What soap, smiles, and gratitude have in common.

standard July 17, 2012 2 responses

The impeccably dressed, incredibly thin man danced his way up the stage stairs. Even from where I sat, I could see that his eyes gleamed with joy and humor. In a room filled with women, he stood out – not like a sore thumb, but, rather, like a beacon.

Derreck Kayongo founder of the Global Soap Project.

 All eyes were riveted.

His melodious voice picked up the dance where his feet had left off; the unfamiliar accent full of warmth and light.

“I was born in Uganda…” Derreck Kayongo started, speaking softly to the captive audience. He shared the tale of how his happy young childhood came to a brutal, tragic end and how he, all too early, was forced into a terrifyingly unimaginable adulthood.

As the audience listened with shock twisting their faces and tears pooling in their eyes, he told gentle jokes and lightened the mood.

Again and again he shared horrors followed by smiles.

His story, the one behind the Global Soap Project, was riveting and inspiring, but what kept me captive was his face.

This man who has seen more horrors and hardships in his lifetime than any of us could possibly imagine had a beautiful, trusting face with huge eyes that betrayed none of that horror, just endless joy and delight in all the wonders the world had to offer. He looked like a child taking delight in the littlest thing he discovered.

I watched him closely as he shared his discovery that 800 million bars of barely used hotel soap are discarded every year in the United States and again as he shared the rather simple, yet brilliant solution that he dreamed up to fix this situation. His passion and excitement were infectious. His animated face was mesmerizing.

This man, who by all respects should have been allowed to be full of hate and bitterness, was literally oozing with delight and hope.

With pride, at the end of his talk. Derreck held up a beautiful, fragrant bar of recycled soap that his organization was sending to Africa.

Soap. Such a simple thing. Every day we grab a bar of it in our shower. We bought it in a store, picked out our favorite fragrance from the bunch available, giving it barely any thought. We don’t stop to marvel at the lather the soap creates, the smell it leaves on our skin, the ease with which it rinses off dirt and germs, leaving us healthy and clean.

To children in Africa that soap means life. To us it means virtually nothing.

Derreck stood in front of a large group of women and, with a twinkle in his eye and a burble of laughter in his throat, reminded us that there is wonder in every little thing we take for granted. He also reminded us that sometimes the solutions for fixing the world lie in the most unexpected of places.

Having heard him speak and share his story, I’m not just moved to go visit every hotel in my vicinity to beg them to research how they can help the Global Soap Project, I’m also moved to try to keep seeing the world through eyes like his. I want to make a point to appreciate all the little things that are so easy to dismiss or take for granted so I too can work to keep the world around us perfectly magical.

Want to help Global Soap? Check out what you can do here!

Grateful Children and money

standard December 28, 2011 1 response

Last Christmas the air sang with the not-so-sweet sound of kids grumbling that Santa hadn’t brought them what they wanted. They griped that they hadn’t gotten as many presents as their siblings or cousins. They whined that it just wasn’t enough.

The room overflowed with wrapping paper and toys and yet they found reason to complain.

This year I was worried that we’d face the same issue. There was good reason too, this Santa was laaaazy and didn’t go to the extremes she’d gone the previous year. And yet, instead all we heard were the strains of “thank you!” “this is awesome!,” and “I love this!” 

Even better, M reported to me that, upon coming down on Christmas morning, he overheard C respond to her cousin’s surprise that people would be out playing in their yards with a neatly outlined, three pronged answer.

“First of all, maybe they don’t celebrate Christmas. Second of all, maybe they’re done opening their presents because they didn’t get as many as us. And third of all, maybe they’re happy with how many presents they got!”

Be still my heart. Maybe, just maybe, a year’s worth of lessons on gratitude have finally sunk in. Maybe she’s finally maturing.

I’ve been thinking about the allowance issue a lot this year. M and I were not given an allowance as children. We were given things that we needed (or at times wanted) when we asked for them. However I would love for my children to understand how to manage money better than I do and I have a hunch that giving them an allowance is the path to that knowledge.

Until this week, I’ve assumed that C wouldn’t get the allowance thing. That she’d spend her cash on the first thing that caught her mind, not really thinking about saving or even gifting parts of it when the right occasions arose. Now I’m starting to think that we might be able to start her small, explain what expectations she needs to meet to get her allowance, and what expectations she needs to meet to manage her money.

I think that the highly visual aspect of Kidworth‘s interface will help me teach her well. We can work together to create savings goals, spending goals, and even sharing goals. Hopefully next time I hear her exclaim “I love this!” it’ll be over something she planned to get for herself and got because she was able to save up her allowance to get it.

This post was inspired and sponsored by Kidworth, a neat site designed to teach kids financial goal setting. Set up Kidworth accounts for the kids in your life and let family and friends help you give them the gift of financial responsibility. Parents set up an account, and kids enter their goals. Whether they are saving up for guitar lessons, or a donation to the local animal shelter, Kidworth can help them achieve their goals. 

I’m grateful for… my husband

standard November 25, 2011 1 response

In the summer of ’99, days after my 23rd birthday I met a guy at a party. He was supposed to be my rebound one-night-stand. My way of bouncing back after two long term relationships with two very different and yet equally-wrong-for-me guys.

This guy was sweet. He had huge blue eyes and a gentle smile. And as we danced together that night I felt so at home in his arms that I thought I might be crazy.

Twelve years later I still feel at home in those arms, but it doesn’t feel so crazy any more.

It was one of those random events, two people who weren’t really supposed to be in the same spot met and by miracle were each at a place in their lives where they both were open to what was there.

I’m grateful each and every day that I let myself stay open to what we stumbled on. I’m grateful each and every day that he felt the same way.

On that day I met a man who would come to love me for exactly who I am.

A man who lets me be myself.

A man who has my back at all times, who believes in me wholeheartedly, and who wants me to succeed in all my harebrained schemes.

We are such different people who come from such different backgrounds. I come from a family of extroverts, he comes from a family of introverts. He grew up Jewish, I grew up essentially without religion. I grew up in France, he grew up in California.

I’m a loudmouthed, boisterous reader and writer, he’s a quiet, thoughtful, quirky musician.

Logic states that, on that warm Bostonian night, he should have taken one look at me and glossed right over me to any of the other girls hanging out at that party. Instead, he did a double-take, stopped walking, and came to chat with me.

I’ll never stop being grateful for that.

That’s it, the fifth and last post in my Week of Thanksgiving hosted by LilKidThings. I know a week usually has 7 days, but I’m taking the weekend off from the Internet to enjoy all these things I’m so grateful for. If you need more gratitude and warm fuzzies click the image below to see what everyone else is grateful for!


I’m grateful for… Gratitude

standard November 24, 2011 1 response

It would be almost too easy this year to wallow in the fear, the sadness, and the “what ifs” that keep assailing us at every turn.

Frankly I think I was headed there recently. I couldn’t blog without wanting to focus on the stuff troubling me. I couldn’t have lunch with a friend without wanting to recount the worries. I felt all consumed by it and it was making me miserable.

Then this little Week of Thanksgiving prompt rolled around and I jumped at it.

Because deep in my heart I know for a fact that happy people don’t have the best of everything, they just make the best of everything. Happiness doesn’t find you, you have to find it.

And happiness is all around me.

Today I feel lighter. I’ve spent the last few days looking around me, reminding myself of all the things I’m grateful for, wondering which to write about. I’ve even gotten the kids into the habit of mentioning the things they are grateful for.

I’m grateful for gratitude and the exercise that has shown me that it isn’t all bad and that there’s a much better way to spend my days than wallowing.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. Among all these other things I’m grateful to all of you who come here daily to read my words and offer silent or not so silent support. I couldn’t get through this year without all of you.
This is the fourth post in my Week of Thanksgiving hosted by LilKidThings. Join me all week as I feature the things that fills me with gratitude. Click the image below to see what everyone else is grateful for!