Sunday, December 31, 2006

Spare Change

It's New Year's Day 2007. Another year has ended and brought with it a year of hope and possibilities. Not a big fan of New Year's myself - I usually find it a little too reflective and instead of partying like it's 1999, I end up depressed about all the things I didn't accomplish and thinking of all that looms darkly before me in the year ahead.

But not this year. I had so many things to celebrate in 2006 and many more wonderful events planned for 2007 (ie. buying my first home, my sister's wedding, my cousin's wedding just to name a few) that moodiness was not on the menu; I enjoyed this New Year's Eve even though I didn't make it to midnight :)

But this post isn't about resolutions like trying to lose weight, cutting down on the chocolate (although I need to do both of those!) or watching less TV. It is about hope and it is about making a change, but maybe not in a way you've thought about before. And maybe it will move you to make a very important change in your own life as well.

It all started with my son (doesn't it always?) when he brought a letter home from school a few weeks ago that talked about a class project they were doing involving an organization called Pennies for Peace.

Pennies for Peace works with the Central Asia Institute to provide community based education in Pakistan and Afghanistan with a focus on educating girls who have historically not been permitted to attend school, for example during the reign of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

I think we all know what literacy can do to change the course of a life, but for these communities it can change the lives of an entire village or town. Literacy provides better economic opportunities, as well as loosens the grip of extremists who use fear as a weapon against those who are uneducated and feel that they have been abandoned by the world at large. In short, programs like these can literally change the world.

So what's with the pennies? Well, according to the organization's website: "The penny, 1% of a dollar, is symbolic of the '1% of Gross Domestic Product' goal set by the United Nations. The goal was for wealthy countries to give foreign aid to impoverished nations each year. . . A penny in the United States is virtually worthless, but in Pakistan and Afghanistan a penny buys a pencil and opens the door to literacy."

So my son's school is asking that the families of their students collect pennies at home and then bring them to school to be added to the collections of other students which will then be donated to the Pennies for Peace organization. Wow. What an amazing thought. By simply collecting pennies and combining them with the pennies of your friends and family you can change the lives of countless children - with just a few pennies. No wonder my four-year-old son is so excited. (No one gets out of our house without donating)

And I'm excited, too. It's a tremendous feeling to be part of such a wonderful program. So, yes, I'm doing it for selfish reasons. I'm going to be really selfish this year and work to make a positive, tangible change in the world. I think Pennies for Peace is a great place to start. Maybe your child's school would, too?

Or what about volunteering in a soup kitchen once a month, once every two weeks or even every week? Maybe the playground down the street could use some cleaning up, some fresh paint and some new equipment? Maybe your neighbor could use some help mowing his lawn or getting a ride to the doctor? Or maybe a grandparent loves to garden, but can't tend her own anymore; could you help?

So I encourage you to make just one promise to yourself in 2007, and to make it to the world. If we all just pitch in a little bit, great things can be achieved. Change begins with you. And when it's positive change, the effects will be felt not only by you, but by your family and the people that your family members touch and the chain of good will go on and on and on. There's no better time to start . . . Make this the resolution you keep this year and for all the years that follow.

This post is part of a blog exchange. My name is Nancy and I am the proud mother of two rambunctious boys, ages two and four. I've been writing fiction most of my life, but now have a new passion for blogging. You can usually find me over at Just Thinking . . . where I write about everything from family to politics to writing to, well, not much is off limits.

And to Damselfly, who you can find today over at Just Thinking . . ., thanks for letting me use your space :)


Blogger Damselfly said...

Thanks for encouraging all of us to get involved, Nancy! I had been volunteering one-on-one with a mentally ill woman for years until getting pregnant last year. I should go back to spending time with her again, I have decided, after reading your post. (guiltguiltguilt) Have a happy new year!

8:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love this concept -- the pennies charity as well as getting involved and trying to make a change.

With your kids, especially. They're never too young!

10:06 AM  
Blogger Julius Seizer said...

Not a fan of new year? Ah - but it's an ideal time to rethink, reprioritise, renew...

Not that one should wait for January 1st to work out whether they're on-track but it is still a golden opportunity.

All the best for 2007 anyway...


10:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like a wonderful cause and I love that the kids are involved. Thanks for sharing!

Happy New Year!

11:12 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

It' so awesome to get involved in your community whether it's on a global scale or a local scale. Pennies for Peace sounds like a great cause. Thanks for sharing the info with us all.

And what a great lesson to teach our kids.

11:40 AM  
Blogger Bobita said...

What an awesome idea...I'm on it. Seriously, this post has me all riled up and ready to gather some pennies!

Happy New Year!

11:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oddly enough, I was just thinking about how I needed to start volunteering again.

Before I was a Mom, I volunteered as a tutor at an inner city elementary school an afternoon or two a week. That's challenging to do with a toddler in tow, but things like you suggest are a good way to get my feet wet in giving back again.

1:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a great post and a great inspiring way to be more involved! Thank you!

2:18 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Thank you all for the positive feedback ... and if even one of you follows through with your thoughts of giving something back in 2007 - well, I don't want to get too cheesy - so I'll just say it would make me feel great, too!!

Thanks again, Damselfly, for being such a marvelous host. I look forward to checking in regularly :)

3:01 PM  
Blogger Amy Jo said...

What a fantastic idea! My husband is always leaving pennies at stores and restaurants because he doesn't have anywhere to put them. Maybe we'll start a penny jar.

3:09 PM  
Blogger Karianna said...

Cool! I hadn't heard of PfP. Thank you for sharing.

3:36 PM  
Blogger Alex Elliot said...

What a great idea! I hadn't heard of Pennies for Peace before.

6:09 PM  
Blogger PunditMom said...

This is a great idea! Thanks for letting us know about this. It is truly a wonderful gift we can give to others this year.

6:38 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

Great ideas!

9:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

sounds like a great cause, and a great kick start to think of so many other things to become involved with!

thanks for the inspiration!

11:14 PM  
Blogger Scribbit said...

What a nice idea. It reminds me of how my kids' school collected pennies after the tsunami two years ago. Happy New year.

1:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Boy you had me confused there for a while! Damselfly's son is in school already? Even more, she has a 4 year old son and we'd never heard about him?

We must have a guest blogger! How did I miss the announcement? And lo, there it is at the end.

Wouldn't it have made more sense to introduce yourself as a guest blogger at the beginning of your post? Or were you after the surprise element? ;)

Happy New Year to all! I'm still thinking about my goals for the year, but as always I'll be including volunteering in some manner. :)

12:32 PM  
Blogger Mamacita Tina said...

Charity work, always a great idea for the New Year, heck, anytime!

7:31 AM  

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