Where conservatives and liberals can work together

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I almost tripped over myself this morning as I listened (via the NPR app) to David Brooks talk about the communitarian tradition in the Republican party, during yesterday’s All Things Considered (see transcript). First of all, I didn’t even know that such a tradition exists in the GOP (that’s how smart I am). And second of all (second of all?) when we started this site last year, we hoped that we could attract contributors from both the so-called left and right. Being a conservative liberal myself, I hoped that here in this space we could bring together people who cared about their neighborhoods, and who wanted to do some good where they live, regardless of the color of their beliefs. It’s encouraging to know that maybe that dream might have some basis in fact.

Mr Brooks noted that the moderates in the party have so far been unable to put their communitarian and Hamiltonian ideas together coherently. We hope we can help.

NORRIS: Well, let me turn to our sunny conservative that’s here in the studio. David, are we at a point where we see precious few examples of politicians who move ahead and make gains because they happen to be moderates?

Mr. BROOKS: Yeah, I wish I had that megawatt smile. It’s more like 50 watts. But, you know…

Mr. DIONNE: It’s better than that, David.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BROOKS: Thank you. I have a friend who’s a Republican, a moderate member of Congress and he wanted to propose what he was going to call a moderate agenda and he wanted people to sign on so there could be Republican moderates. He found out that for his colleagues in the House, you can’t use the word moderate. So he called it a suburban agenda because the word moderate is no good.

And so, it’s just a bad word. And it’s a bad word for a whole bunch of reasons having to do with redistricting where the money is in the party, where the energy. But to me, fundamentally, it’s a problem of intellect. The centrists in this country, both in the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, just have not put together the sort of coherent body of ideas, the left to the right.

There are two great moderate traditions in the party, a communitarian tradition which believes in community and social groups and then a sort of a Hamiltonian group of limited government to enhance social mobility. Those ideas haven’t been put together coherently. And as a result, the people on either end are just dominating.

Also on Our Blocks: Jonathan Haidt on the moral roots of liberals and conservatives

Jonathan Haidt on the moral roots of liberals and conservatives

News roundup: stories of community

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Students ‘Make a Difference’ volunteering at nine homes in Saginaw

Saginaw News – The three 16-year-old juniors joined about 170 students from 10 high schools who volunteered at nine Saginaw homes Thursday for Make a Difference Day. “It’s more rewarding than sitting in a classroom on a typical day,” said Webber. “Probably the best part was the bonding of kids between different schools and just coming together for the common good.”

Get outdoors, meet the neighbors

Lake Country Calendar – “Trails are an asset to the community just like parks, roads, and sewers,” says Dev Fraser. “They help promote healthy living, stimulate the economy and offer alternative opportunities for transportation. Most importantly though, I believe they make us better stewards of our environment. Being out in nature is the best way to build respect for it.” The trails were built using 100 per cent volunteer labour. Fraser says people in the community just heard about WALC’s activities and started joining in. Earlier this month a group of outdoor education students from George Elliot Secondary had a great time when they came out for a couple of sessions working on the trails. The District of Lake Country gives the group a small budget to work on with which to purchase tools, signs, gravel and surveying services.

Pilot paint program off to good start

Examiner-Enterprise – The City of Bartlesville recently began work on houses accepted for the pilot session of the Joseph’s Coat, an exterior paint program for low-income seniors/disabled property owners in Bartlesville. The program, recently passed by the Bartlesville City Council, is a collaboration between the city and St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. Applicants had to meet certain eligibility requirements, as did the proposed structure.

Protesters’ secret: they’re out there because it makes them happier

The Boston Globe. At least if recent research is to be believed, political activism, no matter the cause, seems to make people happy – even if they don’t win an election or triumph in a ballot initiative. Psychologists curious about what fuels human happiness have looked at political engagement and political activism, and they’ve found that it provides people with a sense of empowerment, of community, of freedom, and of transcendence. Political activists, in other words, are all happy warriors.

“People have psychological needs. If those needs are well satisfied, then people thrive, and if any of those needs are poorly satisfied, people don’t thrive,” says Tim Kasser, a psychology professor at Knox College and coauthor of a forthcoming paper on the topic. “Activism is a kind of activity that people can engage in that satisfies all of those needs.”

Volunteers help disabled senior stay in home

Going well beyond its mission to deliver daily meals, Meals On Wheels has teamed with other volunteers to renovate a Vista resident’s home that had fallen into serious disrepair. Oliver Mayfield, a retired aerospace engineering technician, has lived in the Sierra Estates neighborhood of Vista for more than 40 years. But after a stroke left him partially paralyzed three years ago, his home became dilapidated and even dangerous. Unable to navigate his chair through most of the home’s interior doorways or reach household appliances, Mayfield was confined to one room in his 800-square-foot home when a Meals On Wheels volunteer brought his plight to the attention of others.

Area Habitat Volunteers Gather To Dedicate 9 Homes

Tyler Morning Telegraph – Creating a safe community by uniting people from all walks of life so others can capture the American dream was “nothing short of a miracle,” a local pastor said. “I see a little bit of the kingdom of heaven,” said Rev. Stuart Baskin, senior pastor at First Presbyterian Church. One by one, homeowners told why they are humbled. Rosie Mastrolia-Parker was once homeless but now says she loves and appreciates the quiet, peaceful neighborhood. “I am so grateful to have a home, coming where I come from,” she told the crowd.

Churches join forces to build couple a new home

The Longmont Times-Call – The house is being built by volunteers from 10 local church congregations through Apostles Build, a program sponsored by Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley. This is the first Apostles Build home the local Habitat affiliate has sponsored, executive director David Emerson said. The 10 participating churches provide volunteer crews and have pledged to collect the $80,000 needed to build the home. So far, they’ve raised $20,300.

Community roundup: Playgrounds for kids, teens, seniors; welcoming troops and refugees

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City residents take part in a pilot project to live longer, better lives

TwinCities.com – Could Albert Lea be a new Blue Zone? For the past 10 months, the southern Minnesota town has tried to adopt the lifestyle habits of such places as Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; and Icaria, Greece, dubbed ‘Blue Zones’ because residents live extraordinarily long and healthy lives. Under something called the AARP/Blue Zones Vitality Project, sponsored with a $750,00 grant from United Health Foundation, Albert Lea was chosen for a pilot project to see whether a typical small American town could become a Blue Zone, too.

A team effort builds Houghs Neck playground

The Patriot Ledger – With the help of more than 200 volunteers, the 2,500-square-foot playground on Brill Field in Houghs Neck was built in one day – Thursday. Volunteers from the Houghs Neck Community Council, Home Depot and the non-profit organization KaBOOM! worked from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., creating a garden and and a fenced-in play area and spreading wood chips.

Chat ‘n Chews provide brainstorming sessions for city revitalization group

The Parthenon – Create Huntington, a grassroots organization focusing on the revitalization of the city, relies on the public, not city officials, for ideas on how to make Huntington a better place. The group hosts weekly Chat ‘n Chews, a time for members to gather and discuss potential projects and ideas. “The idea is that anybody can come and bring an idea they’re passionate about and try to get other people to join in with their passion,” said Carter Seaton, Create Huntington volunteer.  Many of the projects Create Huntington has implemented got their start at Chat ‘n Chew sessions. Projects such as the dog park, Trees for Tomorrow and the Adopt-a-Block program were brainstormed in Chat ‘n Chew meetings.

Learning center for refugees opens on Syracuse’s North Side

The Post-Standard – “As soon as we opened the door, we knew it would be like this, based on the research,” Yusef Soule said. He is one of six friends who created the center to serve the neighborhood refugee population. They’ve done it, Soule said, with money from their own pockets, help from their families and nothing but volunteer labor. The majority of the students are refugees from Burma, Iraq and Somalia, but, like the sign on the doors says, all are welcome, he said. The organizers didn’t want to step on toes or duplicate services and researched what the community needed most, he said. “Because we don’t want to hand out, we want to hand up and get them going and giving back to the community,” he said.

Soldiers home from Iraq get big welcome in Irvine - Orange County Register – A support battalion returns to Irvine’s Camp James. Video by Lenin Aviles

Volunteerism is Archambault’s only hobby

South County Independent – The wall beside Marc Archambault’s Wakefield desk tells his life story, even when he doesn’t want to. He’s red in the face, slightly embarrassed. A legion of his friends have nominated him for the South County Independent’s Independent Spirit Award. “Did I apply for this?” he recalled saying when he found out he was one of three people selected. It’s nice, he said, but he does what he does – volunteer, tend to family, work ceaselessly – because that’s where his gladness grows.

School goes beyond sports, music with clubs

The Indianapolis Star – The after-school clubs on Wednesdays at Washington Community School include cooking, fitness and music production. Dancing, swimming or drama on Thursday. Movies, video gaming and jewelry-making on Fridays. During the week, students attend poetry slams, tutoring sessions, discussion groups and personal finance lessons. Every Friday, the Urban Explorers group heads out on field trips. It’s part of a coordinated effort by the school and neighborhood groups to infuse after-school clubs into the school — one the school says pays off in giving kids more connections to school.

More Ways to Make Friends

World of Psychology – Earlier this year, World of Psychology contributor Therese Borchard wrote a popular entry entitled, “10 Ways to Make Friends.” Inspired by her advice and based upon my own experiences throughout life, I present to you another 10 ways to make friends in your life. No matter what method you try, making new friends requires something I can’t give you in this article — courage. It takes courage to go out and actually take a leap of faith by introducing yourself to someone new and taking a chance you may be rejected. That’s why smaller groups are almost always easier — you can figure out who might make a good friend in such group situations.

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News Roundup: Community gardens, food banks & co-ops

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Gardens feed neighborhoods and neighborly feelings

Episcopal Life Online – Just as gardens increase the diversity of flora and fauna, they can bring together a variety of people from the communities surrounding them, some of whom might not otherwise meet. Adult gardeners join with children and youth in the garden. St. Michael’s garden in Anderson, Calif., plans to welcome gardeners from an adjacent grade school next season. In Akron, Ohio, the summer education program at St. Paul’s Church was rooted in the parish garden and community hunger concerns. Youngsters fashioned tomato cages, chopped cabbage for soup at the nearby hunger center and visited an organic farm. “The children were delighted to work the garden,” said Sheila Svoboda, the church’s family minister, “and they felt a wonderful pride to see concretely the fruits of their labor.”

In two Lexington church gardens, a shared bounty is found

Lexington Minuteman – A true community garden movement has blossomed in Lexington, providing all involved with nourishment for both stomach and spirit. Earlier this year, two Lexington churches marked out organic, pesticide-free garden plots on their property. Neighbors old and young tended to them all summer, fighting blights and floods. Their labors paid off — squash, pumpkins, radishes and more burst forth. Every week, something was ready to harvest. And every week, that bounty went into the hands of Carolyn Wortman, director of the Lexington Interfaith Food Pantry.

Local organic food co-op sells ‘real food’ variety

Toledo Newspaper – “We’re owned by the community,” Youngs said. “We all become business partners when we purchase a share of the co-op.” The 130-member co-op is governed by a nine- to 11-member board. Any member is eligible to run for the board and vote for members. Lifetime memberships cost $200, payable in installments during that year. That membership cost is fully refundable.

Kids Cafe fills hungry stomachs at Brown YMCA

Selma Times-Journal – Yasmin McKinney knew there must be something she could do when she looked into the eyes of several children who were telling her how hungry they were. And, to her, these were not just ordinary children; they were her children, children she was responsible for as director of Community Development for the Brown YMCA. McKinney knows about hunger, its effects on children who are in their developing years. She addressed this as the former senior program director at a Louisville, Ky., YMCA through a program called Kid’s Café, a program that provided meals to local children.

Community food bank holds grand opening

Eastern Arizona Courier – Most people have felt pangs of hunger while dieting or if a meal was skipped due to busy schedules or for religious reasons. Some families in the Gila Valley, however, feel those pains every day because there isn’t any food in their cupboards or refrigerators. The Graham County Interfaith Care Alliance hopes to help alleviate that pain with the grand opening of the new food bank, Our Neighbor’s Pantry. Many churches and organizations donated time and money to make the group’s vision come true, according to Pastor Bob Holliday.”It’s not one church’s effort,” he said. “By coming together as a community, this becomes a community food bank.”

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United We Serve Brings Catholics and Muslims Together, and other selections

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Serve.gov – This year during Ramadan, right before the start of the United We Serve Interfaith Week of Service, the Interfaith Committee at my church, St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Arlington, Virginia, organized an iftar (dinner to break the Ramadan fast) for members of local Muslim communities. More than 60 Catholics and Muslims attended the dinner, a turnout far surpassing our expectations.

The ‘youngest headmaster in the world’

BBC News – Around the world millions of children are not getting a proper education because their families are too poor to afford to send them to school. In India, one schoolboy is trying to change that. In the first report in the BBC’s Hunger to Learn series, Damian Grammaticas meets Babar Ali, whose remarkable education project is transforming the lives of hundreds of poor children. Via Reasons to be Hopeful

Organization shares bounty

Glendale News PressLiana Aghajanian – As cars whizzed by on a crisp, early Sunday morning on Buena Vista Street, Marie Boswell shuffled a ladder and boxes to the backyard of Burbank resident Allison Bluestein before sticking a sign on the front lawn that read “Fruit being picked by Food Forward. This all-volunteer grass-roots organization gleans fruit off trees on properties and donates 100% of the bounty to food pantries in an effort to fight urban hunger, said Boswell, one of the fruit picking coordinators.

Homes repaired, hungry fed at Hope for Gaston community festival

Gaston GazetteCorey Friedman Volunteers spent Saturday painting and installing bathroom fixtures in the teacher’s assistant’s North Morris Street house. Hers was one of 30 homes renovated during Hope for Gaston, a neighborhood block party and outreach festival in Gastonia’s West Highland community. “At first, I wouldn’t let anybody in because I was disappointed I didn’t have the funds to fix it up,” Brooks said. “I was ashamed. Hope for Gaston has saved my house.”