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Once upon a time, loving grandparents lived far, far away . . .

The grandparents buy two copies of easy-reader books for their grandkids, 3 and 5. They keep one and send one to the grandkids. On their special night each week, they call just before bedtime. The kids snuggle up with their book, one on a phone extension and one on a cordless phone, and listen as the grandparents read their bedtime story.


A dollar an inch for scholarships



Locks of Love logo

When Catherine Puckering decided to cut her long blonde hair, she didn't just go to a beauty salon and plunk down her money. Instead, she sought supporters to pledge dollars for every inch she cut. A graduate student at the University of Washington, she designated the money to a scholarship fund. The hair was earmarked to make wigs for young cancer patients.

On the appointed day, she and those who pledged gathered in a city park where her hair was ceremoniously cut and measured. The hair was bundled up for Locks of Love, the money collected, and all enjoyed the park on one of Seattle's sunny days. (Catherine subsequently went to a hairdresser for a cleanup cut. Apparently just whacking off a long braid doesn't leave the hair looking its best.)

Hair donations for Locks of Love must be free of damage by chemical processing, clean and dry, bundled in a ponytail or braid 10 to 12 inches long, placed in a plastic bag and mailed in a padded envelope to: Locks of Love, 1640 S. Congress Avenue, Suite 104, Palm Springs, Florida 33461. For more information call (561) 963-1677, visit the web site at, or



Losing touch with your old gang? The Second Platoon story

Dan Dougherty of Roseville, California, was in the 2nd Platoon of C Company, 157th Infantry Regiment, 45th Division during World War II. After fifty years, when he retired, he began looking back on the significance of his experiences.

He created a newsletter about the men of his old outfit called Second Platoon. He had to pour over Defense Department records and he made over a thousand phone calls to track down the survivors of his platoon. The paper records their historical memories, including coming face to face with the Nazi horror of the Dachau concentration camp. With about four pages an issue, it has been published intermittently since 1995 and has a mailing list of about 200. (Reported by Art German in Neighbors, Sacramento Bee, 9 March 2000:7.)

How can a teacher help high school students enjoy the creativity of writing stories?

One high school teacher assigns students to write children's stories, and then has them read their stories to kids in a nearby elementary school. It's a big hit with both classes.




The Magical Gum Tree

Melinie diLuck tells the story of how her mother helped her Army brat daughter adjust to frequent moves. Wherever they lived, they had a "magical gum tree." When they moved, they chipped a piece of bark off and grafted it with tape to a tree at their new home.

Each year, as the dreary days of January dragged by, her mother would begin hinting that the tree was getting ready to bloom. Then one morning Melinie would wake to the magic words: "The gum tree bloomed last night!" Melinie would be up like Christmas morning, her mother fighting to get a robe and slippers on a girl ready to fly out the door to see the tree.

And there it would be in all its glory, each branch blossomed with a stick of gum! Melinie would shake the tree with all her strength, harvesting every stick of gum. And when she had gathered every one, she and her mother would settle in for a cup of hot chocolate and a gum count. And her new house would feel like home again.

As an adult, Melinie continues the family tradition.

Getting hard to tell your neighborhood from the dump?

In Philadelphia's Germantown, a section of town that Parade magazine described as deteriorating "into an area of run-down row houses and empty lots that have become open-air Dumpsters," one family decided to spend one day cleaning up one block. Michael and Tyra Cherry led neighborhood kids in pulling weeds, sweeping trash and hauling refuse. "Thirty years go," said Tyra, "every Saturday, people came out and cleaned in front of their properties." She hopes to start that tradition again. (Reported in Parade, 3 Sep. 2000:7).

Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty

Read some useful suggestions that tell how one man practices random kindness.

Hats on for Judi

When one colleague in an office, Judi, had to undergo chemotherapy, with its attendant hair loss and sudden disposition toward hats, the office wanted to show emotional support for her. Carole Wright came up with the idea of all of them wearing hats. Visitors to the site see a sign that says "Hats on for Judi." Everyone wears a white ball cap stitched with the company initials in maroon.

A condolence card from the world:

heart with roses

"From a California firefighter's heart, a place to post and share your feelings"
--web site

Virtual Condolences is a place where a stranger with compassion can offer condolences to survivors when a family member dies in one of the horrible tragedies that so dominate today's news.

The page was developed by Brian Kornegay in memory of his daughter Heather Meredith, 20, who died of an asthma attack. As he anguished in his own grief, the attack at Columbine High School occurred. He wanted a way to tell the parents of Columbine students they were not alone in their grief. The web site is the result. Visitors can respond to an incident posted on the web, offering comments and sympathy to the parents.

After a site receives many condolences, Kornegay prints the messages and sends them to the family.




Whose Turn Is It
to Cook?

This is an adapted extract from a proposal entitled 'Tug-O-War for household chores" by Robin Hanson.

A common problem is how to divide up household chores between two or more housemates. When both my wife and I were employed, we split the task of cooking (or buying) the evening meal with a "Tug-O-War" board.

This has a row of seven holes, with a peg sitting in one of them. The rule is that when you cook, you get to move the peg one step in your direction. If the peg gets all the way to your end, the other person has to cook. You can cook a few nights in a row if you feel energetic, or wait a few nights if you are sick. If neither of you wants to cook, the person farther down is expected to cook.

A triangular array of holes could be used for dividing between three people. For more people, you could use an array of holes, with one column for each person, and a peg in each column. When you cooked, you would move your peg up one step, except that if you were already at the top, you instead move everyone else down one step. You cannot cook if you are at the top and someone else is at the bottom.

Robin Hanson, 2433 Oswego Street, Pasadena, CA 91107, USA (tel 001 818 683 9153; fax 001 818 405 9841; e-mail: Check out other ideas from Hanson at


The Case of the Turnip Crossing Guard

Unusual ideas often meet with obstacles.

Davis, California, has an active farmer's market every weekend. One new Councilmember had the idea to dress a crossing guard as a vegetable to emphasize the farm theme. The Council promptly rejected the notion.

The police chief argued that motorists would be unlikely to follow the traffic directions of a carrot. He also suggested that the city would encounter legal problems holding motorists legally accountable for disobeying a vegetable.


A newspaper boy's route to charity

Wanting to make a difference for USA Weekend's annual Make a Difference Day, Adam Chesnut, a newspaper boy in Toronto, Ohio, hand-wrote a note to his customers asking them to donate used clothes and household items. His dad photocopied the note and Adam left it one morning with the papers. On the appointed day, after delivering his papers, Adam and his Mom made the route again, gathering up 50 large bags full of clothes for the local thrift shop.

Reported in "The Day that Makes a Difference," USA Weekend, April 17-19, 2000:4.


Soup Night

It's a blustery winter evening,cold and wet. You'd love to have guests over, but the thought of making a whole meal is just too much. So you let the winter go by, missing contact with those old friends who could warm your house with laughter and stories.

Soup Night is an easy answer. The invitation is clear:the first Sunday evening of each winter month, friends are invited over for an early supper of soup. If they want anything else, it's up to them. You cook up a big pot of your favorite soup, set out a basket of fresh bread, put on a pot of coffee, and create a tradition.