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Anonymous: To those people who say u should only help those close to u are a perfect example of some of the issues we are talking about in philosophy: "Obligations to distant people" vs near people. I highly recommend them to watch Peter Singer's ted talk on YouTube- Altruism. "If you could save a child from drowning, you would. The fact that we would get wet, or ruin a good pair of shoes, doesn't really count when it comes to saving a child’s life. Yet almost a billion people live very comfortable lives"

and that being said, I need tips on how to be an effective altruist. Sometimes I just self-pity instead of focusing that energy on helping others. It’s such a process since I want to protect the environment and am trying to do that in most cases. But I can’t find a way to not rely on a working laptop, fridge and my phone for music. And car to commute since I live really far from the city and the timings of the greyhound does not correlate with my work hours. That’s the worst one, so much guilt!

Sorry for the belated response, or really, I don’t know how belated because Tumblr doesn’t put dates on these things, but it feels like a while. I don’t think I’ve seen that TED talk before, so I’ll definitely check it out. Increasingly our culture has been very much about self-love, and planting the idea that no one will love you and you will be unable to love anyone else, unless you first love yourself, and and it creates this kind of vacuum, this inward-focus that is making any kind of altruism look unhealthy and people are quickly picking it up as a crutch to support why they can’t or shouldn’t help anyone else. I mean every time I talk about generosity or loving my neighbor, people imply I must be suffering in some other way or that it’s unhealthy behavior by insisting I don’t forget to love myself. (Just so we clear, I think people should take care of themselves, but there’s a fine line between a healthy dose of confidence and cockiness, and being obsessed with yourself in a way that sucks up all your energy and leaves nothing for anyone else, and most friends/peers I’ve seen pursuing self-love fall into the latter category. This is of course dependent on a few things, if someone is say, mentally ill, I completely understand needing to take to recover and work through it vs. people who are perfectly healthy to begin with, and don’t necessarily need that heightened focus on self, in my opinion.) 

Don’t do things out of guilt, do them out of love, it’s more powerful and will yield better results. I’ve been reading more in-depth about poverty alleviation, it’s been a subject of passion for a while, and even though it’s difficult, I’ve definitely had to assess my motivations and realize that sometimes I’ve hurt people more than I’ve helped them, and I think we all have. I need to check my motivations more, and assess and reassess methods, because a great deal of altruism unfortunately becomes more about the giver than the recipient, and sometimes at the expense of the recipient, the one in need. This isn’t to say altruism is bad, at all, I actually think we need much more of it, and we need action not just concern, but it’s important to make sure that action truly benefits others. I could ramble on about that for about 45 minutes, but I won’t, because I have to go…

I’ve always avoided much phone/electronic usage around any of the children I’ve nannied, I don’t want them to feel like they have to compete with a screen for my attention and I know they’ll want to mimic whatever I do, but today I had my phone out for a minute, and the baby began reaching. I gave it to hold for a moment, but she immediately tossed it aside, and suddenly I realized she wasn’t fussing for my phone, but for my book.

Somewhere, I went right with her. 

If you never hear from me again, it’s because my heart burst from happiness that it is spring at last, and I’m humming Louis Armstrong down the street where the cherry blossoms have bloomed and the jasmine is heavenly and the breeze is sweet and the sun is low and the brownstones are bathed in gold and it is poetry without the pen.

Anonymous: I think people need to think, "how would I feel if someone said that to me" before writing hate or critique to others. Critique is fair but hate is just hate and there is enough of that in the world. And to hate on YOU out of all people who has done more than most people do? Ridiculous! people are just cold and like spewing hate to feel better about themselves. I hope you continue to share your stories, I love reading and hearing about them!

I really appreciate your kindness and thoughtfulness! It’s a bit complex, because I really don’t want to be one of those people that’s closed off to any critique, I think critiques and debates and questions can be very helpful in the human journey, and I don’t expect everybody to like everything I do. Where it becomes really tricky is through the anonymity the internet provides, plus the trouble of only seeing words on the screen and sometimes not knowing the tone or the context, and the truth that many of the anonymous people who critique/hate on me, don’t necessarily know me well or at all, and therefore do not really have all the information needed to give constructive criticism, but think they do. (I do mostly ignore people who are just making blatant and false assumptions about me in a very hateful way, because you really can’t win with those people, no matter how wrong about your life they may be, they’ll never see it that way). Then there’s those people who really critique others as a way to justify their own actions, or are hateful because they really hate themselves. For instance, I’ve had many people take the time to insist to me that it’s really not necessary for me to be generous, that if I’m just a nice person, I don’t need to give any money, or help anyone but my own friends, family, and literal neighbors (despite that many of those people may not be in much need at all).

Generosity definitely does not just consist of money, it’s that in addition giving your time and talents, in my opinion, and definitely more than just occasional acts of kindness, but, I also think that many people tell me this as a way to try and excuse themselves from not giving money or their time or talents or anything else away. I do think there is such a thing as healthy giving and giving that unfortunately hurts those you’re  trying to help and yourself. I’m actually reading a book specifically about that and regularly read about different methods of poverty alleviation, because if I am being generous, I really want to make sure I’m not hurting people in the process. But this is kind of another topic…

Anyway, you’re really very sweet! I’m not perfect though, and there definitely are situations in which critique of my actions or words is perfectly reasonable and sometimes even helpful, but I agree, that people can give constructive criticism, and then cruel intentions and hate, and hate is never cool. (And sometimes it’s difficult to tell if people are just trying to get under my skin and be cruel, or whether they’re actually trying to be helpful…) 

Anonymous: I was trying not to sound harsh in my critique. but I just wanted you to convince me otherwise since I struggle with picking favourites and stuff so I just invite everybody everywhere even if I don't want to. I think its more about hanging out with the wrong friends; they always complain or feel left out if we hang out with each other without inviting everyone. It's weird. lol; can't wait to be done highschool and find my own people. hopefully that works out and I won't end up alone

It’s okay, honestly, a little hard to know where people are coming from, and it does drive me a little bananas sometimes, when I can’t do anything without people I don’t even know questioning or criticizing it, but ultimately the blame is on me for making the choice to share my life online. I enjoy sharing what I’m excited and passionate about, as well as, for the people who say it inspires them and for those who I’m able to connect with through the things I post, but at the same time, it can get tiring feeling like I’m expected to defend everything I do, and it’s definitely made me wonder if I should share anything at all online sometimes, except with a select number of friends…

But I digress. I’m sorry you feel you can’t just spend some time or do things with only certain friends and not invite everybody to everything. You should totally be allowed to do so, and I don’t know if they’re necessarily bad company, I guess there’s just not a maturity enough to realize they don’t need to be included in everything. Hm, I’d like to say people will get past that once you graduate, but my friends were never really like that even when I was in high school, so I can’t really make any promises there. In any case, I hope the best for you. Take care! 

Anonymous: where is the "did you know" quote. I'd love to read more of your work :)

Thanks for your interest, it’s here. I still remember writing that on my phone, lying on my bed in Kathmandu, Nepal, with wet hair, thankful to have avoided any giant cockroaches in the shower…I honestly wrote it directed at specific people I knew personally (and maybe that was a little passive aggressive of me, but…) I had no idea it would be liked/reblogged more than 100,000 times on Tumblr, as well as, elsewhere around the web, or I would have considered how I phrased things a little bit more, but oh well, it is what it is. An outpouring of thoughts, candid and unedited (there’s not even paragraphs, because proof reading on phones is half impossible to me). 

Anonymous: That "did you know" quote you posted is beautiful. I'm so happy to have read something like this, making me feel less lonely about my desires and perspective on how we can live life. Thank you

Thank you! I actually wrote that, not quoted it, and I know that that post has been somewhat controversial — I never meant for it to be read by so many people — but I’m so glad when it does resonate with people and make a positive difference in their life, that really means so much to me. 

Anonymous: I come from a society and culture that emphasises on tertiary education. I only know 1 of my high school friend who is working; others are all working on their degrees. I like the part of uni where knowledge is being imparted, but I dislike being graded by the eloquence of my essay. Is it foolish to quit just because I dislike researching and writing essays? I wish I used my teenage years differently to find out more about what I truly want to do in life and also to gain more work experience.

I think you have to weigh the difference between gaining knowledge and your dislike for being graded and researching and writing essays. Which one effects you more? Ask yourself and consider whether you can gain knowledge just as well, by other means, that would not require what you learn to be graded? Are you an independent learner or do you pick up things quicker in a classroom environment? 

I want to help people when they send me messages like this, but ultimately I never really know people well enough to give them individualized guidance. You could maybe at least finish the semester you’re in and then take a semester or two off, just to see if you’re fine without university or whether you really miss it? Sometimes the only way to find out what we really want is by taking risks and letting go of the familiar things in our lives to experience something new. Sometimes we might find we like the new way of living better and sometimes we might find what we had was best for us after all. 

Honestly, asking teenagers to decide what they want to do for the rest of their life has always been a little ridiculous to me. I don’t know that you necessarily misused your teenage years, some people know from a young age what they want to do, and some don’t, and I think there’s some people like me who are never going to choose one career or path to take in life. I may never have a career at all. I’ve decided it’s more important to me, to live a life of love and compassion, than it is to have professional success. But that’s just me, not everyone is the same, as I’m sure you know. 

Best wishes to you, hope you’ll be able to find what makes you jump out of bed with joy everyday. 

Anonymous: wouldn't the vacation to go through funds and make one of your children feel very special be very unfair to the rest of the kids you sponsor? It's like picking favorites in your kids. You won't be able to meet all of them but idk, just seemed unfair to me when I read it. I'm sure you've thought of that, so what are your thoughts on this?

I’d visit them all in a heartbeat, if I could afford to, but as of now I can’t. None of my sponsored children actually know I sponsor any other children, it’s not like they’re going to see or hear about my trip to visit one and feel left out. I’m not picking favorites in which child I want to visit the most, because I’d love to visit them all, it simply comes down to which of my kids I can feasibly afford to visit and still pay all of my bills. 

Haven’t you ever done something special for someone, without doing it for everyone else in your life? This doesn’t mean you should have never done it for that one individual, life isn’t like that. This also reminds me of some who say they’re not going to sponsor a kid, just because they can’t choose them all, and it seems unfair. Of course, none of us can help everybody, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t help anybody! And every kind thing we do, can’t be done for everybody, but that doesn’t mean we should stop doing anything kind. 

I’ve done other special things for some of my sponsored kids, that I haven’t been able to do for all. I strive to make them all feel special in whatever ways possible, but the way to do this, isn’t the same for all, because they’re individuals, with different desires and dreams. For instance, Catalina in Romania mentioned in multiple letters how much she wanted a bike (she didn’t have one of her own, but rode her older brother’s sometimes), so through the very kind Felicia Simion and her boyfriend Tibii, I was able to send money to them, to buy a bike for Catalina locally, for her 11th birthday. It should hopefully be delivered to her within the next few weeks and I’m really excited about it! But it’s something I was able to do specifically because I had connections within Romania, and unfortunately that’s not the case for all my kids (that I know someone within their country), and frankly, not all my kids would necessarily want a bike more than anything else. I hardly think that’s reason for not giving one to Catalina, when I could, though. 

I do my best to love these kids as much as I can, but I guess people will always find something to nitpick and criticize about, and of course, my love isn’t perfect, because I’m only human after all. 

The last few days, I’ve been contemplating whether to take a summer vacation, or save my vacation days for next February to travel to Nicaragua to celebrate my sponsored child, Luz Elena’s, quinceañera.

I know a girl’s 15th birthday in Latin America is a very special event, and I also know the children and their families in these programs sometimes don’t have the means to throw much of a party, or a party at all, and I want her quinceañera to be everything she dreams of. Still, I wondered if this would be the best use of my money or whether it’d be better to give the money I’d spend traveling to her and her family or spread it amongst my sponsored children, especially since she hadn’t mentioned a desire to meet me, despite telling me she loved me many times. I knew I would love to meet her and be present for such a special celebration in her life, but I wasn’t sure if she felt the same way, and didn’t want to take the trip for only selfish reasons.

Then today, I came home and was very excited to find four letters from Luz. I open the first one and in it, she writes, “One of my dreams is to meet you in person someday.” I opened another, “I am writing to tell you I love you very much and wish to meet you in person to show you all my love.” And in still another, “I want you to know that I love you very much and that you are special to me.”

I had prayed for a sign and for guidance, and I think I received it. With this, I will proceed with making plans to travel to Nicaragua in February (still seems so far away, but I know that time is like a sand in a sieve) and if I can afford it, I would also like to visit my sponsored child Miskeily in the Dominican Republic, within this trip, as her birthday is in February, as well.

My last trip was in the summer of 2012, and I’ve been beginning to feel that wanderlust bubble up within me, but I know that if I had continued to travel without taking a breath, I wouldn’t have the blessing of all my sponsored children and their families in my life right now, and I think a trip such as the one I hope to take in February, will be well worth the wait, to be apart of something so special.