My phone pings me every day with a “this day in history” note. Yesterday’s was about the founding of the American Red Cross in 1881. I already knew that Clara Barton was instrumental in the beginnings of the Red Cross, but didn’t realize that she had worked with the International Red Cross during the Franco-Prussian war and that she began lobbying for an American organization when she came home after that. She headed up the Red Cross well into her 80s.
This tidbit of history caught my eye because the very first charitable work that I headed up was for the Red Cross. I don’t remember what was going on in the world and I also don’t remember how I got interested, but when I was in the sixth grade, I started a drive to make care packages that were sent to the Red Cross. My school let me mimeograph some flyers and kids brought items that we used for our kits: soap, washcloths, socks, toothbrushes and toothpaste. We had two or three meetings to put the packages together using paper lunch bags. I don’t remember how many we made, but it seemed impressive to me at the time. I felt very proud when my mom drove me to the Red Cross center to turn them in.
Like I said, this was my first organized good work but not the last of my support of the Red Cross. The following summer a friend and I went all over the neighborhood (repeatedly) with a wagon, collecting pop bottles from people. Then we carted them up to the Kelloggs store and collected the refund, which we donated to the Red Cross. It wasn’t very much, but it felt like we were doing something important.
Do you have a cause that you’ve been passionate about?