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Chapter 1  People Power

Angie Griffiss, Bournemouth: 28 February 2012

Dear Toby,
I only know your Mum and Dad through an internet forum, but when I read about your birth and the lovely idea they had to write a book for you, I had to contribute.

We are Angie and Luke, and we have two children right now, both girls; Grace, who is three and Jude who was born just six weeks before you.

If you want to know a little about us, Angie is a full-time mum and former youth worker, Luke is a theologian (and former youth worker too!) and we are planning to home educate Grace and Jude. We are in the process of converting to Reform Judaism. We live in a terraced two bedroom rented house in Bournemouth and co-sleep with both our girls right now in a huge superking sized bed built by Angie’s father. When the time is right we hope that the girls will co-sleep together.

People power is an amazing force (for good and bad) and I hope that the most positive way in which we as parents will change the world is to bring up our children to value others and the environment in which we live.

There are, however, a number of other things we consciously do to try and make the world a better place. We’re really grateful to your mum and dad for encouraging us to remember that we do these things and they do make a real difference.

We stop to help.

A lot of people will tell you that it is dangerous to help strangers, or that people are just trying to scam you. That’s not our experience. We have found that everyone we have stopped to help has appreciated it and hasn’t taken advantage of us, however "down-and-out" society perceives them to be. Of course, we take sensible precautions, but it makes a difference to the whole world to care for someone who is struggling in the hope that they too will "pay it forward" (great film, by the way—pester your parents to let you watch it some day!).

We grow stuff.

We only have a small garden, but we are filling it with fruit and veg in the hope that we can cut down on how far our food travels. We also think that it’s great for our little ones to get their hands dirty and really understand where their food comes from.

We don’t buy new plastic.

Sometimes it seems impossible to buy things which aren’t made of plastic, but where it is essential for us to have a plastic product we buy it second-hand so as to minimise the effect on the environment. We don’t buy any plastic toys at all, even second hand ones, as some plastics leech toxins and we don’t want to expose them to our children.

We only buy fair-trade clothes or clothes from charity shops.

So many high street clothes are made by small children in poor countries. We are not prepared to dress our children in clothes which cost the education, childhood and sometimes even the lives of other children. That’s why our commitment to clothes buying goes beyond second hand. If we can afford to buy fair-trade we do, but in practise those clothes are often out of our budget. Instead we "redeem" clothes from charity shops—if we bought second-hand from places like eBay, the original store would profit, and so would the seller, and the money the seller makes from the sale would probably go back into the high street shops, perpetuating the problem. By buying from charity shops, at least a portion of the original cost goes back into helping to solve problems like poverty.

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We are, by no means, perfect. There are lots of areas we know we need to change. We eat meat—free range or organic only, but still meat nevertheless. We own a car—we have matching knee injuries which mean we are unable to cycle, and public transport in our rural area is just not good enough to rely on. We watch too much TV and also use the Internet too much. I hope though, that our positive influences at least match our negative ones—we passionately want a fairer, happier, healthier world.

Live well, little one, and believe that those things you do really do change the world.

Angie, Luke, Grace and Jude

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