    Tank you.

    Since I CAN write, here's what you get from me:
    Your response is so truly wonderful, thank you, thank you, danke! I love how you addressed it to Kaya, and took us through your thought process, including the overwhelm you felt from my so-called request. I'm hearing myself want to go on and on about how it doesn't have to be earth-shattering, monumental, etc. etc...but it's clear to me, you got the point perfectly. I LOVE where you are starting...really do. It reminds me of my friends' 7 bags of plastic...(and the multiple car loads we've taken in, too) really does start with one bag. I'm in the process of planning a big project, as part of this Self-Expression and Leadership Course that I'm taking through Landmark Education--I'm really wanting to do a HUGE project that has people tearing up because it's so amazing. But I, as well, realize the power in starting small, right in my backyard, with one bag, as it were.
    Thank you for being #2, for setting such a textbook example of how any action is the perfect action--as long as it inspires you. I'm so excited for you, for us, and already look forward to seeing your photo down the road!!
    Lots of love,
    Kaya, Tamara and Geoff

  5. First of all I want to give major kudos to you and Geoff for this. I think it is such a creative, out-of-the-box idea and it has me thinking of similar things I might be able to do for each of my children's birthdays instead of just buying them junk that they will get tired of eventually.
    I also love this because I have not been very much of a 'do'er' in my life and I am excited to change that. I know that starts with making commitments to myself and others so this idea for Kaya is going to be good for myself and my family. Thank you Statons!
    I have been thinking a ton lately about doing some kind of active charity work with my children. In the past I have just sent money, now I am inspired to act.
    I have Five children and I am very aware of how I am responsible for Five people that will be using the Earth's natural resources and creating Five more carbon footprints. I am inspired and determined to do everything in my power to have them go off into the world as Five passionate, nature and life loving, environmentally conscious, socially and self aware people that are empowered to make a big positive difference in our world.

    My committment to Kaya for her birthday is to do at least one act of charity with my wife and children by April. This will be something like helping to feed homeless people, going to a cancer ward and reading/playing/interacting with the children there, or going to a nursing home to bring joy and fun to the elderly people. I would love to do all Three of those things by April but I think it is best that I just commit to one for now.

    I would also love it Tamara if you, Geoff, and Kaya could join us in doing one of those things before April. If not then I will be thinking about Kaya while we do it for sure!

    Thank you again for this amazing idea,


  6. Brandon, you inspire me, as well. Thank you SO much for your feedback, for your vision, for your excitement about mine. I would LOVE to join you in doing one, or even ALL three, of those ideas you mention...that's important to us, too, that community involvement is a big part of Kaya's life. Let's make it happen, and put it on the calendar on Saturday!

  7. The single thing we could do to improve Kaya’s future is to instill in her the most critical of minds. To teach her to accept nothing in this world, nothing, that does not stand up to the rigors of analysis and reason. To demand proof when she is told to buy or believe, whether by clergy or con man. To become her own expert, her own guide, her own skilled set of examining eyes. And finally, the tools to wage her own successful crusade against the irrational and the unreasonable. Det ratio valere!


I LOVE reading your comments, they make such a difference! Thanks for sharing!