How To Stretch $16.46 Across The World

I believe every kind act has a ripple effect, the power to resonate. So last week I spent $16.46 to try use my “power” to help nine strangers in some far-off places. I’m not sure what will happen, but I have learned that anything’s possible.

When it’s not just “coffee”

If you’ve been here before, you know I send coffee and notes to the troops through Cup of Joe (COJ). I’ve had troops write me back and say, “I read this to my guys and we all had a good laugh. Thank you!” I love when I get those emails because knowing I made a few people smile in a combat zone, makes me smile.

I’ve stayed in touch with some of the COJ troops I’ve “met” this way. One ripple effect is that they’ve helped increase my understanding, which I’ve then shared here. The post about PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is one of many examples. Anyone who has read them and learned something or been inspired only further increases the “ripple.”

I’ve had family members tell me how much it means to them that strangers took a little time out of their day to think of their deployed loved one. As a mom, I try to imagine how I’d feel if my child were far away and I couldn’t do anything to protect them. Granted, my kid is in elementary school, and I am a total mush to begin with. But I think seeing that someone else cares and knowing that your child is not forgotten, has power.

Some people ask me what I write to the troops. Well, anything that pops in my head at the moment. A lot of times, I “steal” ideas from my daughter. This time I wrote:

Dear Soldier,

Yesterday someone asked my daughter what she wanted to be when she grows up. She said, “world-famous swimmer.” They asked, “Olympics?”  She said, “No. Mermaid.”  Her back-up plans are, “world-famous rock climber,” or “fashion designer.”  I’m not sure what will happen in the future, but I do know that I’m grateful she has the freedom to follow her dreams. Thank you for helping to safeguard that freedom. Thank you for all you do. Sincerely, Gina

Below is the first reply I received back.

COJ reply. Name blurred for privacy.

COJ reply. Name blurred for privacy.

I bought 8 troops coffee @ $2 each so that’s $16.00.

Helping an “Angel”

I read a posting from a Soldiers’ Angel that the soldier she adopted was going through a stressful time. She wanted to send him a box with as many encouraging or light-hearted letters as possible. I said I’d be happy to help.

While I’ve become very good friends with a few troops, many times I don’t hear back. And that’s fine. I don’t do this expecting anything in return. But after I write a letter, I like to imagine its journey. In this case, I saw my fellow “angel” heading to her mailbox, getting letters from all over the country. I saw her being delighted with the support and happily filling that box. Then I imagined a soldier hearing his name at mail call and opening letter after letter….different postmarks….different stories…with my voice one among many and all with the same purpose: to make him feel cared for. My part in this cost 46¢ for a stamp.

Use your power

If you haven’t already done so this week, I invite you to use your power of kindness to help a stranger. There are a lot of little opportunities all around us. Of course, if you need ideas, I’ve got a few suggestions including those in this post. But no matter what kind act you do, be prepared for it to ripple back. It seems doing things for others has a way of touching our own hearts. What would the world be like with more kindness on a regular basis? Be nice to find out.

© Gina left the mall, 2013

11 thoughts on “How To Stretch $16.46 Across The World

  1. Wow! This is a fabulous post. Thank you for sharing one of the many ways civilians can help. Our soldiers rely heavily on these effort and on the few people like you who are not “at the mall.” Keep up the good work!

    • Thank you for the kind words! There are many wonderful volunteers out there. And I’ve noticed more and more awareness and caring in the past few years. That said, every trip “outside the mall” helps because of the math: Only 1% of the population is Active Duty. This means a great number of people don’t know anyone in the service or what troops and their families endure. So thank you again, for reading!

  2. Pingback: Helping in a Unique and Awesome Way | The Mitch Niche

  3. Right now I am in the final stages of a project to collect used children’s books to send to a community center in Belize that is expanding and building a larger library. I visited it last December on a mission trip and am planning to return this December with my eighteen year old for his first mission trip. He will do it twenty some years earlier than i. I want to develop the spirit of giving in both my children, the one you exemplify. I know the soldiers cherish every act and communication. I am considering adding this to the mission type activities within my church since I am the director of our missions.

    • Joe,
      Thank you for your kinds words. The library project sounds wonderful. Congrats on reaching this stage! I am sure the families there greatly appreciate your efforts. I think both your children have an amazing example to inspire them and that this trip will be very special for your son.

      I’m grateful that you are considering adding troops to your mission. There are many different ways to make an impact and I hope you find one that’s a good fit for your church. I have a lot of info and links on the Ways To Make A Difference page in the header and you may want to take a look at. But no matter what you mission you take on, thank you for taking action.

  4. Loved reading about Sofia’s aspirations, and how you incorporated them into your letter. I know the soliders had to have gotten a kick out of the “mermaid” response. LOL! What a great source of inspiration and gentle humor she is. Paying it forward is really starting to catch on in the coffeehouses of Europe, from what I’ve heard. People will pay in advance for “suspended” coffees for others who cannot afford it. Simple gestures of kindness like that really go a long way 🙂

    • Lol…Sofia has no idea how many times she’s been my ghost writer. What will I do when she gets older? 🙂 And I’ve heard about the “suspended” coffee and I think it’s great. Besides being a lovely thing to so, I really like that the barrier to participation is low. So it’s easy to seize the chance to spread a little kindness.

  5. I loved Sofia’s “Mermaid” reply. Children have such wonderful imaginations, there’s no wall for them between what is and what could be. Kindness, I’m convinced, is the most important thing in the world. Even just to smile at someone in the street, to give a friendly hello, accomplishes more than anyone could imagine.

    • Thanks NP, I loved it too. You are right that there is no wall. Of course I did not correct her in any way because I want that wall to last as long as possible. And yes, a smile or a friendly hello could be just what someone needs at that moment. We often don’t know the impact we have or can have on others.

  6. Wonderful as always, Gina. I am so glad that you talk about Sofia when you write to these men and women. I am sure that it brings happy thoughts to them about their own children.I am so impressed that you continue to know what to write to give them all enjoyment. I try to write a letter and my brain seems to die on the spot. Maybe you can give me some ideas..

    • Nana, I’m sure you do fine! But I will share something that seems to work for me when I write letters (besides Sofia stories!) I try to think visually. I figure if I were in a combat zone, I might want to be somewhere else for a few minutes, so I try to paint a picture. For example, one day during rush-hour, a mariachi band– in full costume with instruments–got on my subway car and began to play. Or I might talk about a walk I took in Central Park and describe what I saw and whomever I met, on 2 legs or 4.

      I hope this helps 🙂 But please be certain that whatever you write, you are giving someone a chance to hear their name at mail call. You are giving them proof that they are not forgotten. And they get that before they have even opened the envelope!

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