Wednesday, April 20, 2016

#153 The real thing

Dear all,
     This has been a more challenging month than some, with sickness in the midst of work--and other--obligations, a friend's final struggle with cancer, project I'm responsible for hitting snags, challenges around racism.
     Yet spring comes, the moon waxes and wanes, grandchildren explore and grow, help manifests, love is there to be offered and taken in.  I'm grateful for all of these things, grateful to be on the mend, grateful to be alive in this world.

The real thing

I recently spent ten days with my son and his wife and two small boys, helping out as Erin was dealing with a health issue that kept her mostly in bed.  I’m very good at making myself useful, and my help was clearly needed, so I cheerfully read stories, pushed swings, washed dishes, prepared meals, played chase games, did laundry, picked up toys, and ran errands.

What I was not prepared for was Erin's comment toward the end of my stay that what she appreciated most about my being there was that I loved her boys.  It caught me by surprise.  In my mind, based on a lifetime of training, my contribution was the work.  I had to get my mind around the fact that, while I’m sure she was glad for the help, it was my love--something that couldn’t be seen or measured--that really made the difference.

Then I came home to find this quote from Bruce Springsteen in my mailbox:  "I understand it's the music that keeps me alive....  That's my lifeblood.  And to give that up for, like, the TV, the cars, the houses — that's not the American dream....  Those are the booby prizes.  And if you fall for them, when you achieve them, you believe that this is the end in and of itself — then you've been suckered in.” 

Those things that you see and can measure—the TV, the car, the house—those are the booby prizes.  The real thing that keeps you alive, the music, the meaning, the higher ground, is invisible.

I can’t tell if I’m more taken by Springsteen’s characterization of these visible signs of affluence as "booby prizes", or more sobered by how much I still measure my life’s worth in terms of visible work produced.  While I’m not prepared to view all my work as a booby prize, it’s helpful to have been offered this perspective on tasks accomplished, and to notice the times when I hold them up as the highest prize.  At the same time, I’m compelled to take more seriously that which I offer which is invisible.  I guess, as I think about it, it’s not the work, but the spirit in which I do my work that is the real thing.


Early spring day
a three year old samples
the promise of the yard.

Worms, of course
tastes of parsley and celery
survivors of winter
Mint, just coming up.

He pinches at those
little nubs of green
barely poking through the earth
getting just enough
to remind a remembering mouth
of that potent delight.

Imagine - A new economy is possible!
Financing household energy efficiency

Many households don’t upgrade to energy efficient technologies because they can’t afford the up-front costs.  On-bill financing overcomes this barrier by covering such costs, which are then repaid over time via charges on the utility bill.

This allows people to get efficiency upgrades at no added cost, since energy savings from efficiency improvements are greater than the on-bill finance costs. Default rates have been found to be lower than with other loans, since people are used to making payments via their gas or electricity bill. Using a utility bill repayment history to underwrite upgrades also allows customers with poorer credit scores access to financing.

The South Carolina “Help My House” Rural Energy Savings Program Pilot led to a 34 percent reduction in energy use for residential program participants and resulted in average annual savings of $288 per home after loan payments.

Twelve states have enacted legislation to create loan funds for capital, create pilot programs or require utilities to offer on-bill financing. Another 20 states have utilities with on-bill financing programs in place.

Some things that have made me hopeful recently

The Philadelphia Orchard Project, which has repurposed acres of blight and planted thousands fruit trees and bushes in 53 urban orchards, providing free fruit for neighborhoods that need it.

The encouragement from Pope Francis for a conference on just war to focus on the importance of non-violent action as a means to struggle for justice.

How the release of the Panama Papers has shed light on the shadowy practice of hiding wealth in shell companies overseas.

Stories of how, in the midst of government inaction, civilians in Greece have stepped up to aid Syrian refugees.

More resources

Resource from my friend Daniel Hunter, Building a Movement to End the New Jim Crow; An Organizing Guide.

Recent posts on other web/blog sites:

In, Pamela Haines locates her family's homey DIY celebrations on a class spectrum of different connections to upward mobility.


Muscle Building for Peace and Justice; a Non-Violent Workout Routine for the 21st Century--an integration of much of my experience and thinking over the years:  (or just google the title), a website that I've contributed to often (check the archives), a home for all the parenting writing I've done over the past 20 years.  NOTE THE NEW URL. START: a way to study and work together with others to create a better world.

For earlier columns, go to  I'm currently posting at

Pamela Haines

To be truly radical is to make hope possible rather than despair convincing.