Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Lemonade Ripple

ROSEMARY HARRIS: Paying it forward? Random acts of kindness? Here's one man's story that we at JR hope will create a ripple effect among our readers. And to help it along, our guest is offering five free books to commenters.
PAUL REICHERT: The holidays are prime time for acts of charity and year-end philanthropy.  There are all sorts of motives.  If you ask my kids, it’s to gain favor with Santa and avoid his naughty list.  Others may do it to please their accountant.  Whatever the reason, around this time of year people wonder whether they should be giving more, or doing more, to help those less fortunate.  Quite often, though, simply giving or doing as much as you’re able, which may seem small to you, can have a huge impact – more than you may realize.  That’s one  message I thought kids should hear, so I took time out from my day job as a litigator with a law firm in Washington, D.C., to write and illustrate a children’s book, The Lemonade Ripple:  A Sweet Story of Kindness and Charity, published this year by Sky Pony Press.  In the story, one girl’s act of charity – starting a lemonade stand to raise money for a friend in need – sets off a ripple throughout her town, as more and more kids (and adults) are motivated to greater acts of charity for the same common good.  It’s a simple lesson to learn, and one I wanted to expose to kids at an early age so that they’ll become life-long givers and active participants in their communities.

The Lemonade Ripple is already creating a ripple of its own.  Schools have adopted the book and encouraged students to create school-wide “ripples” of community service.  It’s been rewarding to see them open a coffee and doughnut stand on their street corner before they catch the school bus. Or launch a neighborhood coin drive, or host a basketball tournament in their driveway, and then pool their proceeds to donate to charity.  Hopefully they have realized another theme of the book – that charity doesn’t have to be a chore; it’s a lot of fun!  What kid wouldn’t have fun squirting their friends with a hose at a car wash fundraiser, or racing kayaks down the river in a charity boat race?

I was also inspired to write The Lemonade Ripple by the work of a national charity, The Foundation for Community Betterment, to which I’m donating all of the author proceeds.  They make their own philanthropic ripples with short-term financial help to people who are generous with their own time or talents but who are undergoing a sudden medical or personal crisis.  And they put the “fun” in fund-raising by funding their grants through social activities such as golf tournaments, casino nights, concerts, and an annual paddle race down the St. Lawrence River in upstate New York that’s captured in the story.  The Foundation has donated copies of The Lemonade Ripple to libraries across the country.
So while it’s rewarding to make a big splash with a year-end donation, I’ve learned in writing my book that it’s just as gratifying to start a long-lasting ripple of generosity.

Paul Reichert is a life-long cartoonist and illustrator, but after flipping a coin between law school versus art school, Paul became a lawyer and spends his days as a litigator at a law firm in Washington, D.C. Yet he remains a cartoonist-by-night and at heart. The Lemonade Ripple is his first children’s book. Paul lives in Potomac, Maryland with his wife and two daughters. Visit him at www.lemonaderipple.com
ROSEMARY HARRIS: Has Paul started you thinking about creating your own ripple? We hope so - let us know what your ripple idea would be. And come back tomorrow for pix and all the dish from Sisters in Crime's New York Chapter holiday party...


  1. What a heartwarming and inspiring story! I love the “ripple effect” term! I think the idea of helping others “just because” isn’t really new . . . Rosemary does it, helping to build homes for Habitat for Humanity . . . children have done it for years, collecting pennies for UNICEF instead of trick-or-treating for candy . . . communities and church groups have established long-standing clothing ministries, food banks and soup kitchens . . . the list is l-o-n-g and people have “been at it” for the common good for many years. Like Rosemary, we’ve helped build houses for Habitat; we’ve fed folks who were hungry; we’ve plucked names from Angel Trees to help make sure all children will have presents at Christmas.

    I believe that most of the folks who do these sorts of things aren’t in it for the recognition or for “glory;” they’ve simply seen a need and done whatever they could to address it. Children have a unique propensity for sensing need and creating unique ways to address that need --- and helping them discover the joy in helping others is perhaps the brightest spot at the heart of the "ripple effect" Paul's book is creating.

    Here’s hoping “The Lemonade Ripple” will make people more aware, stimulate more involvement . . . help people to see that we are all at our best when we are helping someone else.

  2. Paul, what a sweet and wonderful thing to do.

    My little ripple was to start a culturally-appropriate counseling program at our local Native American center back home. I counseled without pay at the center for about ten years and started a field education program there, for theology and ministry students from my own graduate program. Non Native students gained experience in the community, and Native students were encouraged to consider working in their own indigenous communities after graduation. My school paid the students and awarded them course credit as well as completion of experiential requirements toward their master's degrees.

    Because the center did not have to pay me or my students, they had the special benefit of allowing Native clients to begin counseling before documentation of tribal status or other requirements. Everyone could be accommodated in a timely way.

    I would like to see everyone give some of their skilled professional time to those in need. If you can give without making people prove their need, that would make it possible for many people to benefit. I know a lot of people in need who do not fit the income eligibility requirement for assistance, yet due to high expenses for a disability, for example, do not meet the criteria for aid.

    I got the idea for starting my little contribution from someone's having done it for me once.

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  4. This is a different Paul, not the one from The Ripple Project? http://theripplesproject.org/
    I have been a subscriber (email) to this website for a few years -- and I love the concept.

    It was Robert Kennedy who said, “Each time a man stands up for an ideal or acts to improve the lots of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

    I have lived long enough to see this in action.
    In DC, for 15 years, I volunteered in an "I Have a Dream" program, working with 72 young people from when they were in second grade until today.
    I also mentored in a program called "College Bound," and spent Wednesday evenings working nearby one of our Dreamers who is now in grad school!

    Another Dreamer is getting an MSW, and we have teachers, construction workers, home health aides, and many other productive citizens among our cohort.

    I love ripples!!!!! This book sounds super.

  5. OH, what a gift, thank you!

    I ..well, I'm a tv reporter, so I hope that counts.

    But my favorite things is leaving tips without letting the recipient know who left them. My little personal ripple.

  6. You go! (As my kids might have said) What a brilliant idea. AND you not only had the idea but followed through with it.
    Well done.

  7. Paul, what a great idea! And your book will make a great gift (I already have people in mind.)

    I think most people want to help their neighbors and others in need. My latest little ripple was speaking to elementary school classes that had met their reading goals--organized by our local Kiwanis club, which does SO much to help less advantaged kids.

    And you're right--it was hugely fun, one of the most rewarding things I've done in ages, and I'm doing it again in January.

    Thanks for all your efforts!

  8. Thanks for the terrific comments on my post so far. It's great reading about all of the good works everyone is doing! In response to Denise Ann, I'm not Paul from Wisconsin and I didn't know about the Ripple Project, but I'll check out his site - good to know there's another Paul making ripples.

  9. Hank, you're reporting inspired me while I was in Boston. While you were always very glam, you made it look like you were just doing the right thing for your neighbors, for people one-on-one... standing up for what is right. The challenges you took on, on the air, spoke to me with a "keep-at-it" message that meant everything to me at that time. I just want you to know. xoxo

  10. Hi Paul,
    What a great idea! I always think of the ripple effect when I'm driving. But I think it has to do with everyday life as well as with larger acts of time and generosity.

    WHen someone waits and lets me go, I always let someone else go next. Sometimes I start the ripple, sometimes I just keep up the ripple, but I'm thinking that everyone probably does that.

    Thus diminishing the stereotype of Masshole driving.

  11. hoo, that's a big job Jan! driving near Boston always scares the pants off me:)

    this is a great idea Paul, thanks for stopping over and thanks to Ro for introducing us!

  12. Jan, if you succeed is that, they'll be canonizing you soon. The day we arrived in Tucson, someone cut us off in heavy traffic and crossed in front of four lanes of traffic, going the wrong way on a one-way street to make an illegal U-turn. My husband said, "Masshole driver." After he made the turn, we saw his front plate... Cape & Islands, Mass.

  13. There is a charity, called Alex's Lemonade Stand....started by a little boy and raising money for children who are cancer patients. All the kindnesses each of you describe are certainly inspirational. Thank you, everyone.

  14. Inspiring story and book, Paul! Thanks, Rosemary, for introducing us to Paul and his book.

    I do think many of us do what we can, but perhaps some people want to help but have no idea how. It's usually just a case of seeing a need and pitching in. But I know some people are reluctant to start something for fear that they might do it wrong. So the use of your book in schools to start teaching children how to help others is an excellent idea.