A Prayer for Extinction Rebellion

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A little library.

It seems these little libraries are popping up all over, using all manner of inventive items to house the books:

     

We used to have one in the village which used an old stationery roundabout, with doors. A bit like this, but less new and clean and attractive

It wasn’t very well insulated, and the books quickly became damp and damaged. It certainly didn’t look very inviting. Sometime over the past year it disappeared.

Well, this morning I passed the place where it had been, to find a beautiful new display case, which is obviously well-constructed, and definitely weatherproof! It is a delight!

  

You can see that there are fixed chairs too, so should one be inclined to, one could sit in the sunshine and read one of the books. It’s not the most picturesque part of the village, but it’s not hideous!

As the sign on the side tells us:

Book Cabins made by the employees of the wood workshop of our Upcycling centre, using recycled/reused materials taken from our collections, and reintroduced into the cyclical economy. If you see what I mean!! Acora is a second hand centre, where they also repurpose old pieces of furniture.

Of course, all the books are French, but with tourists in mind (there’s a campsite in the village) I went home immediately and rooted out some of my English books which I added to the library. Hopefully some other people will add their foreign language books. I think these free libraries are a great idea. The New MrsM – whose blog I read – created one as one of her 40 Acts of Kindness a couple of Lents ago, and there’s one set up near Church (I popped a few English novels in there a couple of months ago)

Have you got a Little Library near you?

 

Complaining about plastic…

I didn’t hear back from M&S, after their anodyne answer (and my response to it!) Can anyone in the UK tell me if they know whether this promotion from M&S has been stopped/ has been successful? I would be interested to know.

On the subject of useless plastic, I bought a jar of instant coffee recently.

I took it off the shelf not really looking at it very closely. Until I got home: note the way the label goes right up to the top of the jar: it’s a plastic covering, which encases the entire jar in plastic. Encouraged by Kezzie, who is trying to persuade us all to think about our plastic use,  and taking on board her encouragement to think about the eight Rs for the environnment (one of her additions was: Research:  Not happy with something to do with waste?  Research a way to solve it! )

Well, I wrote to Carte Noir with the following:

Je m’excuse mon français, mais j’ai une question: en ces jours où nous essayons de réduire l’utilisation inutile de plastique POURQUOI Carte Noir Bio est-elle enveloppée dans une seule couche de plastique, qui ne peut pas être recyclée et est immédiatement jetée? C’est ironique que c’est bio café – essayer de consommer des choses qui sont bonnes pour notre santé tout en ajoutant à la montagne de plastique. Je suis desolé, mais je vais arreter d’acheter Carte Noir, jusqu’au vous arrêtez d’envelopper vos pots de café dans cet emballage en plastique inutile.

TR: I apologize for my French, but I have a question: in these days when we are trying to reduce the unnecessary use of plastic WHY is Carte Noir Bio  wrapped in a single layer of plastic, which cannot be recycled and is immediately discarded? It’s ironic that it’s organic coffee – trying to consume things that are good for our health while adding to the plastic mountain. I’m sorry, but I’m going to stop buying Carte Noir, until you stop wrapping your coffee pots in this useless plastic packaging.

I quickly received the stock answer:
C’est avec attention que nous prenons connaissance de votre message et nous vous remercions de votre intérêt pour la marque Carte Noire.
Nous prenons compte de votre insatisfaction et la  faisons  remontée auprès des services concernés.

TR: We have carefully read your message and we thank you for your interest in the Carte Noire brand. We will take your complaint to the relevant department.

Who knows what will happen. But at least I made a noise about it.

Is Carte Noir coffee in the UK wrapped in this single use plastic too? If so, could you write to the Customer Services dept to complain? It certainly doesn’t need to be wrapped up like this – it’s still got its foil seal at the top of the jar, so it isn’t to keep the coffee fresh!

This is not just tat…

…it’s M&S tat.

I’m not joining in with no-plastic July, although I am starting to try to introduce small changes into our shopping habits, such as reusing plastic bags for fruit & veg, or using other plastic bags (like bread bags) or – when I remember them! – using muslin bags. But when I do have plastic I try to

1) recognise that it’s necessary

2) try to reuse in some way. (Though it was depressing when I asked the café to remove the straw from my drink – and they did. And put it straight in the bin! I hadn’t realised they would give me a straw (in a glass of iced water) so I didn’t think to say “No straw, thank you”)

When I read Ang’s blog post about Marks & Spencer introducing a promotion called “Little Shop”, I was more than a bit ticked off. Ang’s post explains it better than I can.

So I went onto their website, and after trying to find a comment form (they don’t make it very easy!) I finally found where I could email them. So I did:

Dear M&S
I would like to join in the chorus of voices that condemn your promotion “Little Shop…” In the midst of No-plastic July (when it is proving difficult to find things that don’t involve plastic in its packaging!) you start a promotion that introduces yet more unwanted and unnecessary plastic into the environment!

It doesn’t matter if this is proving to be a popular poromotion in-store – at some point, these plastic items will be thrown away. You say that they can be returned to be recycled – that’s something, but, realistically, how many people will bother to do this? When children have finished playing with these bits of plastic, they will – for the most part – just get dumped into landfill.

It doesn’t matter that those toys that are returned will get recycled into benches – it’s still plastic. Plastic that doesn’t decompose for hundreds of years. The plastic bench will, eventually, get thrown away, and won’t decompose…Just because it’s recycled plastic doesn’t mean that it magically decomposes when finished with!
This is an UNNECESSARY promotion – it does nothing (despite your claims) that those parents who care about such things can’t do already. It won’t encourage other parents to teach their children about sustainibility; it will just teach children to want more unnecessary tat.

I fear that, despite your claims about sustainibility and care for the environment, you are just doing your bit to add to the problem of the human race using and discarding our natural resources as if they were never-ending. I, for one, will not be buying from M&S until this horrid, unnecessary promotion is finished. And even then, I will be reconsidering whether M&S values are my values, and whether I wish to continue supporting your company.

They needn’t know that, as I live in France, I don’t shop in M&S very often anyway, and won’t be buying anything there before the promotion is finished! But even oif I did live in the UK, I would be thinking hard about supporting them.

How do you feel about this promotion? If you think it’s a poor idea I encourage you to contact M&S head office. When I get a reply I’ll update this post.

 

UPDATE: I received an email from M&S yesterday (Tuesday). Disappointingly bland, it must be said:

Hi Alison

I’m sorry to hear you are disappointed with the way we are branching the Little Shop Promotion. I appreciate you bringing this to our attention, thank you for letting us know.

We want as many of our customers as possible to collect all 25 Little Shop collectables and we’ll be running additional promotions and events to help them along the way. For example, we’re hosting over 70 swap events at our M&S Cafés across the country for customers who have duplicates or certain collectables missing.

At M&S, we’re committed to reducing our use of plastic packaging and reusing or recycling any we do use. Our Little Shop collectables have all been designed to last and we’ve worked hard to ensure around a quarter of them are made from FSC (Forestry Stewardship Council) certified card where possible. We’ve also ensured all single-use packaging is made from paper instead of plastic.

Little Shop is a free promotion for every £20 spent on food and drink in our stores. It’s designed to create excitement for families during the summer and helps children to learn a little bit more about food and where it comes from. However, there is no obligation for customers to collect Little Shop or take their redeemed collectable if they don’t wish to do so.

We really do monitor any feedback we receive very closely with the aim of improving, so thank you for sharing this with us.

Kind Regards

A. C.

Retail Customer Services

Quite frankly this response does not answer my questions, but what I dislike more is that it was so obviously a cut-and-paste job, with the first part (shown in italics) in a completely different font to the rest of the email! I don’t want to have more promotional bumpf thrown at me about swaps and so on. I don’t believe their promise that they moniotor all feedback, and I don’t like the construction of the first sentence. “to branch” is not a verb, and so M&S can’t be branching the promotion. Grrr.

 

40ACTS2019 :: 38 :: Behind bars

PROMPT: Behind bars for good reason or not, people in prison are often locked out of experiencing basic human kindnesses – the simple joys of community life. Today, offer generosity to people who might feel locked out from ever receiving it, and who might never be able to pay it back: prisoners, young offenders, young people in pupil referral units, and so on.

REFLECTION: Link here

ACTS: Green: Write a letter to a prisoner. Tell them you wanted to get in touch just to say that someone was thinking of them.

Amber: Send a gift to a prisoner, or help prisoners send a gift to their children.

Red: Visit a prisoner.

Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.’  (Hebrews 13:3 NIV)

I am not “dissing” the good people at 40 Acts here. I admire what they do, and really appreciate their commitment and their hard work. It cannot be easy to come up with 120 different acts, which have varying degrees of difficulty and commitment, and cost.

BUT…

I followed the link given on the email (but not the “blog” post on the 40 Acts page) to the Prison Fellowship website, thinking that I would be able to fulfil the Green option, by writing a letter to a prisoner. Just add it to the long list of other letters waiting to be written!!

But there isn’t an option there to write a letter: instead the organisation wants letter writers to commit to sending a monthly letter to a prisoner. I already know, from my aforementioned list, that I can’t commit to this; it’s a lot more than a “green” option! I could donate money – but we’ve already discussed this, haven’t we?! – so I’m left with a feeling of not-sure-what-I-can-do.

I’ve emailed Prison Fellowship with the following message:

I’m following 40 Acts, who have provided a link to your page. One of the “acts” is to write a letter to a prisoner. I see from the information here that you require (in my opinion quite rightly) a commitment to writing regularly. I can’t give this commitment; I know I would be unable to keep it up. Is there the option of writing a “one-off” letter, or is this not part of your work?

and I await a response. If the “one-off” option exists I will gladly take it. If it doesn’t, well…I’m less sure what I can do.

 

….PAWS FOR THOUGHT….

 

Aha! I know we have already had an Act focussing on writing to support persecuted Christians around the world, which I did, writing cards and short letters to several people in Cuba, but there are also Christians imprisoned for their faith. Inaddition, there are Prisoners of Conscience too. I explored the Amnesty International site, and they have a targeted letter writing campaign in November, but there may well be the option of writing to prisoners on a one-off basis there. More thought needed there.

I have also found a site called “Prisoner Alert – this site has details of many Christians who are imprisoned for their faith, and gives the opportunity to send letters.The letters all appear to be created using provided formulae (“Choose up to 12 phrases from the following list”) which means that the prisoner will receive the letter in his/her mother tongue.  Having constructed the letter, you then print it out with the address, so that you can then send it to the correct place. This makes it an easy “green”option, requiring only a little time commitment – and, of course, the postage costs!

Maybe it’s not quite what 40 Acts were thinking of, but it certainly fulfills the brief! I have no lessons this morning, so I’m going to print off three or four letters, add them to a card, and take them to the Post Office before I go to work this afternoon. If I get a positive reply from Prison Fellowship I will also write a letter to a prisoner in the UK.

 

40ACTS2019 :: 35, 36 :: I-Spy, Compassion…& Notre Dame

Firstly, I feel I need to say something about the tragedy in Paris. Not, thank goodness, a tragedy involving loss of life – although reports are that one firefighter has been seriously injured – but rather the tragedy of the fire blazing through Notre Dame last night

Suggestions are that the start of the fire might be linked to the restoration work going on – rather ironic, one can’t help feeling. I wonder what exactly : a faulty extension lead, a spark from a welder’s tool, a cigarette butt from a sneaky cigarette smoked behind a gargoyle… I ask myself if there is one workman (or many) who is thinking “Could it have been me that started it…?”

But the building is still standing – although the spire has collapsed – and Macron is pledging that it will be rebuilt. I hope that it is still structurally sound, and that at least some of the many treasures within have been saved. It looks as though the stained glass windows have mostly survived – the Rose window seemed to be still intact when shown on the news.

It is a tragedy, yes, but it could have been so much worse…

ACT 35: I-SPY

PROMPT: By now you’ve probably caught on – a startling amount of living generously is simply noticing people. We often only realise people are lonely when they actually tell us. But there are plenty of lonely people who never say a word. Today, put those people-watching skills to good use.

REFLECTION: Link here

ACTS: Green: Watch for lonely people this week. At church, look for those at the sidelines. At work, look for those who eat lunch alone.

Amber: Make a point of connecting with someone you know, but have avoided spending time with because they’re a bit socially awkward.

Red: Strike up a chat with someone you don’t know – at the bus stop or café maybe – who looks a little sad.

When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, ‘Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.’” (Luke 13:12 NIV)

 

For reasons I don’t need to go into 40 Acts was off the table yesterday. And possibly today too… I’m not sure how engaged I’m going to be able to be this last week, due to personal circumstances.

But I will try and bear it in mind for future reference AND I’m not excusing myself from acts of generosity, however small. (I did the washing up at work – over 20 cups & mugs needed washing!!)  It’s just that I might not be able to manage the big ones that 40 Acts is ramping up to.

 

ACT 36: COMPASSION

PROMPT: The word ‘compassion’ simply means coming alongside suffering – co-suffering with someone. That can sound a bit daunting, but when you think about it, what a gift to be able to offer someone your presence and the feeling that you’re with them.

REFLECTION: Link here

ACTS: Think of areas where you’ve suffered in the past, and find a way to share time with someone who’s suffering similarly today.

When I first opened this act on my email, I’m sure there were 3 options of Acts…Now there’s only one. How bizarre.

I suppose this is another time I use my “wiggle room” card, the one that says “I’ve already done this” or “I’m doing this”. We’re already supporting someone through the loss of her husband. Due to her dependency problems, it’s a bit of a hard slog, and there are times when, quite frankly, I could do without it. But there you go.

But there is also the Challenge (that I was sure was there earlier!) which is to commit to pray for those who are suffering – my boss has just lost her mother, my friend has lost her husband, other friends going through cancer treatment…I will continue to hold these people, and others, in the living, loving light that is God.

 

 

40ACTS2019 :: 33 :: BIG DEAL

I’m working from home today – preparing next week’s lessons, and catching up on admin. It’s good to have this day with only one lesson, as it gives me a chance to breathe. Mind you, I had a lesson cancelled yesterday, so I was kicking my heels at the office from 1.00 through to 5.00. I guess I should have gone for a walk to clear my head, but instead I sat around rather aimlessly. I should use these moments better I think.

And so to today’s Act:

33: BIG DEAL

PROMPT: You’ve seen the videos: fights over bargains in shopping centres, Black Friday riots, Christmas brawls over best-sellers. Deals don’t always bring out the best in humanity. So, flip that instinct. Today, buy every deal that you reasonably can, and then give it to whoever you can. Make your bargains work for someone else.

REFLECTION: Link here

ACTS: Green: See some food marked at 50% off? Buy two – one to give away.

Amber: Find a deal on your favourite food, drink, or clothes brand. Give it away to someone you think might love it.

Red: Bulk-buy a necessity – toilet paper, cereal, underwear – and give it all away to a charity who can give it those in need.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good…” (Psalm 34:8 NIV)

 

Sigh. Today’s Act is another Spending Money Act…although, to be fair, it does say “buy every deal that you reasonably can,” we are still being asked to spend more money. I guess it’s really hard for the lovely people at 40 Acts to come up with40  Challenges that don’t involve money, and we are able to think for ourselves and come up with our own ideas, but my monetary generosity is definitely starting to wear out!

But as I read the reflection again, there’s less emphasis on monetary outlay: A door held open is a sample of welcome and a sense of belonging. An unexpected gift is a hint of loving grace. A coupon towards some chocolate demonstrates that celebration and a well-deserved treat is within our reach and our budget – for which we can be grateful! Offering glimpses and tasters might seem insignificant, but what a difference a deal can make. Let’s reach out today, connecting the people around us to the goodness of God.

It’s talking more about how our small offerings of generosity can make a difference – whether they are monetary or not. That makes me feel better. Those little actions that I’ve been trying to do through Lent – and beyond – they are “tasters”. If I can get a chance to say why I’m doing them (as I did in the Post Office!) then that’s opening the door to God’s generosity a little wider for someone. A Ninja Note that makes someone feel a little stronger, or more loved, is a word from God. A touch or a word spoken to a person without a home, an offering of a sandwich, can show that we believe this person has dignity and is worthy of respect. Each small thing can actually make a big difference, and who knows? They could start a butterfly effect to a tsunami of kindness and generosity across this world.

So no, I’m not spending money today. But I will make some cookies to take to the family of the student (5 year old Raphaelle) I teach today, and give them a card with the 40 Acts sticker on. It’s a small act of generosity, of love, as I give up a little of my time, and a little of my baking stash, to give pleasure to someone else.

No, I didn’t eat it! They’re all for you!

And the other thing I will do is try to be more regular in my buying-and-giving to the Food Bank collection in church. An extra tin or two of something on the weekly shopping is perfectly manageable finance-wise, and will make a difference each month to those in need.