Okay, I won't start that early in the story. The plan for my son's birthday was to have a group come over, play paintball for about five hours, load them up with pizza and soda and cake, open presents, and call it a success. Now, it's important to state that my son has a social disorder, which can make his social life nonexistent. 10 kids were invited, and all planned on coming. (I was shocked. I don't mean to sound like a mean mom, but that was seriously a huge thing. He's a very solitary kid.) 4 had to back out at the last minute due to a change in Marching Band, but 6 is pretty damn cool for my son. They all showed up, pumped and excited, and the Mr. piled them into the SUV and off they went to the paintball range.
Just before they left, however, my son made a point of taking them into my office (I was in the kitchen baking his cake at the time.) He pointed out my framed poster of my movie, "Blood on the Highway," and pointed out my "stage name," then told them about my other movie, commercials, etc. Um, it's not like I'm in big Hollywood things. I do local commercials and indie films. I had a head shot lying on the printer, because if I get an audition call, I need to print off a resume, staple it to my head shot, and bolt out the door. These kids, however, seemed to think that was a huge thing and gave my son a little awed silence. I'm thinking, "This is going to backfire on him spectacularly." They left for paintball.
My daughter, who is only a grade behind my son was silently freaking out and hovering on the edges of the group before they left. Turns out that one boy (I spotted him instantly as the source) is "the hottest guy in school" and was in our house, ZOMG. She called her BFF, and they made a point of being near the group as they trudged back from playing paintball. They were all tired, amped up on adrenaline and testosterone, and in good spirits. When the guys saw my daughter and her friend, they COMPLETELY changed their demeanor. They clammed up, kept messing with their hair, and started in on that guy arm punching thing. HILARIOUS.
I was making monkey hoots in my head as an MSTK3 soundtrack. The totally cute dude (omg, with Fall Out Boy hair and impeccable manners) told me that he was shocked that "[The Mr.] was dropping a pretty penny on the paintball." He seemed to want to pay us, or something. Kid, the happy on my son's face is worth it. Half of the kids wanted cake, the other half didn't (I ordered 6 large pizzas for 7 teenage boys. They ate - barely - 3. What?? When did teen boys stop eating a million calories a day? Weird.) They all brought cash or gift cards for my son, which was very thoughtful, and gathered around the center island in the kitchen as he opened them all. One boy brought a complete set of Hardy Boys mysteries. !!!! The other guys ragged on him for a bit, then he said, "Hey, [my son] likes to read, he mentioned those, so I got them. That's what you do." My son was over the moon with the books. CUTE. I totally fell in love with that kid, too. Awesome.
On to the coin project! I had taken everyone's envelopes and mailers and boxed them up so he could see the postmarks. Not everything fit, so I rubber-banded the remaining together and got his attention, the whole lot in my hands.
"You know how I have that writing group online [that's what we call the livejournal, folks, roll with me, lol] and most of them live in other countries? Well. A few months ago I asked the group if a few of them might have their country's equivalent to our penny, and if they could send it to you, since you love to collect coins."
I have the whole group's attention now. The girls in the other room trying to look cool and get their attention were completely forgotten.
"Well, a whole bunch of them decided to help out. Not only that, but some of them told their friends, people I don't even know, and they wanted to get involved as well."
I handed him the box and other packages.
"Six continents are represented, and I think we have over 60 countries. Some of them don't even exist any more. A lot of people wrote you letters, too, wanting you to know about the coins, about their country, or just how they found them."
About five seconds of complete silence. I'm not even joking. They ALL had their mouths open. One kid, the Hardy Boys books kid, said, "How do you even know people from all over the world?" in a reverential tone, lol.
One of the other kids, the one with sandy blonde hair that kept jerking his head to the left to get his bangs to lay "just so," replied, "Duh, she's an actress." I can't help it, I lol'd. What?! Whatever.
SIDE NOTE: Another kid asked, "Do they all speak English?" I laughed and said, "Most other countries teach their students early on to read far more than their own language, and one of them is typically English." The Hottest Guy in School asked, "Why on earth don't we do that in America?" O_O I like the cut of his jib. HEE.
My son took the lid off the box and they all leaned over it, with an amazed "oooOOooooh."
My son absolutely did not know what to say. His brain was whirling so fast, I could practically hear it. I showed him the envelope from MIT. Three of the other kids were freaking out over it being from "The best school there is." Well, I'm inclined to agree with them, no offense to Harvard and Oxford, lol. :D
They didn't even try to open the packages at first, just marveled at the post marks. "Australia? New Zealand? Where is that?" Ahahahaha, I laughed, dovil, I really did. "Spain! Brazil! England!" I pointed out the package from Iceland, and I thought they all were going to hyperventilate. That's a big deal for suburban kids in Texas.
I could tell my son was getting overwhelmed, so I took the packages and told him that we'd go through everything together, one by one, when he didn't have to worry about friends being over. I also showed him the world map I bought him with stickers so we could mark each country as we discovered each coin's origin. I also bought him a photo album with clear pages and spaces to write, so we could put each person's coins in their own place, write down who gave him what, where it was from, and any other information they told us.
He kept coming up to me and hugging me. You guys are AMAZING. He really needed a few hours to process just how awesome that whole project was. Like, he couldn't understand that people would first of all be willing to help some random kid, and secondly, that they'd go above and beyond the call of duty with it. One lovely person sent a MASSIVE package of chocolate coins on top of the other coins mailed. My son passed them around and everyone ate their fill.
"This is the best chocolate I've ever had," one kid breathed.
I replied, "That's because it's from Switzerland, that's what they do, they make awesome chocolate. That and the Riccola horns and cool pocket knives." Lol. :)
All of the guys stayed an extra hour playing Rock Band (oh my god, the singing!! HILARIOUS) while my daughter and her friend tried to be too cool for school and make the boys love them through their bossy and distant behavior. My sister got me to realize that I needed to let my daughter be obnoxious, because it would make the boys NOT like her, thus sparing me from gray hair for another day.
As their parents came to pick them up, they' were asked "How was it? Did you have fun?" And before they talked about the paintball (which is a hugely popular activity here, half of the kids had their own gear) they talked about the coin project, how my son's family has all of these "cool friends all over the world."
gillo wrote a letter to my son in her package and ended it with, "It's good to make friends in other countries, I think!" His eyes kept darting back to that, and I knew he was thinking, "I have friends in other countries? I have friends in other countries!" My daughter mused about her long-ago pen pal from Russia that stopped writing back, and how she was jealous that my son had all of these new, potential pen pals all over the world. <3
And I swear to the god of your choice, I did not bring this up. He asked me if he could write you all back and tell you thank you. :) So keep your eyes peeled for a painstakingly written card (he struggles with writing, but he carries on) in very small type from a skinny Texan. There will most likely be some "fixin' to's" and "y'all's" sprinkled through out.
He did ask me if we could just focus on one envelope a day, because he felt overwhelmed by the sheer volume of data in that box, and he wanted to focus on each coin and give it its due, not to mention the letters written. The first we opened together was from gillo as I had opened it prior and knew it would have just the sort of information that would be an excellent starter. Also, she's a teacher, a mother, and was very very charming in her personal note to my son. She took the time to organize each grouping by country and then organized the coins by their amounts. She detailed why the coins were decorated as such, when they first began minting them in a specific way, and was so wonderfully descriptive, my son read the letter over three times, holding each coin as he read about it, looking at all of the markings she mentioned. My daughters joined in the lesson, frothing at the bit with wanting to hold them as well.
It might be funny to some of you (it was to me) when they realized that England didn't have a decimal system for their money, originally. Gillo broke down that "x# of pence = a shilling, x# of shilling = a pound," and such. My daughter was the first to realize that JK Rowling did something similar with Knuts, Sickles and Galleons. "I never got why they were such weird numbers, and not like our money. It just seemed so random." HEE. An extra lesson in cognitive reasoning, thrown in for free!
My girlfriend (the BFF) sent along money from India, Brazil, and Malawi. They were all proud of themselves for recognizing Mahatma Ghandi. "He inspired Martin Luther King, Jr., Mom," my son informed me. Oh, did he? :)
He did open up a package that contained "Mickey Mouse money" from the Japanese occupation of the Philippines. I gave him permission to take that to school today. He wanted to show his history teacher. <3 (He got a little teary after reading the letter that came with it - which also included a $2 bill! - and the enormity of people's kindness sank in. He kind of buried his face in the crook of his arm to get control of himself for a minute. I think he may have slept with that under his pillow. Thank you, Shoshana. It broke my heart with the happy, it did.)
We are going to have WEEKS of fun with this, I just know it. We certainly have weeks of material to work with, thanks to you all.
I honestly cannot stress enough how terrific you all are for making this happen. What a generous, lovely, and thoughtful bunch of people that I am just blessed to have "met." Every adult that I've told about this has just been baffled (happily) by the kindness of people when left to themselves. How people naturally WANT to do things for people. Oh, we have our issues, we humans, but little acts of kindness such as this (and I certainly don't see it as a little act, but I know some of you didn't think it was a hardship) just prove that ultimately, we can be simply good at our core.
What with the big crowd of people, any pictures we took didn't detail the enormity of the project, so I took a picture of my son with the box of coins/packages that was filled to bursting (I couldn't cram anything else in there) and all of the remaining envelopes fanned out (and three in his hands.) The very first package we received was the green foam with all of the coins affixed to it (temporarily, they can be taken off.)
The skinny dude with the ear to ear grin is my little guy. :)
I think now I will need to spread out all of the envelopes and let you all see just how many there are! I know that I wasn't able to get mailers to everyone, but I counted up how many people contacted me, and the final tally was 78. 78 people!! 10 of them were people that happened on my original post through FriendsFriends, they didn't know anything about me at all! We ultimately received 31 packages before I just couldn't keep up with any new offers, not that I didn't appreciate them, believe me.
I plan on cataloging each envelope's organizing and sorting - taking pictures along the way. I'll post them under a cut with the COIN PROJECT tag for those that want to scroll by, or for those that just want to check in occasionally.
Anyway, you made a birthday for a young man EPIC. All weekend long he would stop, come over and hug me, and tell me thank you. He meant it not just for me, but for you. He called both sets of grandparents and told them in detail about his "new friends." I've had a teary grin of gratitude all weekend due to people being so sweet to my boy.
You did real good. :)
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.