Have you joined the 93 Dollar Club?

I’ve been that woman, groceries all rung up, ten people in line behind me eager to get home at the end of a tough day, looking none too happy as I tear apart my purse looking for my checkbook, loose cash, or my credit card…and I can’t find anything…anywhere. “I must have left everything in my other purse,” I mutter apologetically as I keep looking, sticking my hand in pockets, telling my son to put the candy bar back, counting my change. I’ve got forty-three, no, forty-four cents. I stop. Nothing close to the $45 I need to take home dinner for my four hungry boys. I struggle to control the rising flush of embarrassment, ignore the impatient murmurs from the line, and appreciate the efforts of the trying-her-best-to-be sympathetic cashier. “Just leave your cart here,” she offers, “Come back when you find your wallet.” I promise to be back as soon as possible.

I’m relieved when I find my wallet quickly, retrieve my groceries and get dinner on for the crowd of whining, gnashing teeth. (Yes, I do live on the Island of Where the Wild Things Are…)

Dinner at 9 PM on a school night = not a good day.

So when I read about Carolee Hazard’s random act of kindness, paying for a total stranger’s $207 grocery bill, rescuing Jennie Ware when Jenni was having a day like most of us have had at one time or another…I just had one question: Carolee—where do you shop?

I need a neighbor like you.

Upon arriving home, feeling simultaneously proud and worried she’d just been scammed, Carolee posted on Facebook what she’d just done.

I’m sure she was as relieved as I was when I found my wallet, when almost immediately, Jenni paid her back. Jenni rounded up the check amount from the $207 loan to an even $300 – a $93 tip for Carolee’s compassion together with a sweet note saying Carolee should “treat herself to something nice.”

Naturally, Carolee went back to Facebook to report to friends that in fact, she’d been repaid, she hadn’t been scammed, there are good people in the world, and she’d even gotten this bonus money. And she asked for suggestions as to what to do with the money. Her friends are clearly a whole lot like Carolee because while I would have lobbied for the Dead Sea Scrub Facial at the salon, her friends’ recommendations included the Second Harvest Food Bank in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties.

Given she’d helped a woman take dinner home to her family – it was a better idea than mud on your face. A lot better.

Carolee liked this idea and matched the $93 with her own and sent it in. And of course, she reported her decision to her friends on Facebook.

Before long, her friends were matching the $93 and friends of friends were sending in $93 and then friends of friends of friends so Carolee set up a Facebook group called The 93 Dollar Club for families in need. Today, that group has 3300+ members and according to the Second Harvest Food Bank, one donor even gave $9300 in memory of her mother. As of November 30, 2010, the Facebook group had raised $113K+ from around the world – proving once again…there is good in all things and forgetting your checkbook isn’t the end of the world.

Practice for today: In honor of Pay It Forward Day – donate $93 to your local foodbank OR collect $93 worth of food from your overstuffed cupboards, unplug the kids from the video games (I’m speaking from personal experience – you might need to have a “unexpected” power outage) and take them with you to deliver a little comfort on a tough day. We’ve all been there.

And join the 93 Dollar Club on Facebook – just be sure to post it on your wall.

Being the Change

In 2007 Shawn Ahmed, a 29 year old Canadian from Toronto, heard the lecture that changed his life.

By many people’s standards, Shawn was on the cusp of “making it”… his parents, Bangladeshi immigrants, had worked hard, as had Shawn to get him to where he was at — a graduate student on scholarship at the prestigious University of Notre Dame. And then he went to hear Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, twice listed by TIME magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world, talk about his book, “The End of Poverty.”

“Sachs talked about how it’s our generation’s responsibility to end poverty,” said Shawn. More than inspired, Shawn felt called to do something. He quit graduate school, packed his bags, grabbed his laptop and camcorder, withdrew the meager savings he had, and flew to Bangladesh to see how he could make a difference. Shawn acknowledges that not everyone in his family understands and supports what he did next…in fact, some of them probably thought he’d lost his mind.

He didn’t have an MBA, he didn’t write a business plan, he didn’t start a nonprofit, he didn’t start working for a charity, he started doing something – one project at a time. Shawn started the Uncultured Project, using social media (YouTube, Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, & a WordPress blog) to connect people to his personal fight against global poverty. “It’s my journey to try and make the world a better place – one meaningful difference at a time. It’s about inspiring others to believe that we can be the generation that ends extreme poverty. Hopefully, this project can also show the big multinational organizations that there is a better way to engage people on the issue of global poverty.”

Shawn’s story reminded me of a story my friend Bill shared about driving his red and white VW bug in 1963 from Munich to India to work with Vinoba Bhave. Bhave was walking across India talking people into giving him their land and redistributing it the landless and untouchables. Bill was 20 years old. I’m sure his friends and family were a little worried he’d lost his mind too, but in the end, by following his heart, he changed the world. Today he is the founder and CEO of Ashoka and considered the “father of social entrepreneurialism.”

And Shawn’s work, with the support of the YouTube community, has made a significant difference. In less than four years, Shawn and the Uncultured.com community has helped rebuild a school, provide scholarships, disaster relief, food, clean water, school supplies, and much more in both Bangladesh and around the world. Today, the Uncultured project has over 4,300 Facebook supporters and 37,000+ YouTube subscribers.

All because a man heard a message, took a chance and followed his heart.

Daily Practice: just for today, follow your heart

Thanks to Kevin Espirito of Sammamish, Washington for the story idea!

Partners in Health

Good in All Things is proud to feature the Partners in Health’s video “Walking the Walk” in our first issue. “Walking the Walk” follows survivors of the Haitian earthquake, many who have lost limbs, learning to not only walk again, but serving as an inspiration, and mentor to others who have similar struggles.

Partners In Health (PIH) was founded in Boston by Paul Farmer, Thomas J. White, and Todd McCormack to support activities in Cange, Haiti. They are joined in this effort by Ophelia Dahl and Jim Yong Kim, also a medical student at Harvard. These activities now include schools, clinics, a training program for health outreach workers, a mobile unit that screens residents of area villages for preventable diseases, and an ongoing study of sickness and health among the peasants of rural Haiti that will form the basis of Farmer’s 1992 book, AIDS and Accusation. Paul Farmer, and PIH, was the subject of Tracy Kidder’s book, Mountains Beyond Mountains. (To learn more about Partners in Health, click here)

I Saved Lauren’s Life*

The name of Lauren Larsen’s inspirational video is “I Saved Lauren’s Life.” It’s an amazing story of people from all walks of life who donated the blood that saved Lauren’s life. Lauren and her husband Jeff brought many of the donors together to say thank you, and to recognize their heroic act. Check out — “I Saved Lauren’s Life.”

Lauren Larsen’s life made a dramatic shift in the spring of 2000 when complications during her one and only pregnancy landed her in intensive care for five weeks. During her hospitalization she required roughly 200 pints of blood, platelets, and plasma, without which she would have internally bled to death.

One year into her lengthy recovery, Lauren launched a grassroots “give back” campaign, 2001: A Blood Odyssey, to honor the volunteer blood donors who had helped save her life. As part of this effort, she and her husband, Jeff, ran the 26.2-mile New York City Marathon in November 2001, raising $40,000 and 535 units of blood for nonprofit blood centers. [Read more...]