From Rev. Barbara’s Couch? Desk? (Who knows?)

by the Rev. Barbara Threet

What a confusing, and often disheartening, time! I find myself looking for signs of hope and sanity to help maintain a sense of balance – and I’m finding some!

National Geographic reported just a few weeks ago, for example, that the last country in the world to use leaded gas (Algeria) has stopped producing it! Japan was the first to ban leaded gas, in 1980. The US didn’t phase it out until 1996, and just in the last few months, it has finally disappeared from our world. Mary Jean Brown, on the teaching faculty at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health, said, “The average blood level of children in the United States in 1986 was probably 8. Now it is 0.9 [μg per deciliter].”

In Bangkok, discarded plastic bottles are being shredded, turned into thread, and woven into fabric which is used to make PPE. While it’s not medical grade, in a country where any PPE at all for medical providers and first responders is hard to come by, this certainly is helpful – and it’s repurposing trash.

A group of knitters in Minnesota is making arm warmers for dialysis patients. That procedure can often leave patients feeling very cold, and medical facilities are often on the cold side to begin with. So – special arm warmers for hands and arms, leaving only the parts of the arm that need to be exposed for the treatments open to the chilly air.

A company called Ocean Habitats in Florida is installing artificial mini-reefs off the coast, each of which filters about 30,000 gallons of water each day and also provides homes for fish and crabs. They’re designed to mimic mangrove roots which house phytoplankton that help to clean the water, and within a few weeks of placing them, scientists are finding a variety of creatures on and around them. They’re installed under docks so they don’t interfere with boats (or get destroyed by boats), ocean critters of many different sizes and kinds seem to love them, and the water they live in is cleaner too.

And a very resourceful 15-year old Sri Lankan inventor, a boy named Suntharalingam Piranawan, has just spent 8 months creating a tuk-tuk (a three-wheeled vehicle popular in Southeast Asia and Central America, among other places). It’s made entirely from scrap and second hand materials, and it’s solar-powered. It’s not his first invention: he’s also made various other things often from coconut shells, which are abundant in Sri Lanka.

There’s lots to worry about in the world, many situations that aren’t going well, and it’s important to be engaged in trying to make things better. It’s also important to notice the things that bring hope, or a smile, whether they’re large or small, local or global. So for today, here are five snippets of hope. May they inspire each of us to seek out places of beauty and joy, hope and innovation, along with all the
other things in our worlds.

Shalom and Salaam,
Rev. Barbara

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