Thursday, April 20, 2017


This post is about two students from the College of Health Sciences at UD and their friends who are interested in learning how to live in a better way.  The students discovered a documentary called A Small Good Thing and hosted a screening in my home with other interested students and my family. The evening was rich with conversation that was connected to some of the many interesting themes in the documentary.  There were ten of us and we enjoyed homemade hummus with carrots, fruit and a dutch oven campfire recipe that I have been working on.

I have now watched this documentary five times and each viewing reveals something new and meaningful.  Even more interesting is hearing how other people relate to the documentary.  What do they find most interesting? What alternate views do they have?  How do their life histories and values shape the way that they wish to live?

What is the documentary about?  Below is some text from their website.

"For the longest time, we’ve been living as though the more we have—the more money, the more goods, the more territory—the happier we’ll be. Surprisingly, over the last fifty years as our standard of living has improved, our happiness has not. A Small Good Thing examines how our ideal of the American Dream has come to the end of its promise. The film tells the stories of people moving away from a philosophy of ‘more is better’ toward a more holistic conception of happiness — one based on a close connection to their bodies and health, to the natural world, and to the greater good."

What is the purpose of the screenings?  To think, to make connections and to grow.

The more I listen to the students the better I understand the value of this activity.  First, I think that this documentary is a great conversation starter.  It shows different options about how to approach life.  It brings people together and gets them to think.  Maybe some of us will begin to challenge some basic assumptions for the betterment of self, community and planet.

It was also suggested that this film does not force an agenda on the viewer.  Rather, it points the viewer towards different ways of thinking.  While experts speak to the audience about environmental and social problems, the film does not seem to blame or criticize.  It has a positive orientation.  There was an unstated theme of mindfulness in the film and mindfulness became apparent in the conversations we enjoyed with each other - face to face  - without judgement or expectations.  My wife and I are grateful to Suzanne, Shannon, Andrew, Tom and Daniela.

What's next?  Another screening: Wednesday May 3, 5:00-8:00 pm Willard Hall 007.  

See the Facebook Event Here:

This is an educational project in which students are learning about community film screenings as they go.  Last night, they piloted the screening with a small group and gained much from listening to the reactions of new viewers.  Next, they will host a larger event on the UD Campus and see what emerges.  The goal is to attract viewers from all the different Colleges at UD, especially the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.  The outcomes of the screenings depend on the audience and last night made us hopeful for the future. Also, the group that attended the first screening expressed interest in staying connected.  I think the makers of Small Good Thing would be really proud to hear this.

Note: This project originated in an experimental course The Soft American. In which students worked on redefining fitness to include abilities that allow us to live in harmony with other people and in harmony with the planet.


The Dutch oven recipe: several potatoes - chopped, a few good sized onions - chopped, many brussel sprouts cut in half.  The fire was hot and the dish cooked in about 35 minutes. Vegetable oil kept the veges from sticking to the bottom and the dish was seasoned with Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning. Next time - I will not cut the potatoes so small because they cook the fastest.

What are these eggs about? Local farming was a main topic in the documentary and I coincidentally had eggs for breakfast the morning of the screening (this is my breakfast pic).  We buy local eggs from a friend Diane who has a small farm.  I had one local egg and one egg from the supermarket that was certified organic and cage free.  I was amazed by the difference in the color and flavor of the yolk. The local egg was still many times better than the best we could buy at the big store.  One of the students in our group explained why.

One of last night's viewers works with a farm in PA (?) that uses the power of draft horses (see Sue and Cindy to the right). The motivation for working in this way, rather than using tractors, seemed to be that it is consistent with the natural rhythms of nature. (Andrew explained it better).  The links below are a continuation of this exploration.