Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Hold Hands and Stick Together

The Common Security Club blog posted an article today about the success of a resource sharing group in Maine.

...Connie...started a “Resource Sharing Group” in South Paris, ME. “I knew several people who were living with limited income either because of unemployment, under-employment, retirement or voluntary simplicity,” she says. “And I thought, if we put this group together, we could all benefit from it. It would make life easier for all of us.”

And she was right. But what she didn’t expect – and what surprised the librarian – was how much fun they would have...

In fact, the list of mutual aid projects they completed is remarkable. Instead of hoarding their possessions or knowledge during a time of vulnerability, the participants opened themselves up and discovered a new source of abundance in each other.

Sometimes, the abundance came from mundane places like bulk stores. “We would bulk shop together,” Connie says. “And we’d tell each other about sales.”

At each meeting, members of the group said what they needed, and what they could offer. “Usually by the time we got around the circle, the needs had been addressed, or at least ideas had been shared about how to address them,” says Connie.

Read the full article on Common Security Clubs.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Do These Crystal Goblets Make My Kitchen Cabinets Look Cheap?

So you decide to splurge and buy the new recliner you've had your eye on. You bring it home and suddenly your sofa looks like something that you picked up at the side of the curb. (Maybe because you picked it up at the side of the curb.)

Rather than improving the "look" of your room, the new piece creates disharmony. Everything looks wrong.

You could take the recliner back to the store and start scanning Goodwill shops for something that is more in line with your previous decor. You could do that. But you probably will not.

Instead, one purchase leads to another. Eurekalert reports:

...consumers who were surveyed said they would make more purchases in an effort to try to surround their designer purchase with other luxury items and restore aesthetic harmony, according to marketing professors Vanessa Patrick of the University of Houston and Henrik Hagtvedt of Boston College, whose study is forthcoming in the Journal of Marketing Research. In fact, this additional string of purchases may represent a far larger expenditure than the initial purchase...

"When we buy something with unique design elements and it doesn't fit, it frustrates us," says Hagtvedt. "This is because design has intrinsic value. So rather than returning the item, we actively seek ways to make the item fit, often by making complementary purchases. This has financial implications that may have been entirely unforeseen when the consumer made the initial purchase."

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Do You Hear What I Hear?

It is getting close to Christmas, and I'm thinking about one of my favorite carols: Do You Hear What I Hear. I find it to be one of the most touching of the Christmas songs with its plea for peace and compassion.

Imagine the King, the most powerful of powerful, pausing in his Kingly duties for the least among us-- a child who is vulnerable, without a roof over his head, nowhere to sleep but out in the barn with the cows. A humble child, a newborn, a bundle of needs from a family with no influence or power. The King, inspired by the needs of the boy, makes a plea to a warring people to put their differences aside in the name of the needy child.

Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king
"Do you know what I know?
In your palace warm, mighty king
Do you know what I know?
A Child, a Child shivers in the cold
Let us bring him silver and gold
Let us bring him silver and gold."

Said the king to the people everywhere
"Listen to what I say
Pray for peace, people, everywhere
Listen to what I say
The Child, the Child sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light
He will bring us goodness and light."

But something also bothers me about the song. Isn't this a message that the shepherd could bring to the king every night? Were there not children shivering in the cold each night in the kingdom? Was Jesus the only one? Was the king aware of any of the others? Are the shepherds and the King concerned for this shivering child because he is a shivering child-- or because he is a special child?

Tonight, this very night, a child shivers in the cold because there was no room at the shelter.

What will that child grow up to be? What inventions, scientific discoveries, works of art might he contribute to all of us? What goodness and light does he have inside?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Video of the Day: Advent Conspiracy

Surplus Wealth May Rob You of Your Ability to Savor Small Pleasures

New research by Jordi Quoidbach and colleagues in the journal Psychological Science add to the growing body of literature on money and subjective well being, which indicate that money cannot buy happiness.

The authors of this study conclude that having access to the best things money can buy actually reduces a person's ability to savor small pleasures.  Savoring an experience gives you double the pleasure.  There is the pleasure of the experience itself, and the experience of remembering it, recounting it, reliving it.

This study provides the first evidence that money impairs people’s ability to savor everyday positive emotions and experiences. In a sample of working adults, wealthier individuals reported lower savoring ability (the ability to enhance and prolong positive emotional experience). Moreover, the negative impact of wealth on individuals’ ability to savor undermined the positive effects of money on their happiness. We experimentally exposed participants to a reminder of wealth and produced the same deleterious effect on their ability to savor as that produced by actual individual differences in wealth, a result supporting the theory that money has a causal effect on savoring. Moving beyond self-reports, we found that participants exposed to a reminder of wealth spent less time savoring a piece of chocolate and exhibited reduced enjoyment of it compared with participants not exposed to wealth. This article presents evidence supporting the widely held but previously untested belief that having access to the best things in life may actually undercut people’s ability to reap enjoyment from life’s small pleasures.