"If there’s a world here in a hundred years, it’s going to be saved by tens of millions of little things. The powers-that-be can break up any big thing they want. They can corrupt it or co-opt it from the inside, or they can attack it from the outside. But what are they going to do about 10 million little things? They break up two of them, and three more like them spring up!" - Pete Seeger, in YES! Magazine
A couple of days ago I stopped by my neighborhood (within 30 miles - barely) mega-hardware store to pick up a make-your-own shed kit. We've been putting off making the purchase while we work on other financial priorities, but after losing some hay to post-rain spoilage, we decided it was time to redirect some of the funds from my recent freelance writing frenzy. After two hours in the store hunting down various items NOT included in the package set (felt for the roof, tile for the roof, ridge tiles for the roof, and roofing nails - we'll pick up the paint later), I was out the door with two giant packages loaded by five strong men into our trailer.
Today, I unpacked the boxes. They weren't numbered, and there were no apparent instructions, so I was left to assume the instructions were inside the box and that it didn't matter WHICH one I opened first. After cutting through the shrinkwrap, the plastic straps and the cardboard, I finally unveiled the first block of goodies, which I unpacked and stacked for inventory, per the instructions found moments after opening. Then I opened box two. It wasn't until I found the second set of doors that I KNEW something was amiss. I finished unpacking anyway, thinking perhaps this was the multiple-door version and that fact merely didn't show on the package photo. Then I started inventory.
Once I realized I'd been gifted a second complete shed, I called the hardware store and sought out the employee. She knew she'd given me two boxes, but said she thought the shed required two boxes of materials. She checked around with other employees, discovered she'd given one complete shed away, then arranged to pick up the pile which will be repackaged, returned to inventory (which never missed it) and resold.
It took about 20 minutes on the phone for the employee to sort out the error, discuss the matter with her manager and arrange for pickup. She and another employee did all the rest of the work of reloading.
I had spent an extra hour unpacking and inventorying and dividing up the materials.
I confess I was temped to keep the shed. We could use more storage around here. It was already unpacked, already out of the store, and the store's a megagiant which probably really wouldn't miss it. (After all, their inventory showed 9 boxes of the roof tile ridges I needed, but they couldn't locate them. I had to drive 30 miles north to another branch to pick up the ridges, of which I need 10 but they sell only in boxes of 50.)
But I knew the right thing to do was to call the store, explain the situation and let them make a decision about their product. Worth it?
I had hoped they'd take into consideration several things: the two hours I spent waiting while they hunted down roof ridge tiles that don't exist in their store; the hour I spent driving to another store to pick up said ridges; the $54 for I had to spend for a whole box of ridge tiles even though I need 10 tiles (about $11 worth); the time and money they wasted on gas and staff time to get out to my place and back to pick up the stuff; the loss they'll take on the sale since they'll mark it down now that it's been opened and repackaged.
I hoped, all this considered, they'd mark it as an inventory loss, then just let us have it. You know. As a thanks for my honesty.
Clearly, they didn't, but I'm still glad I called. Had I kept it, I'd always feel a little guilty. Plus, given that this megagiant doesn't even give its employees discounts, I was afraid they'd take the loss out of this poor college student's paycheck once they figured out it was gone. That just wouldn't be right.
The project:Provide first aid, warmth and comfort to a child.
While at a park day with friends today, one of the 4 year olds ran, crying, toward us. Blood was running down his face from, it appeared, his eye. I grabbed my first aid kit from the car and we got him cleaned up. He and several of the other children had been creeping around in some small trees, and a branch reached out and smacked him in the face JUST missing his eye.
He was back to play in just a few minutes after being cleaned up and comforted. Hours later he emerged from the creek where the smaller boys had been playing. He was, again, crying and miserable. His shoes, socks and pants to the above the knees were soaked and muddy and what skin we could see through the mud on his hands was bright pink. This time: he was just plain freezing. I wrapped him in the jacket I was wearing and stuck my hands up the sleeves to warm his ice cube fingers before he crawled into my lap.
40 minutes Why bother?
There's never any question when it comes to first aid. We carry a first aid kit wherever we go. And comforting and warming this fun, smart, beautiful little dude was heartwarming for me as well. My children are pretty self sufficient now. It's been a while since a little person climbed into my lap for cuddles and hand warming.
If you don't already have a first aid kit, run down to the pharmacy and gather supplies. Keep it in your car or pack. You never know when it might come in handy.
In 2008, my little girls and I embarked upon a personal challenge: performing one good, charitable or otherwise helpful deed every single day for the year, and sharing those activities via the blogosphere. The point of sharing was not to brag, but to inspire, and in that year, we learned about new opportunities to serve, did for friends, family and strangers alike and perhaps grew a little more compassionate.
Since then, we've had a lot going on, but lessons learned that year have not been lost on us. We've continued contributing to our communities through volunteerism, though we haven't taken the time to write about our activities here.
After the horrific school shooting in Newton, Connecticut, one of my favorite columnists, Ann Curry, challenged the world to perform 20 acts of kindness in honor of each of the people killed. She tweeted about it, and the idea took hold, expanded to 26 acts, even 27 or 28. Just imagine if every person in the nation, let alone every person in the world, committed 20 acts of kindness, or 26, or 27, or more.
Since then, I've been reading about loads of charitable acts spurred by Curry's "Are You In?" challenge. The twittersphere is abuzz with ideas, whether 20 Acts or 26 Acts. Some are super simple, some perhaps questionable, and there have been some big acts as well.
But before mental illness took the life of its host victim and 26 others, people across the interwebs were posting about their efforts to give back to community. Here some posts that might provide us all some inspiration for another Year of Living Charitably.
Are You In?
50 Random Acts - Our fellow Weird Unsocialized Homeschooler, Kris, has begun her own random act mission. She's begun with a great list of ideas, inspired by various people in her world. She's a great example of finding acts that meet you where you are. Not everyone gets out every day. Not everyone has even the five bucks to buy someone a cup of expensive, froo-froo coffee. But everyone can perform a charitable deed within their own means.
Mom to Mom: 26 Acts - This blog post shares a Facebook story which may or may not be entirely true, but there's also a sample of a postcard that commemorates the fallen from Sandy Hook Elementary.
Leaps of Kindness - There are lots of fun ideas on this blog. This links to one of my favorites: tiara care packages. Will they change the world, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, bring world peace? No, but lifting spirits can lead to positivity that continues to spread beyond the recipient.
Action for Happiness - This organization strives to inspire people to help each other and bring about happiness in everyone's lives.
In Memory of John: Full-Moon Memorial Acts - John Pike's mother has been blogging about monthly acts of kindness performed in memory of her son who died at age 23. She's asked others to remember his kindness by sharing acts of their own on every full moon.