If I ever start to worry about the future of our world, what our children will grow up to live with and deal with, I can look back on this beautiful day and feel at ease again. Today we witnessed everything that is good and beautiful in our world and we saw that with kids like these growing up, it should be a good place, likely better than it is now. We held a fundraiser today to Save the Great Barrier Reef, at the suggestion of my 6-year-old son. This simple treat stand outside our house brought out such beauty and kindness that my heart and soul are simply overflowing and I need to share the story here, so that we never forget.
I am continually reminded that there is a greater being than all of us overseeing everything. Call it the Universe; call it God; call it what you will, but it is there. Steve and I have decided that we want to take one “big” family trip each year and do whatever we can to make that happen. Last year was our beautiful trip back home to Colorado and also sightseeing in Texas. In late July, even though I’d recently been laid off from my part time job, we decided to take the family to Cairns, home of the Great Barrier Reef. We settled on the September school holidays and started planning a weeklong trip.
My redundancy payout ran out the last week of August and we had a serious budget meeting and started to panic a little bit. I wondered a bit why we were as stupid as to plan a trip when I’d just lost a job. We knew that we’d forgo nonessential shopping, buying decent furniture, some out of the house entertainment, etc., because we’ve decided that experiences are more important to us at this point in our lives. But even with all of that, this still seemed a bit reckless.
However, our excitement mounted, because, when we told the boys the plan, they lit up and Drew started researching it in every way he could. Being part of his thirst for learning can be exhausting at times, but it is also incredible. He checked out books from his school library and asked us to read not bedtime stories to him at night, but rather facts about specific species of fish found near the Reef. He looked up videos and photos on the computer. He read on his own whatever he could find and asked questions. He just can’t learn enough about it.
At one point, he coincidentally saw a bit on the kids’ channel evening news about the Reef being in danger. He asked Steve if this was true and when he learned it was, he said, “Well, we should raise money to save it.” I started making dinner that evening and he burst through the kitchen (everything he does is big and fast and he never stops moving until he crashes hard at the end of each day), grabbed a couple oranges from the fridge and asked where my juicer was. When I told him to settle down, Steve told me to listen to his reason why. Drew said, “I need to make some orange juice to go sell on the corner to raise money to save the Reef.”
Wow. Ok. I told him that while I thought that was an incredible idea, he was not doing it tonight. He wouldn’t make any money and it’d be a waste of time and resources. However, I admired what he was trying to do and said we would follow through on it; we’d sit down in the coming days, have a family meeting and plan out when to hold a stand so that he could raise some money. Steve and I acknowledged that this was a teachable moment—it was a good way for him to learn how to plan and carry out an idea and event, and we wanted him to see that one person can make a difference. Since he often does have a pretty short attention span, and switches often from interest to interest, I thought there was a high probability that he’d forget about the idea now that he wasn’t enacting his plan immediately, and move on.
He didn’t. He kept after me, asking when our family meeting was to plan his treat stand. We sat down together one weekend in late August and picked a weekend. We decided on a Sunday morning at 9:00 because the church across the street held mass at 8:00, and he could get some decent traffic as people walked back to their cars afterward. We assigned jobs to each family member—he and I together wrote letters explaining what he was doing and asking local shops to donate some food and supplies. With the help of a conservationist friend, we researched various groups and picked an organization to donate our funds to. We contacted the Australian Marine Conservation Society (ACMS) to let them know and they were lovely. They got back to us right away and said they’d send some bookmarks, brochures, and stickers for him to pass out. He was thrilled!
We wrote to the local paper, hoping they’d include it in their weekly events section. He and Steve designed fliers; Steve printed them and then they, along with Zach and our gorgeous little neighbor friends, walked around the block putting them in mailboxes. I took him to the shops one afternoon after school and helped him practice what to say, and he handed out his letters and asked for donations. Oboys Fruit & Vegetable shop told him they’d donate some carrots and a young employee took a liking to him and offered to make homemade bliss balls for him to sell (they ended up also giving us potatoes and oranges!). Woolworths, the large chain grocery store got back to us the next day and said they’d donate a $20 gift card for him to buy supplies. He didn’t hear back from the two other shops we tried. That’s ok. He’s learning that you win some; you lose some and you appreciate the kindness people show.
He also brought his fliers to his class at school and his incredible teacher (this woman should make millions—she epitomizes what teachers should strive to be) arranged for him to meet with the school principal to ask about speaking at the school assembly.
The weekend before the event was absolutely crazy for us—it was too much, really, but everyone tolerated it well until Sunday night when, once again, Zach couldn’t stop coughing and we ended up in the Emergency Room. It was a quick visit and we were home with one medication, but everyone was so tired that I decided to not only keep Zach home from school on Monday, but Drew as well, just to give us all a chance to rest.
Well, the paper called that morning. Not only were they going to mention his stand, they wanted to learn more about it, and the fact that he was home that day, allowed them to speak to him directly. The article was printed that Wednesday in the little Northwest News.
And then things blew up and the power of social media reigned supreme! ACMS emailed me again that they’d seen the article and were inspired by his passion. They’d put the article on their Facebook page and were trying to organize a volunteer to come help us on the day—passing out information, answering questions, etc. They told me Fight for the Reef was putting the article on their page as well. I went to those pages out of curiosity and saw they have over 50,000 followers each. Those posts had over 200 “likes” each and over 50 “shares”. I started reading comments from perfect strangers and just sitting on my couch crying, reading all this surprise praise for my son, and even for us as a family. It was mind blowing!
Then the school called. A local AM radio talk show had contacted them and wanted to speak to Drew. He ended up getting to gymnastics late that afternoon because he talked to them first. Then they put the interview and a write up of it on their Facebook page and website!
Steve and I of course started sharing all this stuff as well and so did some of our friends. Then school friends just started offering help. People just would come up to me and tell me they’d bake cookies or muffins and bring them by. Wow—ok–thank you!
On Friday he did speak at his school assembly and, of course I’m biased, but I think he rocked it! I can’t believe his confidence speaking alone in front of people at 6 years old! I sure didn’t have that then. Then those same organizations shared his flier on their Facebook pages, reminding people to show up on Sunday. More friends kept offering baked goods—even the office coordinator at the ACMS emailed that she’d bake muffins and bring them by. At school that afternoon, his whole class along with their 6th grade buddies made signs for the event (of course, coordinated by this extraordinary teacher). We received 22 “Save the Reef” signs to bring home and hang up.
Sunday arrived and it couldn’t have gone better. Our little corner filled up that morning with school friends, homemade baked goods, and fish-themed t-shirts. And signs—so many signs, so much beautiful kid artwork! Friends offered tents and tables and Steve and I both made sure to keep it a kid-led and kid-organized event. ACMS showed up and brought Drew a t-shirt that said “Sea Guardian” on the back! He changed into it immediately!
Strangers kept coming through telling us they’d seen it on Facebook, or some in the local paper. Classmates and their families came by. We had a steady stream of people and about five 6-7-year-olds remained fully focused and committed to their tasks for nearly 2 hours! Adults helped, chatted, met each other, took photos—strangers wanted their photo taken with Drew and his sign! People thanked us for doing something to bring the community together, commented on how beautiful it was seeing kids working together for a good cause. And it was—it was SO, SO good! You just couldn’t help but smile.
He raised over $450! From a treat stand! The ACMS is thrilled and blown away!
We wanted to show our son that one person can make a difference. I think he learned that he can and I hope that stays with him forever and he never becomes cynical and doubtful. But I also hope he learned that it’s the support of the community you are a part of that really make big things happen. He is truly surrounded by an incredible community. I hope he learned that it’s showing kindness to others and really getting involved in the community around you that bring the greatest rewards. I think he knows that. He loves his people. And he knows that it’s not just about what’s local; it’s global. His grandparents in Colorado donated and his uncles and friends in the States also showed tremendous support. A cousin even tried to get him on the Ellen DeGeneres Show!
So it’s ok that we planned a trip when we really didn’t have the money to be planning trips. It’s ok, because look what resulted from that reckless act by Steve and I to focus more on experiences than “stuff” and finances! And you know what, the week after our panicked budget discussion, I was able to secure three additional yoga classes per week at a beautiful yoga studio in Samford (my goal was two more per week, as long as each of my classes are well attended—we’ll work on that!). I’ll be part of an incredible, kind team of people who seem as excited to have me and kids classes on their schedule as I am to be there and join them. I also got a new freelance writing project from a client I hadn’t heard from in two months, out of the blue.
Yeah. It’s ok. We took a leap of faith by planning the trip, another one by planning this fundraiser and another one by committing to these yoga classes. Beautiful things can happen when you take that leap, not always, of course, but they can happen. And you never get to witness them unless you actually leap. Life’s not about being careful and scared. It’s about going for it, giving as much as you can and LIVING!