Posts Tagged ‘Pay it forward’

Shoes (and the $26 Challenge)

November 29, 2010

It’s not that I don’t love you all, it’s just that I am about to get onto an airplane to head to Iraq.  I’ve been spending time with the wife and the kids, putting my effort to where I am placing my emphasis right now.

That being said, here’s your friendly reminder about the $26 Challenge.  Now is the time to go find that wallet (yours or a loved one), or to go root through the couch to see what kind of change you can find there, and to move the $1 to the envelope you’ve been keeping in your purse / bag / clutch / satchel.  You know, the envelope marked The $26 Challenge that you almost raided on Tuesday when you needed money for a Coke Zero.  It’s slowly adding up, isn’t it?  One dollar at a time.

And while I have not been blogging here this week, I have been running this week.  Some of you may recall — running is my sanctuary time, and it was on long runs that I has originally hashed out a lot of the details for the first iteration of IBOL.  I spent some of the time thinking about my impending departure, and more about my family, but I reserved some for IBOL.  See, I needed to think through how to sell IBOL to the Army.

I found the answer on Thanksgiving morning.  I was out for a little run (OK, a half-marathon-distance run along the northern half of Pearl Harbor), and as I made my way home, I ran into a guy from my neighborhood.  And Air Force veteran, I knew because I’d seen him in USAF unit t-shirts.  He is often out in our neighborhood with his dog.  I should mention that he is confined to a wheelchair.

I stopped to tell him that every time I see him out pushing up the hills in my neighborhood, he inspires me.  I wasn’t saying it to be nice, I was saying it because it’s both true and worth sharing with him.  His route isn’t an easy one — it’s not one I even enjoy running, and he’s out there with his dog pushing it.  We got to talking, and ended up talking for a good 20 minutes.

He was surprised to learn that I am in the Army.  And that I not just have PTSD, but that I have it more or less under control (about as well as an alcoholic can have their alcoholism under control, I told him).  He spoke of his pride in his service (his injury isn’t related), and of his pride in all those serving.  He said that he hoped that more people would grow to understand that our military members are dong what they’re told to do, being it delivering food or kicking in doors.

I told him my observation — that it’s easy to teach an 18 year old kid from, say, Iowa how to shoot and kill, but it’s exponentially more difficult to teach him how to resume talking once the violence has ended.  Even 10 year old kids know that when they stop throwing punches, they still need to talk about who scratched the paint of Jimmy’s bike.  And, knowing that he was from the island, I told him that not all of America understands the social aspects of conflict as do the locals of Hawaii —  a land steeped in tribal history and rich in patronage, much like Iraq and other parts of the world.

IBOL3D, I think, will need to hit on three things.

  1. Recycling.  There’s enough trash in this world.  The original discussions that lead to IBOL in the first place included talks about the drawdown of American forces, and how so much would likely head to the trash piles when, really, it would still serve a greater good in the local communities.  From TV’s to sheets to old runnind shoes, something is better than the nothing that a lot of Iraqis still have.  When I leave, if I don’t need those towels I brought with me, I’d just as soon wash them and hand them off to some else who would want and use them before pitching them into the trash.
  2. Humanitarian assistance.  This actually means something in Army speak, that specific phrase of “humanitarian assistance.”  There are formal programs for that, for delivering relief through the military.  IBOL I and II were coupled to this, an effort above and beyond what just the military itself can do in an area.  But what’s right with IBOL, in using sewing, knitting and quilting supplies to support Iraqi Security Forces and local NGO’s to engage the population during Ramadan, is also right for the military to use their own resources at the same time for the same reasons.  I need to show the Army that it needs to be doing that, and that’s actually something I think I can do.
  3. Ohana.  Any effort by my unit during Ramadan needs to include our greater Hawaiian (and, really, American) family.  My unit was born of the island of Oahu, and its ideas and values and traditions are interwoven with the last 100 years of Hawaiian history.  Our extended family is very much a part of what we do, and is a factor in the decision making process we employ.  This would need to include them, and with that, it’d need to include you.

There’s one other thing that was rolling around in my head.  Shoes.  I am a runner, after all.  I am mean to my shoes — I ran 500+ miles on the last pair, ~750 miles on the pair before that, and over 1000 miles on the pair before that.  Shoes, to me, are a durable good; they should last for a long, long time.  In reading a new article in Runner’s World about Lisa Smith-Batchen (here), I began to think about shoes more and more.  A good, rugged pair of shoes can last a long, long time.  Probably a lot longer than it takes for a kid to outgrow them.

I’m not really sure where this shoe-thought is going.  Maybe the $26 challenge will be to find super-rugged kids shoes for $26, and to send them over to Iraq.  Maybe I encourage people to add kid shoes in with their bundles.  Maybe there’s something else that needs to be done with this.  I dunno.  I’m still rolling the idea around in my head, but I’d welcome your thoughts on it.  I love running, I love my shoes, and I love Iraq.  There’s gotta be a solution in here somewhere.

And before I sign off, here’s a picture from my run on Thanksgiving.  At the north end of the harbor is a Navy site for storing old ships.  It’s an awesome place.  And add to that some dramatic lighting from just another day in Hawaii, and I think it makes for a pretty day.

The week in review

August 16, 2009
IBOL Kitteh say, Meh.

IBOL Kitteh say, "Meh."

On this quiet Sunday morning, I thought I’d try and wrap up a few loose ideas and other things.

1. Thanks. Holy smokes, THANKS. I really thought that success for this project was going to be measures in tens, not hundreds. My units is trying to figure out where to put all these bundles until we start making deliveries — and yes, this is a marvelous problem to have!

2. Yes, by all means — I am totally OK with you giving the mail address to people. I ask a couple of things — a) I am trying to keep the actual address off of the web, since this thing only runs for so long (and since I leave not long after it ends), and 2) you pass along that stuff should be post-marked by 7 Sept. I think that probably applies for international mail, too. If you’re on Palau, well, I’d send stuff sooner rather than later.

3. Has anyone convinced their local fabric / yard place to support this by selling stuff at cost (or darn tootin’ cheap)? Please let me know. I would love, love, love to find a fabric / yard place doing this. It’s gotta be possible, right?

4. What if that store had local volunteers who built actual bundles? And took Visa? Suddenly, the non-quilting / knitting people of the world — stop laughing! They really do exist! — would have an easy way to pile on board, too. I could soooo sell that idea to nerds. And to people to go to sock week dressed as Darth Vader. And rock stars. The rest of the world.

5. Jacquie posted some wonderful eye candy about what she’s sending (here), and in the comments, Rachel made what was probably a tongue-in-cheek offer to send 20 yards for fabric in exchange for one of the pieces heading her way instead. Which might actually happen. Which got me thinking — one yard becomes 20? Really? How else is this thing mutating in weird, wonderful ways?

6. There’s a Flickr tag for this whole thing: iraqibundlesoflove. Over on Facebook, I am linking to some of the many photos of bundles that people are posting to the web, mostly on their own websites. And I gotta say — wow, they are stunning. And very popular with the cats, since they seem to be almost magnetically attracted to these bundles, too. Probably because the bundle represents a pile that they can either 1) sit on, or 2) barf on.

7. Fans of the blog Happy Zombie might want to swing by JoCo‘s site here and download the zombie song. Yes, it’s legal to download this (even in the US), and yes, it’s free.

8. The first day this site was up, 10 people visited. And I bet they all shared the same family name as well. And Google returned no results when you searched for the phrase Iraqi Bundles of Love. Friday, the site was hammered by just a hair under 2000 hits, and what seemed like 1000 people leaving comments asking for the address (Ok, it was probably just 50). There’s been a ton of visitors from the US and Canada. And Germany, my other home. And now some from Australia (!). And the UK. And Norway. It warms my heart plenty to have so many, from so many places, offer to help out this US Soldier. So, I will leave you with one of my favorite photos of all time, that I took in Flam, Norway, back when we were expecting IBOL Kid #2. Maybe it’ll warm our heart, too.

And for the record, yes, you can now go do your part to stimulate the international economy by shopping for material to re-stock your stash.

Forget the button – steal this site

August 14, 2009

This started with an idea of bundles of quilting material getting to the hands of Iraqis, in support of the season on Ramadan, our counter-insurgency doctrine, and helping my unit try and do good as we get ready to rotate out with the next unit.

Then, it started to involved other sewing items. Then yarn. Somewhere along the way, the American mail system got expanded, because people – because big hearts are in fact universal – elsewhere wanted in on helping.

When I created this site, I thought it’d be neat if 30 or so bundles made there way here. A big success would be 50. Friday alone, I think I had 50 people ask for the address, saying they were ready to send bundles.

Today, someone left a comment about sending a honest-to-goodness sewing machine. I kid you not — I had to grab the desk to keep from falling over. It’s remarkable.

I think this idea is something of a success. It’s certainly a much bigger success than I ever thought it could be, and it’s certainly grown in ways I never expected.

So, I would offer this encouragement: Steal this site. OK, not the site itself, but the idea, even the content. By all means, email me and ask me questions about the behind-the-scenes stuff, but feel free to lift text, images, ideas and anything else from this site — I’ve slapped on the Creative Commons license to this all, to make sure the legal stuff is covered.

Maybe your guild does this with the local battered women shelter. Maybe knitting needles and yard get collected quarterly and the goodies plus “learning to knit” instructions get delivered to the local homeless shelter. Or maybe it’s through your local synagogue, church, house of worship. And if you see that this site helps in any way, take from here liberally.

There is goodness is this site, and in this project — I feel it in my heart, and I read it in your emails. Go with it.