We’re taking Thanksgiving week off, so we’ve selected some appropriate posts from the archives to re-publish this week. We hope you enjoy them.
Ask anyone from the Greatest Generation and they will tell you, WWII was a team effort. People sacrificed. They bought war bonds. Women worked in factories – something they had never done before. People planted victory gardens. There was focus on what everyone could do to contribute. I wanted to be part of our current effort – not so much as a strike against an enemy, but as a supportive action for our military personnel.
About a year ago, there was an article on the front page of the online Washington Post about women who felt they needed to do more to support our troops in their efforts to fight terrorism. The women clip coupons. You know, the coupons that come in the mail, or in the Sunday newspaper. One of the members of the Book Club is part of a support group that greets the troops when they return and sees them off as they head for Iraq or Afghanistan. They make sure that all the soldiers have someone to visit with as they leave or when they first land on US soil. She’s really good at this. I’m not. Clipping coupons was more my speed. (Remember, when looking for a way to contribute, find something that works for YOU as well as for them.)
These days, not only can I easily read the Washington Post from anywhere in the world, I can also easily contact the journalist. When I emailed him, he sent me the information so that I could contact the organization that was collecting and submitting the coupons. And so it began…
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
In the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, the apprentice – played by Mickey Mouse in Fantasia – is too lazy to fill the cauldron himself. Using a skill he had been taught by the Sorcerer, he creates a team of brooms that can draw water and fill the cauldron. Then having worn himself out with the effort, he falls asleep. When he finally awakes, he is floating away on the waves of water filling the cave.
Our book club decided we would support the troops by clipping coupons. Since clipping doesn’t take too long, a steady supply of coupons is needed to keep the clippers busy. So I started asking everyone (neighbors, family, Ellie, her family) for their unused or expired coupons. I am now drowning in coupons that need clipping. (BTW, the only magic I used to create this tsunami was asking for what I wanted – coupons.)
Every month, the book club brings me the coupons they have clipped and take unclipped coupons from my overflowing supply. AND my neighbors are clipping. Among this small group, we have clipped $55,200 in coupons in the last year. But the BEST PART is that we feel we are contributing.
One of our members, Terri, moved about four hours away. She joined her Newcomer’s Club and now her new community is clipping. There is a group of people from an assisted living facility near Terri who have started clipping for a couple of hours every week. They feel useful and the families of our troops feel appreciated.
Terri’s Newcomer’s Club also packs boxes for troops stationed in Afghanistan and Iraq. Thanks to neighbors again, we send old magazines – People, US, National Geographic, O – and paperback books and anything else that our troops may request. One group even asked for golf balls, and got them. We feel useful and they feel appreciated.
This illustrates a powerful principle. We all need to feel that we are contributing and appreciated. When we clip coupons, we feel we are doing SOMETHING concrete. Each coupon may not seem like much, but if our coupons help families stationed overseas to put better meals on the table and have the products they need to maintain themselves while their loved ones are gone, then we have helped improve their lives. There is very little that we can personally do to help the troops, but THIS we can do. It is our way of supporting the troops and expressing gratitude to them and their families.
Sometimes things go so badly that we can’t figure out where we fit. We make mistakes and beat ourselves up about what we did wrong. Cash is tight. Jobs are scarce.
Because as Americans we tend to feel that we control our destiny, we can also feel as if setbacks are our fault. We think that if we just work hard enough and are smart enough, we can accomplish anything. In the tough times, this adds a burden to our already challenging circumstances. When we are occupied with blaming ourselves for setbacks, we need a way to stop the unraveling that comes with that kind of thinking. Finding a way to help others can help build a base from which we can successfully move forward.
The truth is life is a combination of luck and opportunity. Some days we’re the windshield and some days we’re the bug. (Not my very own original thought, but it does seem to express reality well.) It doesn’t matter that we fall, what matters is what we do when we get up. So how do we get up?
One of the oldest and truest ways to feel better about yourself is to do something for someone else.
There may be little things you can do to help out. Maybe a neighbor needs someone to take them to the doctor, or walk the dog. Maybe the kids need to be taken to/from school. Little stuff. Again, like the coupon clipping, it may not seem like much, but the return to you will be well worth it. Get up – and do something!
What ideas do you have for how you can contribute?
The following photos are some of the “clippers” Gertie mentions in her comment on the original post.