If you’re anything like me you spend a lot of time traveling for work. Among other things, this means a lot of nights away from home in hotel rooms. I’ll bet I’m not the only one whom, as a result of all these hotel-nights, has managed to accumulate quite a supply of personally-sized soaps, shampoos, lotions, conditioners, etc.
In fact many fellow travelers probably have a drawer or a basket under a sink someplace that contains many dozens of these aforementioned supplies. Perhaps you even thoughtfully put a sampling of these out as a courtesy to house-guests from time to time. I know I have.
Or really, I should say “used to”.
About three years ago it was brought to my attention by my girlfriend’s family that all these individually wrapped personal care products were perfect for a group of people that needed them far more than either I or my house-guests; underprivileged kids in developing countries all over the world.
When this came up it occurred to me that what for me amounted to a sacrifice of a totally inconsequential nature had the potential to be a gift with great – dare I even say profound significance for others.
In my case the products I was bringing home ended up being carried to Thailand where they were given to an orphanage in a small town in the southern part of Thailand. To you and I these personal care products are at most a trivial convenience – we don’t experience any direct cost associated with the acquisition or use of these products and aside from making you look like the thoughtful host when your in-laws visit they mainly just take up space under a sink or in a drawer someplace, most likely gathering dust and ultimately destined for the rubbish bin when you do a spring cleaning or need to reclaim their space for something of greater tangible value.
Conversely, to the kids in the orphanage – and in every other place on the planet where there are kids that do not, on a daily basis, have access to things we take for granted – like soap, a toothbrush, shampoo or even a proper bath towel- these items can bring far more than cleaner teeth and skin.
I don’t see how anyone could consider this and not be impacted by the idea that something so basic could be so important.
When I was told that my “care package” had been delivered and that for these kids, many of whom have never had a birthday present or a single item of new clothing or really anything at all that they could consider their own, it was not only a source of improved hygiene, but much more important in my mind, a source of happiness, and a means to some improved self esteem, it became a mission for me to increase my impact in this simple but positive way – to take this same care package idea and extend it beyond a single orphanage and expand it to include many more kids in many more places.
You see, having a little pride in oneself, experiencing the transformation from being unkempt to smelling nice and having clean teeth is something that all humans from all cultures can understand. Everyone has experienced the difference in mental climate a hot shower and a warm bed can provide even on the worst day.
For me, the idea that some of these kids – through no fault of their own – have simply never had even a glimmer of these simple pleasures affects me deeply. It also motivates me that it is possible through my own small efforts that one child at a time, I can actually make a difference.
These days I’m a bit more aggressive in my efforts to collect the individual soaps and shampoos and other supplies that the hotels I stay at provide for me. For my own use I either bring my own products or at most open and reuse a single soap during my travel. I make sure to pack up whatever products are provided each day so that I get a fresh supply each time my room is made up and I frequently ask the housekeeper for additional product.
When I tell them why I want extra stuff they all, without exception, are only too happy to load me up with whatever I can fit in my bag. Hotel management might not like this practice too much, but for what they charge per night in a decent hotel they can afford a few cents extra so I can bring smiles to a few more faces.
Anyway, this got me thinking – if I could have the impact that I do all by myself, what would happen if I enlisted the efforts of my fellow tech-industry travelers? That’s the real point of this post. I want your help.
You don’t have to be as aggressive as I am about it, but if you like the idea of happy smiling kids – of providing something to the underprivileged at no real cost to you and if you want to quietly feel good about something you’re doing every time you’re on the road here’s what you can do:
Don’t waste the product you get in hotels each day. Open just one or at most two items – use them until they are gone but be sure to put them away each day when you leave the room so the housekeeper gives you fresh products. Don’t open these new ones. Just toss them in your toiletries bag or in their own plastic bag (the small plastic bag in your ice bucket will work nicely). Bring them home and put them in a box.
When the box is full send it to me and I’ll see that it’s delivered to someone who can really appreciate these products. In many cases the kids will say prayers on your behalf so if you appreciate those sentiments make sure your name is associated with what you’ve sent.
It’s a bonus if you travel business class and can bring back the small toiletries kits you get for the flight – these have even better items including new toothbrushes, combs, socks, etc. that these children need desperately.
Once you have a shoebox worth of stuff, post it to me as follows:
Soap Suds for Kids c/o Oliver Starr
411 West 5th Street #240
Los Angeles CA 90013
Your help will not only make my day, but much more importantly you’ll make the days of many other small people who need and deserve a good day far more than I do.
Please pass this message on and feel free to repost. The more folks that participate the more smiles we can create, the more self esteem we can foster and the better we can demonstrate that sometimes the smallest of kindnesses can also have the most profound impact upon all concerned.