I believe that one of the most important things to learn in life is that you can make a difference in your community, no matter where you live. I have seen so many good deeds – people helped, lives improved – because someone cared. ~Rosalynn Carter
Ashley Mengoni saw a need in her community and decided she wanted to help. Ashley is the manager of The Essential Baking Company in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood, nestled five minutes north of downtown and three blocks from our Compendium office.
Inspired by the caffe sospeso (“suspended coffee” in Italian) concept of a “pending” coffee paid for by one customer as an advance donation toward another needy customer, Ashley wanted to implement something similar at the café. She recruited her fiancé Jimmy, and together they went to the hardware store and bought some wooden rods. Jimmy sawed the rods into small rounds, creating 75 tokens that the couple then glazed and painted with hearts and coffee cups. The concept was simple: a charitable customer could purchase a $2.75 token and it would remain in a glass jar near the cash register for anyone in need to inconspicuously use as payment for a cup of coffee.
The 75 tokens sold out at the café in three days. The suspended coffee concept was so warmly received by the community that Ashley and her team decided to expand it to include bread. One token bought a cup of coffee and two tokens purchased a suspended loaf of freshly baked bread.
Ashley and Jimmy have made hundreds more tokens in recent months. Impressed by the success of the tokens, The Essential Baking Company expanded the program to their other three cafés in the Seattle area. Ashley also regularly delivers tokens to Mary’s Place and Homeless in Seattle, neighborhood charities that work directly with the homeless.
It never ceases to amaze us the power that one individual has to affect the lives of others. Even if it’s a simple cup of hot coffee and slice of fresh bread, the kindness in the gesture is priceless.
Image copyright Rex Hohlbein, Homeless in Seattle.
There’s a special thrill that comes when you open your mailbox and, nestled amid the bills and ads, you find a letter addressed to you. The pretty postage stamp; the black time stamp marking the date and location of your sender’s locale—be it far-flung or close to home; the handwriting you instantly recognize as being that of a loved one or friend; the weight of the letter in your palm.
In an effort to promote literacy, creativity, and documenting history, the United States Postal Service has designated April as “National Card and Letter Writing Month.” At Compendium, we’re lucky to spend our days designing and writing greeting cards, books, and gifts that inspire and commemorate life’s important events—and this theme hits close to home for us in the very best way.
Two companies, Hello!Lucky and Egg Press, are teaming up with a campaign to inspire folks to write 30 letters to 30 different people every day in April. We’re so excited about this idea that many of our employees are taking on the challenge, and we’d like to extend the challenge to you, too!
Looking for ways to have a little fun and make the 30 days fly by successfully? Here are 10 writing ideas to spark your creativity:
1. Thank a teacher—past or present—for the value that education and their teaching has brought to your life (or the life of your child).
2. Write a letter to a senator or member of Congress.
3. Send a letter to a child or teenager who might not have familiarity with traditional mail. Include a self-addressed return envelope and encourage them to write back.
4. Surprise someone who lives with you by sending them a card or letter via post.
5. Recruit friends and mail a stack of cards to a nursing home or assisted living facility. Ask staff to give them to lonely seniors.
6. Honor the memory of someone who has passed away by sending a note of remembrance to their widow, widower, or child letting them know that person is always in your thoughts.
7. Leave a postcard of thanks for your postal carrier.
8. Photo cards are not just for the holidays. Print cards at a local drugstore with a current snapshot from your life. Surprise family members and friends with this personal memento!
9. If you’re unsure about what to say, practice your prettiest handwriting with a poem or quote and send it to someone special.
10. Join a pen pal site online and make a new friend in a country you’ve always been curious about. It could be a wonderful opportunity to practice a foreign language or learn about a new culture.
Will you participate in the 30-day challenge? We’d like to hear about it! Tell us your letter-writing ideas, successes, and stories in the comments below or on Facebook!
Angeline, our marketing coordinator, sat down with comedian Patti Vasquez, one of the talented contributors to our line of Frank & Funny cards, to get to know her and ask a few fun questions. Patti authored the hilarious and best-selling “Spanx” card.
Cover: “The creator of Spanx is a billionaire.”
Inside: “Of course she is. Because bacon and doughnuts are delicious.”
Patti’s love of stand-up comedy began while watching The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson when she was just five years old. Several years later, she watched Margaret Cho perform during a televised comedy marathon. Patti identified with Cho’s tales of her immigrant mother; it was then that Patti decided to share her own story and become a comic.
These days Patti considers herself to be a “comedy reporter”—picking out the funniest parts of everyday life and retelling them in an entertaining way on stage. Her bits range from stories about her mother to how wearing Spanx is like being a can of biscuits. (“You pop me open and all the rolls come out.”) Above all, Patti intends for her comedy to be a little bit gentle. “I’m humor with a heart,” she says.
Q & A with Patti:
Who is your favorite comedian?
Two of my favorite comics are no longer with us so my fellow comics can’t judge me or themselves based on my answer. I LOVE George Carlin and Richard Pryor!
What is your personal motto?
My personal motto is: “You can’t control everything that happens but you can control how you react.” I also love Buddha’s quote about anger: “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” I love it, but I’m not there… yet.
What is your guiltiest pleasure?
CHOCOLATE is my guiltiest pleasure. In any form. Ice cream, candy, chips, cookies, brownies, melted pieces in my purse.
What would be your super power?
My super power would be to eat as much chocolate as I want without gaining weight and not having to wear Spanx!
Our marketing coordinator, Angeline, had a wonderful idea for how she wanted to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year—using our ThoughtFulls Love cards. We asked her to share her plan (and a few of her sweet, secret notes her boyfriend!). We are so grateful she did. Check out her story below, and we hope it inspires you to create your own month of love this February.
I don’t mean to brag, but I have the best boyfriend ever. He brings me flowers when I least expect it, regularly makes the hour+ commute to visit me, and encourages me to act as goofy as possible.
With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I wanted to find a gift that expressed just how much I loved and appreciated him. So a few weeks ago I opened up a box of Love ThoughtFulls and began writing. Each afternoon, I took one ThoughtFulls card and wrote something that I loved about him on the back. It became a routine that I looked forward to each day.
Some of the cards were silly: “I love that you drink scotch and watch football. Your manliness makes me swoon!”. Other cards were more serious: “I love that you listen. Thanks for talking with me through my trials and successes.” By the end of the month, I had 30 unique messages for him. My hope is that he’ll open up one ThoughtFulls card every day during February so that warmth of Valentine’s Day can extend the entire month.
This holiday I hope you get the chance the cuddle close with someone special and share your love with them.
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When the people who work at Compendium think about what it means to do something good in the world--whether it's a kind word, a small favor, or a selfless act--we believe it creates a ripple. It's an image we're all familiar with--a stone dropped into a still pond that sends out ripples far and wide. But have you ever thought of yourself as the pebble? As the single point of impact that changes everything?
That's what we started thinking about last week when we read this wonderful article at the New York Times. It's all about the phenomenon of people "paying it forward" at coffee shops and fast-food restaurants--an example, one woman says, of "goodness gone viral." All over North America, people at drive-up windows are paying for the people behind them. And the most amazing part is that the recipients of that initial act of kindness often end up paying for the people behind them. Sometimes, a chain gets going that can last for hours. One string of cars lasted for over 200 people. 200. Can you imagine? Each of those people drove away knowing they had done something simple and kind and completely unexpected for a total stranger. That's at least 200 people whose days were made brighter and fuller, just because one person decided to start something good.
So today, or next week, or any time inspiration strikes, why not take this story as a little challenge? As a reminder to do something truly good and utterly out-of-the-blue for a perfect stranger? Then, come back here or join us on Facebook and tell us what happened. You'll feel good and someone else will feel good, but the best part? That's just the beginning!
Today's blog post comes to in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month from Christy Stickney, breast cancer survivor and loving mom. Thank you, Christy, for sharing your story.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer at age forty-two. It was one month before I was to get married to a remarkable man—a man who lost his wife to the very same disease. His two children had lived through watching their mom die. I have three kids of my own. We were supposed to be on a beach getting married with the five kids. I told him to walk away. I told him nobody should live through this twice. But he wouldn’t even consider it. So instead of a beach wedding, we had countless doctor appointments and got married in our church after a meeting with my oncologist.
My husband gave me my ring in the hospital parking lot. Within two weeks of my diagnosis, I got married, moved, and had a double mastectomy. My focus was to get that cancer out of me and get these five kids ready to start the school year. It was not time for wallowing. I was in fight mode and I knew I had to fight like I had never fought before. I was a mom and I had a lot of mothering left to do. I knew that no matter how much time I had left, no matter what my prognosis was, nothing would rob me of time with my kids. I am not a martyr. I simply love being a mom.
Our family was being robbed of so much, but I was determined to get through my surgeries and have another wedding on the beach with just the seven of us. My husband deserved that and so did the kids. No matter what, I would make that happen. My doctors fought me and finally relented. We made it to Maui that December. I was still in the midst of recovery, but was able to make the journey. It was an incredible experience for all of us. All seven of us understood the victory of that moment. It did not even have to be talked about.
I read so many books during my battle with cancer. One of the books that resonated the most with me was, There‘s No Place Like Hope by Vickie Girard. I love when she talks about receiving your cancer diagnosis. She says, “Diagnosis is like going to sleep in your own bed and waking up in a foreign country where you don’t know the language or the customs and you have no maps telling you how to get home.” That is so true and what strikes me is how countless people find the courage and strength to finally get home. We are mothers, sisters, daughters, wives, and friends. So many people count on us. However, we are warriors in our battle. We don’t give up. We continue to nurture those we love.
Her book also talks about how cancer causes us to think about life. “It causes us to listen to the inside of us more than we may be used to. Neither of these is a bad thing.” I see this as one of the most valuable things I took away from my cancer battle. I paid attention more. I worked on getting rid of the clutter in my life. I took stock in what I value. You are forced to spend your time wisely as you do not have the energy to do everything.
As I faced the chemotherapy part of my journey, I was scared. My kids were scared. My husband knew too well what was ahead for me. His daughter asked, “Why when everything starts going good does something bad happen?” I had to keep fighting. My oncologist gave me the news of needing chemo on the phone. I was at my son’s birthday party, it was a Sunday. I knew we would get through it. I looked for inspiration. I was still having so much difficulty from my reconstructive surgery. I love this quote from Eleanor Roosevelt in Compendium’s Hope book: “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” Never once during my cancer battle did I even consider giving up. In looking back on my journey, I realize there were so many things I did that I would have never thought I could do. I was laser focused on doing whatever was needed to beat this monster. I did not ask “why me,” instead I thought “why not me?” Receiving this diagnosis felt like being stabbed in the chest. I had two choices: lie there and wait for someone to take the sword out and save me, or pull the sword out myself, stand up, and fight. And fight I did.
I came out of this battle a changed person. A better person. A better mom. I cherish the simple things that I used to take for granted. This fall was the first fall in a while that I felt more like myself. I cherished the countless back to school shopping dates with the kids. I love watching my son play basketball. I missed many of his games. I got to go on a field trip with my daughter’s fifth-grade class this past week. I got to see my oldest child drive. That was a big one for me. It was the best, and I soaked up every minute of it. I am grateful this disease gave me clarity at such a young age. As Vickie Girard said, “This entire nation is populated by cancer survivors-everyday people who have beaten this disease. Let their success fuel your success!”
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For National Breast Cancer Awareness Month this month—a special time to honor cancer patients, survivors, and their loved ones—Compendium is proudly donating 10% of our profits from any online purchases at live-inspired.com to Shine via the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.
Owned and operated by the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, Shine is a wonderful, warm, and inspiring retail resource for those undergoing cancer treatments. Not only is the shop stocked with a bright assortment of jewelry, scarves, and trinkets, they also offer important items that cancer patients need—such as wigs, compression garments, prosthetics, and physical therapy goods. Shine even offers complimentary head shaves and wig trims. And all the proceeds go back to benefit patient family services.
Eileen Hood and Carrie L. Jacobsen, the hard-working managers behind Shine, explain that the store came from a true customer need—with patients approaching them asking where they could find wigs and breast prosthetics. And patients also needed a private and comfortable place to choose and purchase these essential items.
Shine has become a safe haven for its customers. With this disease that often leaves patients feeling scared and uncertain, Shine’s space is warm and inviting. Customers are met by a friendly, supportive staff of volunteers. “The people who run the register are volunteers who give their time and support,” says Eileen. “Many of them are cancer survivors so they have a great kinship with people. They’re beautiful smiling faces for people who are overwhelmed.”
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