It is hard to believe that it’s been two years since the release of Paddle for a Purpose, in April of 2018. And even harder to believe that we find ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic, the likes of which I’ve never seen during my lifetime. I hope that wherever you are and whatever you are doing, you and your loved ones are safe and well.
I know that the nearly constant negative news we hear can be daunting. Add to that the argumentative nature of conversation surrounding the issues it presents, and it’s tempting to fall into a paralysis of fear. Gene and I are doing our best to stay safe, devoting time to social connections in the absence of physical ones, and helping out wherever we can in small ways. Like Fred Rogers learned from his mother, we find that looking for acts of kindness and generosity help to fend off fear and to inspire hope. We have seen the heroic efforts of health care workers compassionately treating an onslaught of patients in overcrowded hospitals with a dearth of medical equipment and PPE. We’ve watched people in their communities line the streets and applaud from windows and doors as shifts change and exhausted doctors and nurses head home to get some rest before starting over again. Sewing machines, in closets everywhere, are dusted off to create masks for family, friends, and hospital staff. Companies change production lines to help make ventilators, shields, and meals for those in need. Grocers, restaurants, and small retail stores continue to show up, offering curbside service to keep others safe. And not without pain, some businesses close their doors and lose precious income, some even furloughing employees to help flatten the curve. Artists of all kinds record performances, providing entertainment, encouragement, inspiration, and sometimes just a good dose of relief. And efforts of those who govern around the world, disagree as they might, come from a desire to fend off a common invisible enemy. Gene and I hope that during this time, you are able to take comfort in the small gestures you see around you. We will get through this together!
As you can imagine, book promotion is taking a back seat to other, more pressing things right now. From the beginning, Gene and I had faith that God would use our story in God’s own way, and that our job was to be available and show up. Whatever book sale profits we receive are donated to the charities, but these are merely small supplements to large budgets. In our second year, we were able to divide $800 between nearly half of the organizations, and will donate next year’s profits to the rest. We have, however, been fascinated to see God working through connections between people to bring the stories of our journey to new reading audiences. Here are a few highlights:
After meeting with an area book club, Gene and I were invited to speak to the Waukesha Chapter of WREA, a retired teacher’s organization. As a result of that meeting, I became a member. Since the Waukesha WREA is hosting this fall’s State Convention, I volunteered to help present a breakout session to encourage retired teachers to publish their own stories. In addition to agreeing to that, the organizing committee asked me to be the keynote speaker. Hmm. Didn’t see that coming.
For my birthday, Gene bought me a promotional program to send information about Paddle for a Purpose to libraries around the country. But first, I needed to request some professional reviews. I sent the reviews to the promotional company and posted them on our website. One of the review companies entered my book in a contest and it was chosen as the first place winner of the 2019 PenCraft Award for Literary Excellence in the category of Memoir. It was fun to travel to Louisiana to accept the award, but in the end, it may help persuade librarians to order Paddle for the library shelves in their communities. Hmm. I had no idea.
As a member of the Planning Committee for the Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books, I help coordinate visits by published authors to area schools. Last fall, I had the opportunity to speak to the English classes at Pewaukee High School about writing and publishing. One of the students brought our bookmark back to his father, an avid kayaker himself. His dad, Jeff, already knew us, but didn’t know we kayaked. He recognized us, instead, through the volunteer work we did with the Outreach for Hope family bike ride, which he helps to coordinate. Jeff read Paddle, then asked to use our book and its mission for this year’s Outreach for Hope event, adopting the motto, “Pedal for a Purpose”. He invited us to do a presentation for the event volunteers and encouraged book clubs from Milwaukee Synod Lutheran churches to read and discuss Paddle for a Purpose. Hmm. I couldn’t have planned that if I tried.
As a result of the same Pewaukee connection, I developed a friendship with Christine Nekas-Thoma, one of the high school English teachers. When she discovered our kayak trip was a response to God’s call, she confided that she was working on a book about listening to God’s whispers. I read the manuscript she’d been working on for years, gave her feedback, and recommended AllWriters’ Workplace & Workshop to help bring it to completion. She did just that, and is currently submitting her manuscript to publishers. Keep an eye out for “God’s Whispers: A Gateway to Hope.” I’m sure it’ll be published soon. Hmm. Often, it’s not about me at all!
And one more example: In one of my online memoir groups, I read a post by Karletta Marie, a resident of Cyprus, looking for inspiring stories. I shared with her about our kayak journey and found we had a connection of mission, both endeavoring to encourage and inspire others by sharing stories of kindness, compassion and inner strength. She read Paddle, and published one of the stories from the book on her website. Check out her site, Daily Inspired Life. May you find stories of others that lift your spirits and offer motivation to keep on keepin’ on! May you then help inspire others by sharing the beautiful things you see!
Stay well and stay inspired,
Barb and Gene