I was grateful when a friend gave me a Barnes & Noble gift card and had a book in mind, one that I had given my sister Brittany, several years ago. 'Encyclopedia of an ordinary life' by Amy Rosenthal is the book I was looking for. Not in the store but they were kind enough to order a copy and ship directly to me at home (no additional charge for this valued member).
When the book arrived I was excited to start reading it. The author had carefully put all of her unique thoughts, ideas and memories into encyclopedic form. It was a unique and interesting way to document the ordinary, it was light and entertaining but nothing really grabbed me until I got to the C's.
The word was Change and in the book Amy talked about what she did with her change. Once a week for a year she took some change and placed it an envelope with a note and a postcard. The note said that the money was for the finder and to do whatever they wanted with it, and the addressed and stamped postcard was there if they wanted to share what they did with it. (Amy's actual note was lovely and you will have to check out her book to read what it said.)
I rarely have extra money after bills are paid, cars are fueled up (and or) repaired and food is bought. I tend to have a great sense of guilt and sadness when I have to tell 'Richard' calling for the fire fighters fund that I can't help the children of those brave servants who perished in the line of duty. I know that generosity is good for the soul. It makes sense to me when I see very successful people being charitable with their money and they speak of how it sustains them to share their wealth. How can I give when I feel like I never have quite enough? How can I be generous when I struggle to get by?
Amy's idea was the perfect way for me to be generous. I found 8 post cards, some were freebies from the SPAM Museum in Austin, Minnesota and a few lovely art print post cards from a friend and I addressed them each:
Rochester, MN 55903
I penned a note that went something like this:
"This $ was left here intentionally to change your day. Enclosed is a post card if you want to share how you spent it."
I went to Hunts card and gift and acquired 8 lonely greeting card envelopes (which they sold me for 10 cents each) and a book of post card stamps. I gathered all the change and one dollar bill from my purse, divided it into 8 piles and the 'Change Project' began. It wasn't very much money just over a dollar in each envelope but I was excited thinking of places to leave them. I wrote:
On each envelope
I left them all over Rochester. I left one at the Minneapolis airport when my sister, Kathy and I went to stay with Brittany in Florida. I brought 4 envelopes with us to the sunshine state. One was left in a changing room where my lovely sister, Brittany, a radiation therapist, treats her patients. I had such a great time with my sisters in Florida that I forgot all about the project until we were waiting for our flight to return to Minnesota. Three envelopes were left at the airport in Ft. Meyers. It's probably not very wise to leave envelopes labeled 'for you' lying about in airports in today's world (a sad state of affairs) but it was change not anthrax. Not to cause harm but happiness. So I let go of that fear and took a chance and I'm glad I did.
The first post card I got back was BP Livingston's from Michigan. He said that he thought it was a nice idea and included his email. So I emailed BP and it turns out he was the pilot who flew Kathy and I back to Minnesota. It was pretty cool that someone as busy as Breck took the time to write that he would pass the change on to someone else on the postcard and pop it in the mailbox. The next postcard also came from Michigan, from 14 year old Marissa, who picked up an envelope at the airport because her "curiosity got the best of her". The postcard was simply not enough space for Marissa to tell me what was on her mind so she placed it in envelope with her finished letter. Marissa still had money left from her Florida get away which she was going to save for college and decided to add the one dollar bill to her savings! Marissa said that she was going to leave a dollar for someone one day too.
I have only gotten those two cards (so far). The project inspired my sister Kathy to do the same; she has left two envelopes in Rochester and my brother Jeff said that he wants to do it too. Amy said in her book that she was surprised every time a postcard arrived in her PO Box and equally surprised when they didn’t. This project has made me feel really good and I'm going to keep leaving change about. Maybe it will inspire someone to be generous in their own way. Perhaps they can afford to share more than pocket change, or maybe all they can share is a smile. This project has confirmed for me that kindness grows, no matter how small the gesture. I hope that this story inspires you to be kind to a stranger without expecting anything in return (even a postcard).