Monday, October 27, 2014

Giving Back

A quick announcement: I'll be telling a story on the Porch this Saturday evening at 9:00 in Salt Lake City (link to the FB event and link to The Porch's site). I would love to see you there. And I promise to wear something extra low cut and revealing to make it worth your while. (NOT THAT I KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS, CATHIE).

That time of year is approaching. Pumpkins are being carved. Turkeys are being slaughtered. Christmas lights and music have been ubiquitous for about three months already. And your schedules are about to be bombarded with holiday madness.


A family friend introduced a unique and simple way to "give back" last year when she told us about a little project called Pioneers of Peace. At the behest of Cathie, my family participated in a small challenge and had a good experience doing so. It's a particularly good way to get children involved in giving and feeling like they are playing a role in doing good for the world.

Pioneers of Peace challenged us to designate a cup in our homes for spare change during the month of November. Any spare change found in the house or collected throughout the day would get dropped into the cup. By Thanksgiving, the cups are emptied, the contents counted, and the funds are donated to the World Food Program, which then uses them to buy lunch for children throughout the world who would otherwise go hungry for lack of resources.

The World Food Program states that it is able to provide a meal for a child for 25 cents.

My nieces and nephews excitedly began turning their homes over to find any spare change that may have fallen between the cracks. For the rest of us, it was simple to empty our pockets of change throughout the month to put into the cups.

On Thanksgiving, we had the kids count up what we had collected throughout the month. To our surprise, between my parents, siblings, spouses, Queen of Colors, nieces, and nephews, we had dropped nearly $100 of change into our cups throughout the month, meaning that our donation was able to provide roughly 400 meals.

We were then able to make the donation to the World Food Program. This year, the donations can be made at this link, and you can track the amount donated through the project there.

It took very little effort on our parts, and it made a difference for some children who really need a difference. Not to mention, my little nieces and nephews remember that experience and are excited to participate in it again this year.

I love the cause and wanted to share it with you. There are so many opportunities, large and small, to give a little or a lot, and I encourage you to take a look at the Pioneers of Peace page for information about this project.

I've never had to go hungry, and I can't imagine what that might be like. I've never been poor. Sure, I have had varying degrees of limited funds, but I've always had a safe place to sleep and plenty to eat.

Although having never struggled in that way, I have been helped by strangers throughout my life in ways that have impacted me and shaped me into the person I am. I will always be grateful for that. And I hope to always be looking for ways to do something with what I've been given to help other strangers along the way.

Last year I asked you to share stories about times when strangers stepped in to help you in some way. You guys came through with sweet and inspiring stories. So while we're on the topic of helping others, I thought it was time to update our repertoire of stories about times strangers have stepped up when we needed it.

So let's hear them!

Oh my gosh. I just asked you to do so much. Hashtag I guess this isn't even America anymore.

~It Just Gets Stranger


  1. My home recently flooded around 3 or 4 in the morning, and so many of my neighbors came out to help. They came with buckets and sump pumps and smiles and hugs and reassurance that everything would be okay. My husband ended up leaving during the ordeal (to get more tools/equipment for cleanup) so I was alone with my two kids, one of whom was just a couple of months old at the time. I had to leave the scene to nurse and soothe my baby after a couple of hours of baling, but my neighbors kept at it. I had dinners brought to me the rest of the week, and another neighbor did my laundry for two days since my washer and dryer were in the flooded basement. Another neighbor took my daughter the day of the flood so I wouldn't be so exhausted caring for two kids on just a couple hours of sleep.
    Some of these neighbors I know well; others I only know from a wave in the neighborhood or a hello at church. Regardless, they have buoyed me up the last couple of months as we've struggled to put things back together in our home. I don't know how I can possibly pay it forward, but I try every week to be aware of the needs of others and to do something about it!

    1. That is really nice! I want to live where you live!!

  2. This spring I acquired a cargo bike and started biking around town with my two kids on the back of the bike. During the first week when I was still getting the hang of balancing the dang thing we had a friend on the back, too. So that was three kids weighing about 120 pounds. We were stopped at an intersection right in the middle of the city when I lost my balance and the bike+kids fell over despite my best efforts to stop it. Traffic in all four directions stopped and a man ran from across the street to help me get the bike back up with the kids in tow. (Something I couldn't have done by myself.) Nobody was hurt and I know it's really a minor thing, but it meant so much to me that people were watching out for us and that a complete stranger would rush to my aid like that.

  3. Thank-you Eli. Very nice! This is such a great thing to do during November ending on Thanksgiving Day with a donation. We have started a fun and rewarding new FAMILY TRADITION that I believe will go on for years It will help teach COMPASSION and GRATITUDE to our upcoming generations and remind us all to be grateful for what we have.

    We believe RED CUPS are iconic but you can use any cup and COLLECT, COUNT and DONATE on the link located on the . The Pioneers of Peace Thanks "Giving" Cup Campaign can also be found on Facebook (Please like our page). Please join us and make a "Change"!

    Bob and I empty our pockets and purse out of any coins we find each night. It is amazing how much spare change we have! Even just $5 buys 25 school lunch meals. It is one small thing we can do.

    Now... just how is the Queen of Colors helping?!......I just don't know! :) :) HaHa Eli! Good one!


  4. Cool idea about the cups. Thanks.

    My story- many years ago I had been conned into doing summer sales for a really sketchy company in a very hot place. It was the most miserable summer of my life. One day I was going down the street and I got so hot and dehydrated that I fainted on someone's front lawn. I was only out for a couple of seconds but this woman inside the house saw me and ran out. She got me inside the house, gave me water, made me stay inside with her, etc. I was there for about six hours. She sat with me and talked and fed me and made sure I was feeling ok before she would let me go. It more than made me feel better physically. She lifted my spirits when I really needed it. Every summer on that day since then I have sent her a card. She will be a lifelong friend to me.

  5. I had just picked my car up from the shop and stopped by the gas station to get gas. I filled up the tank and when I went to start my car, nothing happened. I tried again, with the same effect. I just sat there thinking who can I call. I was miles away from home and knew my dad and brothers would be at work and I had my six year old son in the car with me. I had no idea how to fix the problem, since I am a woman. A young man at the pump next to me must have seen my dismay because he came over and told me to pop the hood. He saw the problem and grabbed a drill and tools from his truck and fixed the loose screw on the starter. He told me to try again, when it still wouldn't start another man asked if I needed a jump and promptly pulled his car over to mine and jumped my car. The young man told me to make sure I kept my car on to make sure the battery would charge, but it should be fine. I am so grateful for the kindness of both of these strangers who went out of their way to help me. Otherwise I would have been stuck at that gas station for hours with my young son.

    1. Sorry to be weird about this, but ... "I had no idea how to fix the problem, since I am a woman."
      Some of the most mechanically-challenged people I know are men!

    2. Yeah that bothered me too. I'm a woman and I can certainly jump a car battery!

      But it was very nice of the other people at the gas station to help you, regardless. :-)

  6. It was the first anniversary of my mom's death and I went for a walk in a park. I sat down on a bench and couldn't hold back the tears anymore. I started sobbing. This older woman came and sat down next to me, put her arm around me, and just kept saying "this too shall pass." I cried and cried and buried my head in her lap while she sat with me. Eventually I thanked her for being there and left. She never asked what was wrong and I never told her. She just saw me and decided to try to comfort me in some way. I'll never forget her.

    1. Well that just about made me cry! What a lovely story, and something to keep in mind when I see someone in distress.

  7. I have severe scoliosis, have had my whole life, at the age of 30 (eleven years ago) my back gave out on me and I ended up having surgery. It changed my life drastically. I had two young children ages of two and one at the time and my husband (now ex) had just been deployed. I was on a six to eight month bed rest with no bending, lifting, or twisting. My ward and my parents ward stepped up to the plate. My husband (ex) ended up doing two back-to-back eighteen month deployments and I ended up having three more surgeries, one which lead to some severe nerve damage in my arms. I ended up having to live with my parents because not only did I need 24 hour care, but I couldn't take care of my small children. The people in my ward took care of my house and yard, I never worried about it sitting empty or being robbed or vandalized. On the Sunday's that I felt good enough, I would go to church in my ward. There was an hour gap between when my ward ended and my parents ward ended. The people in my ward would take turns having me and my children in their homes for that hour, and would feed us lunch. Because of that I made some very dear and close friends. I don't know how I would have made it through that rough time without them. My parents ward stepped up and would bring meals over. My parents, on Tuesday nights, would go to the family history library as part of their calling. The people in my parents ward would take turns having me and my children over to give my parents the break and allow then to fulfill their calling. I always felt so much love and compassion during that very difficult time and have made so many dear life long friends from it.

    1. An example of the system working as it should. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Last year, my car indicated that I had a flat tire. All four tires seemed fairly ok to me, but I figured I should probably go try to fill them up. I'm very independent, so even though I don't know much about cars or how to do such things, I just headed over to the air pump at my nearby gas station. I started trying to check my tires and found that two were lower then the others, so I tried to fill them up. It didn't really seem to be making any difference and I wasn't sure if I was just doing it wrong or what. This nice man who had just filled up his tank came over and asked if he could help. I let him help me, and he took the time to make sure that all of my tires were good to go! He told me he had four daughters and that if one of his daughters were trying to fix something on their car and he couldn't be around that he wished someone would help them, so that's why he wanted to help!

  9. My driveway froze up last year. I didn't realize it because there was about a half inch of snow covering it. Not enough to bother shoveling since it would melt by noon, I thought. But when I pulled out of my driveway, the back tires got stuck in the dip between my driveway and the street. It's a small, really light car, and nothing I tried worked.

    A neighbor I had never talked to from down the street saw me struggling and without hesitation drove his truck over and towed me out. He helped me be on time for a really important interview. It was something small to him, but it meant so much to me.

  10. When I was in elementary school my parents were really struggling financially, I remember thinking that we would not get Christmas that year because of everything that had been happening that year. When we woke up on Christmas morning someone had not only dropped off everything we could have possibly needed for a Christmas dinner, but they also dropped off presents for each of the kids in my family. They had also included a large jar full of change and dollar bills. The jar had a couple hundred dollars. When that Christmas happened I was too young to really understand why everyone was crying and the significance of what happened, I was just happy that we had a Christmas, but as I have grown older I have started to understand the real trouble that my family was in and how much we needed that help. That meal fed us for a few days, the money helped with some serious medical bills, and we had a Christmas. This was all because someone on the outside was watching and was in tune with the needs of a struggling family. Years later we still have no idea who did that for us, but it will forever stick with me. Each Christmas it reminds me to watch out for others needs and ways to help.

    1. Love. Thank you for sharing this amazing story.

  11. I gave birth to my first child ( a 9lb 8oz bouncing baby boy ) this past July. It should have been one of the most beautiful times in my life, but just days after my husband and I brought him home I was re-admitted to the hospital, and consequently spent the next 5 weeks in / out of every hospital in a 30 mile radius.

    I was diagnosed with absesses, the treatment of which ate my immune system for breakfast. I had MRSA, and sepsis, and was tested for every scary word disease you've ever heard. It was terrifying... but worse it was also heartbreaking because I was forced to spend time alone, isolated from the world (especially my new world with husband and baby.) Talk about postpartum depression!

    My husband and I saw so many helping hands during this time, that it was hard see the arms attached to them --however there was one person who stands out and I felt the need to share her act of human greatness here.

    I was in the ER for the 5th time, being told I was to be re-admitted when I broke down into tears. The doctor assigned to my bed that day held my hands and cried with me a little as she told me briefly about her complicated first birth and being kept away from her son for 5 weeks as she recovered. She told me she was celebrating his 5th birthday that weekend. Her story touched my heart, she knew almost exactly what my tears were for... Not only was she empathetic and encouraging, she also gave me council and advice that only she could give as well as her personal cell# in case I needed to talk. She was a great doctor, but she went way above and beyond for me.

    I never did use her cell#, but I have thought about her several times since our meeting. I wondered what thanks I would say, as incongruent as it would be to the blessing she was to me exactly when I needed it.

    --Maybe she reads your blog Eli!! -- if you're out there doc, my son ( now almost 4 months old and 18lbs! ), hustand and I want to give you our sincere thanks for being a light in a rather dark storm.

    Thanks to you too Eli, for all the happy tears this post and it's comments have produced.


  12. I'm a single mother of six children. My oldest son died five years ago when the other children were ages 6 to 14. The time immediately following his death was, as you can imagine, very difficult. It was winter, I was alone with the children and we were quite isolated despite living in the middle of the city. I was feeling very much abandoned by our friends. One afternoon, the mother of one of my children's good friends called me to tell me not to make supper because she was bringing something by. When she came, she told us that she was delivering the meal but that it had actually been purchased by another family. This other family were close friends of hers but we had only met once very briefly. They had heard of our loss and wanted us to know that they were holding us in their thoughts. I was so touched by the effort they had made for us. My own friends had let us down in many ways throughout my son's illness, I was feeling very alone. I still remember that meal, not just for how good it tasted, but how joyful we were around our dinner table that night and how often we spoke of the kindness of that family. We speak of it still and I know I will always be so grateful to them.