Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Penny’s Project: Better than Therapy

First, let me say that Stepping into Sunlight was one of my favorite books by Sharon Hinck (next in line: The Secret Life of Becky Miller which had me laughing so hard that I had to stop reading it while monitoring the nap room at the preschool I worked for at the time). While I’d never witnessed a violent crime as Penny did, I could relate to the debilitating effects of Post Traumatic Stress, and the depression and anxiety that come with it. Like Penny, I often found comfort in doing kind things for others.

After reading and loving the book I took Sharon’s challenge to put Penny’s Project into action. As it turned out this challenge came at a great time. Life in my house has been non-stop stress for the past several months and I had definitely hit the crash-and-burn stage. Some might have said, “Jeanette, you don’t have energy for good deeds right now. Just take care of yourself and let other people worry about being kind.” But just as in the past, when I often comforted myself by blessing others, I found that Penny’s Project was better than a trip to the counselor. Here are a few highlights from my list:

1) I was polite to a phone solicitor – I still said no to her offer, but I didn’t hang up on her, ask to be removed from her call list, or inform her that she’d interrupted dinner. I just listened, said a polite “No thank you,” and told her to have a nice evening. I figured what if I was the one who had to make a series of calls to people who didn’t want to hear from me? It might be nice to have one person who didn’t chew me out and slam the phone down. So I decided to be that person.

2) I helped a lady in the grocery store – Okay, all I really did was pluck a bag off the roller for her in the bulk food isle while getting one for myself. But she really seemed to appreciate it and on that particular day a small act of kindness really lifted my spirits.

3) I made homemade tamales – My oldest son LOVES tamales almost as much as I do and I’ve always wanted to try making them from scratch. So last week, even though I was sick and my tamale-loving son was doing a wonderful impression of a moody teenager who thought his mom was the biggest dork on the planet, I made a batch. Supposedly it’s usually a group project but I went ahead and did it myself (I made a small batch). In the process I had to borrow a streamer from a friend. When I returned it I gave her some of the tamales, tied with corn husk bow. I had so much fun that the next day I made salsa to go with them (we planted chilies in our garden for the first time this year and have them coming out of our eyeballs so I’ll look for any excuse to make use of them).

4) I sent cards – I topped off the week by sending a thank-you card to a couple that had done something kind for my family. Next I wrote a “thinking of you” note to a friend’s mother-in-law who in a nursing home.

5) I left my still-grumpy son a treat – As it turns out, my teenager is sick, so he has a good excuse to mope around speaking in grunts. To show him that we’re still friends I left a handful of mini Hershey bars by his laptop today, to find when he gets home from school. The note just says “Love Mom” signed with a smiley face. I considered adding a tongue sticking out of the smiley face’s mouth but that might count as a kind act.

It has been great fun to spread the word about Penny’s Project and Stepping into Sunlight. In fact, I already know of someone who needs this book for Christmas.


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