Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Looking for Starfish

Crossposted from Outpost Mâvarin:

Have you noticed that when you feel guilty about not doing something, it sometimes makes you want to continue to avoid doing it? I'm not quite as bad about such things as I was in my misspent youth; back in high school I was a master procrastinator, if not quite a world class one. But even now I have a tendency to put off doing certain things, and once I start, I continue to put them off.

I say all this by way of introducing the fact that I just updated the St. Michael's news blog for the first time in three weeks. It's not a hard task; the church sends me the church bulletin weekly as a Word file. All I have to do is paste and format and proofread. But it takes about half an hour, usually, and I put it off, rationalizing that the announcements don't actually change very much from one week to the next, and stuff is almost always announced a few weeks ahead. It doesn't make it right, though. There may well be something in any given week that should be posted promptly.

One of the reasons I've become so avoidy about it is that I'm supposed to be solving the sermon problem. It used to be that I could paste the sermon podcasts onto the sermons web page, spend about two hours formatting and tweaking, and then it would be done. It would work. But that was on the old computer, when I had Netscape Composer. That doesn't seem to be available online anymore; at least, I haven't found it. I've tried a few substitutes, including Open Office, only to see my web pages ruined as the program automatically updates all the links to point to my hard drive instead of the web. I can't imagine how that would be useful to anyone, let alone the default setting. And so far I haven't found a way to make it stop doing that.

Not that I've tried in the last two months. Not at all. Not once. I was so frustrated the last time I did try that I'm having trouble making myself tackle the problem again. Even if I get the links to remain static, it will still be an awful lot of work.

But for tonight I'm going to call the sermon posting tomorrow's problem, and hope that turns out to be a true statement. At least I got the announcements posted. I spent an hour on it, largely because I wanted a picture of a starfish.

That's right. A picture of a starfish.

It's kind of a parable, you see. The story apparently comes from a writer named Loren Eiseley, according to the Operation Starfish web site. (The names Project Starfish and Operation Starfish seem to be interchangeable.) The gist of it is that a man comes across a kid throwing stranded starfish back into the ocean so they won't die. The man points out that there are a gazillion starfish on the beach, all up and down the shoreline. The kid can't possibly make a difference. The kid throws another starfish into the sea, and says, "I made a difference to that one."

The idea, of course, is that you or I cannot personally solve world hunger, stop the spread of AIDS, end homelessness, etc. A single person, or even a whole parish or a whole denomination, or a whole country, can't completely solve any one of these problems. But we can help one person, or contribute to helping one person, or one family. This concept seems to be powerful enough to have inspired numerous charity efforts with the word Starfish in the title, for a number of different causes.

So what St. Michael's is doing is collecting small donations in a basket, to build a house for someone in Haiti, one of the "poorest of the poor" countries. If you work it right, with volunteers and local materials and labor, money goes a lot farther in a poor country than it does here. Raising enough money for a house is a fairly tall order for a medium-sized parish, but eminently doable. Announcing the effort in the church news blog should help a bit, especially if there's a nice copyright-free starfish picture there (such as one from a government website) to catch the eye long enough to get people reading the accompanying text.

No, I haven't dropped even a dollar in the Project Starfish basket. Yet. I will contribute, but i haven't gotten around to it.

But I did find a starfish picture.

Starfish photo from http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/explorations/.


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