Community and Competence

Dorshei Tzedek is starting an extended learning and activism project on food/hunger/agriculture issues, especially relating to social justice.  I keep feeling like I really should get involved more with social justice in this community, but most of the projects other people have been involved with are things that are really excellent causes, but not something that I’m passionate about.  So I end up feeling too tired or busy or it’s in that part of Boston that the busses just Don’t Really Go To, and I end up not doing anything.  But this project hits all my activism buttons :-)  I will make ridiculous trips on the MBTA, I will go into sleep debt, I will even (eep) talk about what I know or can find out in front of more than three people…whatever needs doing.

Sharon of the always-fascinating writing has started the Competence Project over at her blog. (And if you click on the link, go look at her post-election post titled “Patriotism” as well.  Because wow.)  The idea is to encourage people to identify gaps in their basic-life-skills skillset and try to fix them or work out ways around them.  For me, I’d really like to learn more about basic plumbing and first aid.  The Red Cross center in Waltham is right down the street from me; I don’t have much of an excuse not to go find out their class schedule and see about getting myself CPR-certified.  For the plumbing bit, today I learned (in theory) how to unclog a sink and (in practice) poured hot water, baking soda, and vinegar down the bathroom sink and mainly ended up with an entertaining volcano in the sink.  I think it’s draining a bit faster now, but as far as I can tell the problem is that the clog is in the bendy bit of the pipe, which is located under the floor.  I’ll see if I can find one of those plumbing snakes and see if that helps.  Not related to either of those original goals, I learned how to hold and entertain a baby on Saturday, which I’m pretty sure I haven’t done in many years.  I’m not sure how old of a tiny human this one is…she’s old enough that she’s capable of impressively strong wiggling, but isn’t anywhere near bipedal yet.  Here’s Sharon’s initial competency list, not necessarily intended to be everyone’s.  Bold are things I can do, italics are things that I could probably figure out with minimal difficulty given instructions, and non-hilighted are things I really can’t do:

cook a decent meal 
handle an injury or illness crisis (reasonably good at not freaking out and at alerting the proper authorities, but no real first-aid training)
tend a sick kid (can tend a sick adult and am good with kids, but I’ve never had to combine the two before)
fix a broken step 
darn a sock
dehydrate a tomato 
tell a story 
grow a potato 

build a sun oven 
bake a loaf of bread
put up fence 
season cast iron 
mend a rip 
care for a dying person 
sing a baby to sleep (again, never had to do this, but am reasonably good with the small people and with singing)
clean a toilet 
knit or crochet a sock (haven’t tried socks yet, but I could at least do simple tube socks pretty easily)
fix a roof 
use a weapon (I have basic martial arts training, and was surprisingly good at it the one time I had a handgun lesson, but neither is at the level where they’d actually be useful for self-defense)
plant a tree 
immobilize a limb 
make someone understand a counter-intuitive idea (especially in writing, and if I can overcome my tendency towards doormat-ness)
save seed (the easy ones, at least)
sharpen a knife (and both straight and round chisels!)
chop garlic

make beer (I don’t think the pickle-beer counts)
have courage 
fix a bicycle tire (I’m not sure how hard this is; it might be more in the italics category)
make soup 
give a pep talk


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