A Nun on the Bus – Book Review

A Nun on the Bus Book CoverA Nun on the Bus: How All of Us Can Create Hope, Change, and Community by Sister Simone Campbell is a book for “We the People,” meaning everyone.

After watching twelve hours of video from the 2015 Bioneers conference, a talk by Sister Simone Campbell stayed with me.

I had expected her stories to be heartbreaking and they were. I thought she would probably have a compelling message about building community to solve problems and she did. What I did not expect was that she would be funny and she was.

I wished I could have been at the conference in person so I could have met Sister Simone and talked with her. Since that did not happen, I was excited to discover that she had written A Nun on the Bus and I selected it as my book to read in honor of Women’s History Month this year.

Book Review

A Nun on the Bus is an interesting and sometimes surprising book to read.

Readers will follow Sister Simone as she recounts her life story from her Catholic upbringing in Long Beach, CA to becoming a social justice lobbyist in Washington, D.C. She tells her narrative through the lens of her faith. Along the twists and turns of the journey, readers will gain insight into several major U.S. political issues.

National Health-Care Reform

Find out how Sister Simone and other Catholic sisters influenced the national dialogue around health care reform and contributed to the U.S. Congress passing the Affordable Care Act.

The Federal Budget

Learn about how cuts to social programs in the proposed 2012 federal budget led to the “Nuns on the Bus” tour, which garnered national media attention putting the spotlight on the plight of the working poor and the people who help them.

Immigration Reform

Read about how Sister Simone and other nuns set off on the bus again, this time to bring attention to the difficulties faced by undocumented immigrants (especially children) and to share ideas for comprehensive immigration reform.

Civil Obligations

In the final pages of the book, Sister Simone calls us to action.

“Civil obligations call each of us to participate out of concern and commitment for the whole. Civil obligations call us to vote, to inform ourselves about the issues of the day, to engage in serious conversations about our nation’s future and learn to listen to various perspectives. To live our civil obligations means that everyone needs to be involved and that there needs to be room for everyone to exercise this involvement. This is the other side of civil rights. We all need our civil rights so that we can all exercise our civil obligations.”

The Bottom Line

Sister Simone Campbell is a Catholic nun, a member of the Sisters of Social Service community, a lawyer, an activist, and the executive director of NETWORK, a nonprofit Catholic social justice lobby in Washington, D.C.

She has spent her life in the service of others and has been an outspoken advocate for economically disadvantaged people across the country.

I enjoyed reading A Nun on the Bus. It is a wonderful true-life story filled with joy and pain and humor. While reading the book, I occasionally ran across references or words that I did not understand. For instance, I did not know anything about Vatican II until I googled it and I had to look up the word encyclical in my Webster’s dictionary.

Throughout A Nun on the Bus, Sister Simone emphasizes the importance of including everyone in the conversation and building community for the 100%, not just the 99%. She is about inclusion and working on problems together.

“No one is left behind. That sums it up for me.” —Sister Simone Campbell

This is a good philosophy for confronting social justice issues as well as global warming. After all, we are all living on the same planet.

I recommend A Nun on the Bus because it is a good story and we could probably learn a thing or two from Sister Simone about political action strategy.

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5 Must-See Films about Food, Health, and the Environment

Empty Shopping Cart in Grocery Market Aisle

What you don’t know about food can harm you and others. These informative and sometimes troubling films may motivate you to change what you and your family eat.

The industrialized food industry and our own government have been quite successful in convincing us that the food we buy is safe and okay for us to eat as long as we get enough exercise.

However, the increasing rates of obesity, diabetes and other chronic health problems seem to be telling a different story. The wellbeing of the people growing, harvesting, and processing our food is largely ignored as is the harm that is being inflicted on our planet.

We can change the food system by first learning about how our food choices affect our own health, the wellbeing of others, and the condition of our environment and then taking action.

Over the past several years, I have read books and articles and watched films to educate myself about the relationship between the food industry, health, and the environment. I am recommending these five films because they provide a good overview of various food related topics.

After you watch these movies, I hope at least one thing will have sparked your interest and will inspire you to take action.

Food Chains

Imagine you are driving to work and see a group of people standing on the sidewalk holding signs that say things like “I am human too” or “I go hungry today so my children can eat tomorrow.”

This is an actual scene in the movie Food Chains showing a group of tomato pickers and their supporters on a 6-day hunger strike outside a Publix corporate building. They were asking the giant grocery market chain to pay one penny more per pound of tomatoes.

The film tells the story of how the pickers formed the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and founded the Fair Food Program to improve working conditions and wages for farm laborers. Their story is heartbreaking, yet hopeful demonstrating what a small group of people on a mission can accomplish.

Watch Food Chains because the people who harvest our food deserve a dignified life with adequate pay.

Food Choices

Food Choices chronicles filmmaker Michal Siewierski’s three-year journey across the country exploring how our food choices affect not only our own health but also the health of the planet and other living species. His focus is on eating a plant-based diet, however; the film addresses a wide range of topics from eating carbohydrates to organic food.

Watch Food Choices because, in addition to explaining the health and environmental benefits of eating a plant-based diet, it covers other food topics in short easy-to-understand segments.

Food, Inc.

The United States produces more food and sells is at a cheaper price than any other country in the world. But, at what cost to the environment, the animals we raise and kill for food, and the people who grow, harvest, and process our food? Is our highly mechanized and seemingly efficient agricultural industry actually producing healthy and nutritious food? Who controls this vast food system?

To answer these questions and more, Food, Inc. goes behind the scenes and exposes the hidden world of industrialized agriculture that big Ag does not want you to see.

Watch Food, Inc. because it is an eye-opening disturbing film and sometimes that is what we need to propel us to take action.

Sugar Coated

Sugar Coated explores the question, “Is sugar the new tobacco?” meaning a toxic product marketed to us as safe by a powerful industry.

Dr. Cristin Kearns is a dentist who became concerned about how the ever-increasing amount of sugar used in processed foods was affecting her patients’ health. While researching sugar, Dr. Kearns stumbled across the records of a now defunct sugar company documenting how the sugar industry orchestrated a nationwide public relations program during the 1960s and 1970s to assure legislators and the public that sugar was safe and did not cause any health problems.

Watch Sugar Coated for two reasons. First, because we should be concerned about how much sugar we eat and feed our families. Second, it behooves us to remember that sometimes the government does not fulfill its responsibility to protect the wellbeing of its citizens unless we demand it.

Super Size Me

Super Size Me is a film about how the fast food industry influences our eating habits and therefore our health.

After hearing about two teenagers who had attempted to sue McDonald’s for causing their obesity, Morgan Spurlock was inspired to investigate how eating fast food affects physical and psychological wellbeing. Using himself as a guinea pig, he ate only food from McDonald’s for one month and accepted the suggestion to “super size” whenever it was offered. The results were shocking!

Watch Super Size Me because it gives you an opportunity to look at what fast food really is when you are not hungry and waiting in line at the drive-through window.

Please share your thoughts on these films with other readers and let us know if you have any recommendations for other food related films we should watch.

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Books and Films

  • Appetite for Profit (book)
  • Fast Food Nation (book)
  • Fed Up (film)
  • Food Politics (book)
  • Hungry for Change (film)
  • The Omnivore’s Dilemma (book)