A Natural Connection

I think I’m turning into my grandpa – my morfar as they say in Swedish (they are a very specific race and don’t have a general word for grandparent, rather mother’s father etc). This thought hasn’t concerned me so much as satisfied me – he is one of my favourite people in the world and if I achieve even a small part of what he has so far then I’m sure my immediate world will be happier.

There are two main indications that lead me to think I’ve taken a lot of his traits.

Firstly, he is constantly thinking about food. His children and grandchildren are often amused and occasionally stressed by how far in advance he can mentally prepare a meal – talking about dinner over breakfast is a regular occurrence. I suspect all people of a certain era do this, born out of necessity to prepare every meal themselves, from an age before fast food and take-away was within easy reach. I also behave similarly out of necessity – it is quite hard to match my food choices to many take-away options; and as mentioned in previous posts, my preference is to avoid packaging…soaking beans means I often out-trump grandpa by thinking about tomorrow’s dinner while tonight’s is on the stove. Not having many on-the-run lunch options means I have to think ahead about that as well. I’m comfortable with this – less fast food is healthier and less take-away makes the wallet heavier.

Secondly, the most recent time I spoke with grandpa he said – “the garden is one of my best friends”, which made me laugh heartily. It wasn’t (in my mind) a sad reflection on his friendship circle, rather an acknowledgement of how important his garden is in his life. My favourite pastime on Kangaroo Island is poking about the garden. Along similar lines is his attraction to the land – he grew up in country towns, which he (I think) fostered in his children, despite them living in the ‘big smoke’ of Adelaide throughout their youth. They have all at some stage owned land ‘in the sticks’ and increasingly I feel myself being drawn out of the city – to a life where the rise and fall of the sun constitutes time; where I can grow all my own food, be forced to think about what to make for next Tuesday’s dinner because there really is no other option; or get enjoyment from just being outside.

There are quite a number of other traits I see in myself that came from morfar – another prominent one is the urge to travel, especially on the road. Of course, I can picture things I do that come from my entire lineage, but a character connection with my morfar feels the strongest of all just now, even from half the globe away.

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Change a Stranger’s Life

There are plenty of emotions that arise during all the documentaries we’ve watched recently, the most common ones I’ve had are amazement and anger. Constant amazement at how clever people are, and anger at corporations and (less often) governments for reducing that cleverness to greed for money. This is why a concept that my sister told me about is so brilliant – it avoids the greed of corporations and powerful people.

KIVA is a microfinance organisation that connects (relatively speaking) rich people in the developed world with poor people needing small amounts of money to do basic things, like grow food or become educated or start a business. How clever is that. Dr. Mohammad Yunus is credited with bringing microfinance to life in the late seventies, and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his work. His central idea is that where normal banks see poor people at risk of default, he recognized the inherent goodness in people and their desire to repay the good faith someone shows them. I didn’t spend too much time looking, but I found one stat that said 7% of prime American loans (i.e the ones considered low risk) are in default – KIVA stats suggest that almost 99% of their loans get repaid.

But to me, this repayment doesn’t matter. The amount they suggest as a loan is US$25, and they group my money with that of a few other people, so that the loan to the recipient is significant enough to start or continue their own business. It’s helping them to help themselves. In my eyes, if that $25 doesn’t get repaid then I’ve donated it to someone who needed it way more than me.

Also, they satisfy another criteria of mine when donating – avoid denominational organisations. Religion is a large multi-national organisation greedy for members and capital in exactly the same way as corporations and governments. Yes, their charities (much more often than not) do good work, but I see no need in them also promoting their own agenda at the same time, it is possible to help people and not simultaneously indoctrinate them. In that regard, with KIVA one can choose what project they would like to support, align it with their own interests so to speak.

So now I have contributed to Anais Veronica in Peru, who has a business selling sugar cane and needs funds to buy more stock and a bike to make deliveries more efficient. My amazement continues: from people’s lives in Peru – which are so different to ours; to the people who thought to connect us; to the fact that with today’s technology it happens in an instant.

Small Habit, Big Change – Help a poor person out of poverty with KIVA