Read these articles about acts of kindness when you need a little encouragement-- or just to practice your English. They're inspiring-- and you'll help yourself as well!
Like most of the other articles on EnglishHints, these were first shared in our biweekly newsletter, English Detective. If you want to increase your English vocabulary, one of the best ways is by reading regularly in English.
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I want to share a couple of very hopeful TED talks and a collection of short virtual conversations about what different people have learned from their experiences in difficult times.
The TED talks are especially encouraging to me, as both follow up on poverty issues that I had looked at seven years ago, when I first began English Detective.
They talk about some very positive things that have happened in the last decades, in spite of all the disruption and backward steps we’ve seen. They also show a path forward.
Jacqueline Novogratz talks about three “operating principles” necessary for making real change in the world. They all require a willingness to put aside our own views long enough to really listen.
I love the practical examples she gives of learning from the people she wants to help. It can be so easy for people to insist that we know what would work best for someone else—especially someone in a position of less power.
She also discusses the pitfall of choosing sides and shouting at each other.
She says “Moral leaders reject the wall of either-or. They're willing to acknowledge a truth or even a partial truth in what the other side believes.”
Her experience has confirmed the value (& difficulty) of “holding opposing values in tension.” She gives examples of learning to use markets “without being seduced by them.”
Shameran Abed describes the four interrelated steps of the program her father developed for ending extreme poverty in Bangladesh.
For two years it provides enough to meet the survival needs of women in the program, plus an asset like livestock that could help them improve their situation. It also provides training in the care of the asset & in budgeting, & helps them integrate better into their communities.
She says each step is important, “but the real magic is the hope” they feel as they work with their mentors. The program had such success in Bangladesh that it’s now being extended to other parts of the world.
In 2020 StoryCorps started a program so people could record virtual calls to people they care about to share their experiences in that difficult first year o the pandemic.
They’ve posted several short recordings that highlight the value of friends and family and of not taking these ties for granted. The calls are touching reminders of what really matters in life.
Have you ever wondered what people who aren't wealthy or powerful can do to make a difference in big problem like poverty and human suffering?
I loved these stories of how poor women in India, villagers in Kenya, and small organizations in Greece, the U.K., Geneva, & Pakistan have found ways to help each other and work on major human problems. I hope you find them inspiring too—and that maybe they spark an idea or two.
The first two are TED talks. Chetna Gala Sinha tells “how women in rural India turned courage into cash.” She describes the resourceful ways they overcame difficult obstacles to develop a new kind of bank.
Their bank lets them save the tiny sums regular banks weren’t interested in. The bank has enabled these hard-working women to finally reach goals like getting a home or helping their families.
She tells about the lady who started singing to ignore her hunger and now performs on national radio shows, although she cannot read the script. She also tells about a lady from an ‘untouchable’ caste who became such a good goat veterinarian that high-caste men have visited her to ask her to speak to their village.
Musimbi Kanyoro talks about a different approach to philanthropy: the way people in her village help each other. She came to appreciate its person-to-person approach after years working in international aid agencies. She also argues that the best way to solve big world problems is to invest in women.
Each talk is about 14 minutes—packed full of ideas that could apply in many situations.
The final story is an article from the Guardian about several small companies that employ or sell the craft products of refugees or other marginalized people (including prisoners, addicts, & people with learning disabilities.)
Each company sells lovely handmade crafts online or to larger companies, enabling people without so many resources to earn much more for their work than they could locally. Their artisans produce everything from doormats to candlesticks, jewelry to textiles, & soaps to lampshades.
You can review & practice much of the business & financial vocabulary used in these stories on Business Vocabulary. I’ve given definitions below for a few other words they use a lot, in case you don’t know them all.
See Health Issues in the World for two more articles on acts of kindness while fighting Covid-19 in Brazil.