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The Father of Microfinance Under Attack – Grameen Bank & Yunus

Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank

Image via Wikipedia

Readers,

If you havent heard of Muhammad Yunus, I’d recommend giving consideration to reading one of his books. Banker To The Poor and Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business… are both excellent reads.  The concepts make perfect sense but unfortunately the reality of life is that capitalism is rough on the poor in developing countries.  I’m hopeful microfinance continues to grab hold in those developing countries and its metamorphosis allows it to eventually help the poor in more developed countries like our own.

Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 and has won numerous international awards for his efforts.  He founded Grameen Bank in 1983 with the goal of providing very small loans to poor people and teaching them a few financial principles in an effort to bring them up out of poverty.  Some statistics show that he and Grameen Bank have loaned to more than 8 million borrowers, helping many on their journey.

Just recently, Yunus was removed from his position with Grameen Bank by the Bank of Bangladesh.  It is believed that this is very much a political move as Bangladesh tries to bring Grameen Bank under more restrictive control.  I implore you to read more about Grameen Bank and what’s going on.  The Friends of Grameen website is a good place to start.  And if you’re so inclined, add a Like to the SupportYunus page on Facebook.

On Change – Supporting Quotes from Shaw, Longfellow, and St. Augustine

So far, 2011 has brought plenty of change, both for myself and for those close to me.  Changes in families, jobs, and locations already and it’s still only March.  Some people prompted the change, some had no choice.

Many people embrace change whole-heartedly; some welcome it while others actively seek it out.  Some are scared of change and put it off even though they are fairly certain that they would be happier afterwards.  For others though, they struggle against change with every ounce of their being.

Personally, I used to be one who hated change but, due to several life circumstances, have learned to adapt.  I’m a much happier person because of it.  Below are three quotes from a couple of well-known figures.  Regardless of the time period, great minds from any generation realized that change is inevitable.  We can only decide how we respond to it.

If you would attain to what you are not yet, you must always be displeased by what you are.  For where you are pleased with yourself there you have remained.  Keep adding, keep walking, keep advancing.  ~Saint Augustine

Nothing that is can pause or stay;
The moon will wax, the moon will wane,
The mist and cloud will turn to rain,
The rain to mist and cloud again,
Tomorrow be today.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The only man I know who behaves sensibly is my tailor; he takes my measurements anew each time he sees me.  The rest go on with their old measurements and expect me to fit them.  ~George Bernard Shaw

Question about Home & Auto Insurance

Just a quick poll to lay to rest a conversation I had this week.  I don’t want to sway your vote so I won’t tell you what I believe.

Days 7 – 9, Valuing Life vs. The US “Kill Team”

Readers,

Initially I had planned to comment on the need to take a break from technology every once in a while, unplugging from the world.  However, I’m going to hold off on that for tomorrow because of something I saw on the news this morning.

A later post had already been planned with a focus on valuing life, not so much as a focus on one’s self but on life in general.  This morning I caught the following news article ‘German News Organization Runs Photos of US Soldiers with Afghan Corpse despite Limited Access.’  This is actually old news as it happened last year and the court-martial has been ongoing for a little while with periodic updates making the news.  The impact though really hit hard when the Today show actually showed the photos this morning.

First off, really?  Was it really necessary to show the photos?  It’s horrible, no doubt, and seeing the pictures definitely makes it more “real” but imagine if you’re a child just about to leave for school and these images pop up on the screen.  Oh sure, they selectively covered the dead man’s face with a black censor line, but the sight of a soldier posing with the dead man’s head held lifted by the hair in the same proud pose I’ve seen from deer hunters is sickening.

I understand that soldiers are under enormous strain, the extent of which I can’t even imagine.  But when does life become so insignificant?  When is that line crossed?

Soldiers are trained to remove themselves from the situation and after a while they are numbed by what they’ve seen.  I understand that viewing enemies as humans likely makes it more difficult to react quickly in a situation. But is that a fully bad thing?  Shouldn’t that be part of it?  Seeing others as human beings is what separates us from animals, even in the worst of situations.  How is what these guys did any different from the slaughtering that occurred at various times throughout history – during slavery, the massacre of native americans, WWII?  In all cases, the value of human life was twisted into two categories of human beings.  Those being killed were seen as lesser, insignificant, and many times as inhuman.  Just like the poor civilians in the photos today.

To close, a quote borrowed from one of the best stand-ups ever to grace the stage.

“Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity” ~ George Carlin

Day 6 – On Being Old

Readers,

“Learning acquired in youth arrests the evil of old age; and if you understand that old age has wisdom for its food, you will so conduct yourself in youth that your old age will not lack for nourishment.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci

Today, no quote.  Instead, I just want to comment on something that has occurred to me over the past two days as I started back with my “normal” routine at work.  Breaking my ankle has given me a little different perspective on mobility.  After not being able to leave the house because I couldn’t drive, I understand the freedom that comes from being able to drive.  I understand why older people fight tooth and nail to keep their driver’s license even if they only drive once a week.  It’s not the fact that they really need to drive, it’s the fact that they can drive, whenever they want.

Another realization hit me as I was slowly crutching down the hallway of my hotel yesterday.  Being back to work full-time but still having to take it slow and always using crutches while walking has also shown me just how frustrating it is when you know that you used to be able to move sooo much more quickly but must now resign yourself to snail’s pace.  In my case, I know that it’s for a limited amount of time.  I feel so sorry for those, advanced in age, who know that there’s no going back.  Everything takes longer, sometimes ridiculously longer.  For instance, when I checked into the hotel it took me close to half an hour to get out of myself and my crutches out of the car, check in, carry my first bag to the room, crutch back out to the car, get my computer bag, and then crutch back to the room.  I was seriously so frustrated and worn out by the time I finally sat down in the room I wanted to throw my crutches through the window (but I didn’t.  Imagine how long it would take me to leave in the morning without crutches).

So the next time you’re confronted with a situation where a senior citizen may be in your way, please put yourself in their shoes.  Give them the extra few seconds it’ll take to get them from point A to point B.  They’re likely already frustrated and maybe even unhappy because they know they’re hindering your progress.  Being kind to them should be the natural reaction – not the opposite.

Cheers

~The Hatter

Day 5 – On Living Your Passion and a Quote from Mark Twain

Readers,
 
Only 5 days into this goal of 40 days of reflection and I’m struggling to post before midnight.  It’s amazing how time flies during the day.  Today’s topic is one that I’ve been thinking about all day – living free and finding your passion.  To give credit where credit is due, NPR started the thought process on this one.
 
The Quote
 
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain
 
“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”

~ E.E. Cummings

 
The Reflection
 
Today on public radio there was a conversation that focused around letting yourself go, and the freedom that comes from being yourself.  Initially, my thought process led me down the path of thinking about how free most artists seem to be, and how happy.  Although I haven’t been heavily involved in the artist communities, I do know enough artists and been exposed to enough of their lifestyles to know that many sacrifice a lot for their craft.  They may work a standard job so they can pay for the supplies they need, but then spend every free minute lost in their creativity.  I’ve often thought of this lifestyle in an almost envious light.  What passion some artists have.  It’s incredible.
 
But then it got me thinking about the gifts that these artists have which allow them to be as creative as they are.  Eventually it led me to ask – what about those people who aren’t artistically gifted?  Why is it okay for the artist to give themselves so entirely to their craft but a business-person who works the same amount of time or with the same intensity is labeled as a workaholic or worse?  For someone that’s gifted in ways more suited toward the business world, they should be free to fill their passion as well without facing ridicule. 
 
Passion is a gift.  A person is blessed if they have something that they’re passionate about and are able embrace that passion, whether it’s creating the next masterpiece in oil on canvas or by launching the next IPO.   Too many people these days have lost their passion altogether. 

Day 4 – On Philanthropy and Giving Back

Cover of "The Blue Sweater: Bridging the ...

Cover via Amazon

Readers,

I recently finished reading a book called The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World written by Jacqueline Novogratz.  Novogratz is the founder of the Acumen Fund, a philanthropic organization that focuses on effectively supporting entrepreneurs in under-developed countries.  They do so, not by throwing money at a problem, but by actively researching it through contact with the local community, and then by helping the local community members help themselves.  It’s a great book that tells Novogratz’s story from the time she leaves her career in banking to when her fund helped improve lives in India, Rwanda, and Pakistan.  This book inspired me and likely would do the same for you.

The Quotes

Any one can get angry — that is easy — or give or spend money; but to do this to the right person, to the right extent, at the right time, with the right motive, and in the right way, that is not for every one, nor is it easy.  ~ Aristotle

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.  ~ Anne Frank

The Reflection

Without getting too deep into the why’s and the how’s, let it be said that one of my personal focus points is on changing my nature of self-preservation, which these days could potentially be said to border on selfishness.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve worked hard for what I have and to be where I am, but I can now attest that there’s a time in your life when you realize that work, ambition, whatever you want to call it, isn’t everything.  However, in your own situation, you have to ask yourself if it’s worth it.  Do you get the same satisfaction doing what you’re doing, that you do when you’re donating your time and energy to a cause?  I’m assuming you do.  Most extremely busy people can still find time to work with a local non-profit so give it some thought.

The one issue with charity is not knowing where your money goes.  It’s important to take an active part in determining where you donate your money.  Giving loosely, with no research, can be just as detrimental as not giving in the first place.  What if your chosen non-profit has its President earning more money than s(he) likely should.  Will you still donate?  What about how the money is used?  Does the money go toward one-time donations to a certain area, such as mosquito netting to Africa, or does it go toward building programs aimed at helping people become self-sufficient?  Be active.

Whether you’re donating time or money, or both, it’s important to get involved.  The sense of purpose that comes with this use of your time and money will be much more gratifying.

Cheers to all

~ The Hatter

Day 3 – Walt Whitman on Life (Preface to Leaves of Grass)

Walt Whitman's use of free verse became apprec...

Image via Wikipedia

Readers,

Tonight, I’m a bit tired and because of this I’ve decided to let Walt Whitman take over Day 3.  Plus, just look at him… Wisdom flows from the tips of his crazy eyebrows.

“This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body… . The poet shall not spend his time in unneeded work.”    Walt Whitman

In one of his most noteable lines from the preface to Leaves of Grass, Whitman throws out a challenge to break the mold.  Create your own path and embrace the differences in the world, especially those who may not fit into what society considers the norm.  Don’t settle for the answers you’re given, challenge yourself to find out more.  The more you understand life, understand yourself, the more beautiful life will be.

~ The Hatter

Day 2 – On Friendship and Shakespeare

Readers,

Today we’ll touch on friendship.  Amid all the great quotes out there, I believe this one speaks to exactly what I wanted to express.

The Quote

“Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatch’d, unfledg’d comrade.”
– William Shakespeare

The Reflection

Without going into unneeded amounts of discourse, this quote is for my friends.  If you’re able to keep the friends you grow up with, that you experience life with, give everything you have to doing so.  The bond that you build is not easily broken.  These are the friends that you may not talk to for months, or perhaps years, but when you do finally get together you start off like you didn’t miss a step.

New friendships are important as well, as life situations change, but I wanted the focus of this to be on ones from early in life. Do not lose sight of those friendships you already have.

To my friends… Cheers!

~ The Hatter

Day 1 in 40 Days of Reflection – Beginning with a Quote from the Dalai Lama

Cover of "The Art of Happiness, 10th Anni...

Cover via Amazon

Readers,

As we enter the first weekend of Easter, today will be the first post in what I’m hoping will be 40 days of thoughts on friendship, life, happiness, and humility.  Each day I will post a quote from a well-known author, philosopher, or religious leader for reflection and follow it with a short commentary.

In what may seem like an unusual way to start an Easter inspired series, I’ll begin by referencing The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama.  If you haven’t read anything by the Dalai Lama, please consider doing so at some point, not necessarily the how-to books, but more the high level philosophical books like this one.  He has a way of putting things in perspective that I haven’t found elsewhere.

The Quote:

“Human beings by nature want happiness and do not want suffering.  With that feeling everyone tries to achieve happiness and tries to get rid of suffering, and everyone has the basic right to do this.  In this way, all here are the same, whether rich or poor, educated or uneducated, Easterner or Westerner, believer or non-believer, and within believers whether Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and so on.  Basically, from the viewpoint of real human value we are all the same.” – The Dalai Lama, taken from Kindness, Clarity, and Insight’

The Reflection:

As we get caught up in the day-to-day rigors of life, it’s very easy to lose sight of the impact we have on those around us and it’s even easier to begin to resent those around us who are different from ourselves, whether that be by religion, status, or race.  As the Dalai Lama says, when you really break it down we all have one commonality, we’re all human and want happiness.  Unfortunately, this is often overlooked.

How many times in the past week have you actually seen those you come in contact with and considered them as people? The barista in the coffee shop, the man asking for change while huddled under a blanket downtown, the coworker who you’ve never spoken  to…  They all have their own lives and stories.  They all have good days and bad.  Some are happy some are not.  The American lifestyle of go, go, go makes it easy to pass through the day so focused on ourselves and our own lives that we miss out on the human interactions and human feelings of those around us. 

Has there ever been a time when you’ve been so focused on something that you were caught off-guard by a kind word or gesture from a stranger?  Imagine how good you felt and the happiness that stuck with you throughout that day… Now try to think of the last time you did this for someone else…  Can you come up with an example?  We’re only as alone as we let ourselves become.

This weekend, I urge you to take a step back, slow down, and consider the impact you have on others.  Happiness begins with you.

~ The Hatter

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