There’s been a lot written about friendship recently, mainly because of a study showing how poor children having friends who are wealthier than they are makes a huge difference in their future. They are exposed to ideas, to ways of life, to contacts, to opportunities they wouldn’t have had otherwise. They are therefore more likely to pursue an education and be more successful. It makes so much sense and in retrospect we have all experienced, witnessed or observed, what the researchers discovered. Still it was both surprising and reassuring. Perhaps it’s related to a developing trend which is just as surprising and which didn’t receive as much coverage, it is one finding that friendships are fundamentally more important to our overall wellbeing, that what we call relationships, those that are more romantic and lead to a more traditional form of intimacy. When I was in my 20’s we used to say relationships come and go but friendships remain. It was a thought trying to console ourselves after a breakup with someone we thought would be our significant other. It turns out that more and more people are not only discovering but using the notion that friendships are more important than other relationships. Whether people are in a committed relationship or not, their friends nurture them and give them something unique. That is because friendships give us something no other relationship can give us including inner strength and a sense of fulfillment. This is becoming increasingly evident as blogs, organizations, and websites emphasize the enduring benefits of friendship–Including it seems longevity.
931 million tons of food are wasted every year. That’s what the UN Environment Program estimates. Of course in view of world hunger that figure may have moral and ethical implications. But it also has environmental ones, because that amount of waste represents about 8 to 10% of global carbon emissions. 800 million people go to bed hungry each night while a third of the world’s food is wasted. Food waste costs the world about a trillion dollar a year, and that’s why several governments are introducing policies to tackle it. Doing something about food waste is on the agenda of several countries, of policy makers, organizations, activists. And now as part of these efforts there are smart phones apps which facilitate sharing, and giving food so that it does not go to waste. These apps are meant to help shoppers, food manufacturers, grocery stores and restaurants cut their food waste. In the process they can help many. They exist in several countries, and it seems the US is lagging behind.
Olio is an app began by two young mothers, one brought up on a British farm, the other in Iowa. The app is simple to use. The user posts a picture of what is to be given away, and selects what geographical areas it is to be posted in and how it is to be picked up. When someone responds, their profile can help sort out who they are so that the giver can make a choice if necessary. Other apps are Tekeya in Egypt where stores and manufacturers sell at half price what they would throw away , which benefits both them and the consumer. Too Good To Go is another British app where people buy at great discounts a kind of mystery bag from restaurants and stores and are in for a surprise as to what the bags contain.
How often have I wished for an app like Olio. Maybe you have too.
Now that the festivities of the Jubilee are over and the excitement abated one can stop and look at the life of Elizabeth II in plainer terms without the context of her belonging to a royal family. She was and is irretrievably a human being and because I believe that our lives are meant to accomplish something or in some small way however slight advance the cause of humanity, I want to acknowledge her, not as a queen, but as a person. To someone like me, and I hope to others, If there is a thread to her life it is not that she was a monarch, but that she placed duty first, in her case that duty leading her to a life of service to country and to those who are called her subjects. Among us rare is the person who is called upon to place duty and service first, much less on a consistent basis. And if we are as were Nelson Mandela or Martin Luther King, our lives become what can be called sacrificial. I don’t think of the life of Elizabeth II as a sacrificial life, but it has been a dedicated life, she dedicated her life to a cause greater than herself. In that her example can be useful because many of us can or could be inspired by that kind of accomplishment. Many in both the US and the UK see her through the lens of the monarchy, but if one takes away the crown and look at the person, personal achievement emerges. Here is someone who faced disappointments, her uncle’s, the Duke of Windsor, abdication, which made her queen in waiting, compromise, those she had to make in order to have a marriage that was decades long, compassion, in dealing with a troubled sister, mother’s love in having to handle the issues faced by several of her children. And all of this under the public glare of living in what really is a gilded cage, nor does it include the challenges of what she called her job, dealing with the likes of Winston Churchill when still a young head of state, or later on with Margaret Thatcher, something that for just about any of us would be bound to be intimidating. Many step up to the plate when challenges come, many grow as a result, in that she did not do anything the rest of us can’t do, already do or ought to do. And that’s one reason she is an example: her life reminds us it is possible.
It is now a norm that women either keep their own names when they marry or hyphenate their own names with that of their spouse. And yet this norm does not yet apply to the children. But the Constitutional court in Italy is changing that. It just overturned the tradition that a child is only given the father’s name and ruled that they should be given that of both parents. It said that the current practice was detrimental to the identity of the child. In its statement however the court said that both parents need to make the decision. They can decide the order in which the names appear or even decide on only one name. The court’s decision though is only a beginning. Parliament now needs to take it up and legislation needs to be passed in order to implement it. But the Family minister is taking up the issue and said that it should be a high priority and an urgent tasks for politicians to be involved.
Italy’s constitutional court’s decision is a first. No one else has so openly decreed that a child ought to have both his parents surnames. While it does look like the parliament will indeed take it up, in a way it no longer matters what happens. It’s like putting toothpaste back in a tube. It’s surprising that it took so long for the issue to be officially raised and be declared a part of a child’s identity. It’s so logical. I don’t know which country will take it up next, but I do know that many parents have begun to give their children both surnames, or some combinations that acknowledges both sides. It may be that whether or not it is ever made into law anywhere will be secondary if not superfluous.