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If it were all up to me
The poor would have riches
And the blind man would see
The hungry would eat
And the weak would be strong
And the people with hatred would all get along
The ones who are greedy would start to share
And unfriendly people would start to care
The thirsty would drink
And the deaf person hear
And sorrow and sadness would all disappear
And that is how the world would be
If it were all up to me.
Sara Alfano, eleven
Where in the World Is Carmen?
My mother always told me, "Seize the moment of excited curiosity." In other words, go for it.
What can you learn from a teddy bear, a little bit of stuffed fluff that can't talk? One summer, my oldest daughter and the rest of our family learned a lot.
We had seen a program on television about a reporter who had hitchhiked across America. My daughter Ashley's first comment was, "I wish I could do that!" Of course, as far as my ten-year-old hitchhiking across America—that wasn't going to happen. But I wanted to encourage that spirit of adventure in her just the same.
Three years earlier, Ashley had been diagnosed with cancer. Ever since her surgery, she was shy and distrustful of new situations and new people. Although she is cancer-free now, the tests and scary procedures had made her reluctant to take risks or to venture outside her known world. I began trying to think of a way for her to "hitchhike" across the country without leaving home. That's how Carmen was born.
Carmen is a teddy bear that Ashley had received as a gift while she was in the hospital. We decided that sending Carmen in Ashley's place was a good compromise. So we purchased a notebook to serve as a travel journal and a bag for Carmen to travel in, and Carmen was ready to begin her trip. Ashley wrote this letter in Carmen's journal:
My name is Ashley and I am ten years old. One time on TV, I saw this story about how these kids sent a bear on a trip on a plane. Then I saw another story about how this reporter guy walked across America. Well, we don't live very close to a big airport, and Dad and Mom won't let me walk across America. Carmen can't walk, so will you please help her?
This is my bear, Carmen. She is a special bear. I got her when I had to go to the hospital. She wants to go to all fifty states if she can. But, she will need your help. (Maybe she can even go to Disneyland.) Mom says we can't go until she won't have to carry my little sister. Please let her ride with you and keep her safe. Tell her about yourself so she won't be lonely. I will miss her. So please take very good care of her. I let her wear my guardian angel pin to help keep her safe.
Write a little about yourself and then introduce her to someone new. She wants to meet as many new people as she can. If you keep her for more than one day, please try to write in the journal every day. Where are you going? Where did you pick Carmen up? Which roads did you take? Where are you from? How old are you? Do you have kids? Do you have sisters? I do and sometimes I don't like them. (Mom says I can't say "hate," but I can say that I don't like them, and some times I don't like them a lot!)
I think by about September she will be ready to come home. In her coin purse is $5.00. Please put her in a nice sturdy box with her journal and bag and send her to Sac City State Bank, Attention: Caretaker of Carmen Bear.
Someone there will keep her safe for me until I can pick her up. If you would like to hear from Carmen after she gets home, please leave your address in her notebook and we will send you a note and let you know when she gets home safely.
Thank you for taking care of Carmen, and thank you for taking the time to write in her notebook.
Your new friends,
Carmen and Ashley
Our family friend is a highway patrol officer. We asked him if he would be willing to start Carmen on her trip by taking her on his route for a day. That afternoon, he spotted a driver from out of state that wasn't wearing a safety belt. After pulling her over and letting her off with only a warning, Phil asked the driver to take Carmen on the next part of her journey. Naturally, she agreed. That's how Carmen began her tour of the United States.
Summer passed with a flurry of activities, family vacations, visiting grandparents and summer fun. Each day Ashley would ask if any packages had come for her. Each day the answer was, "Not today, Ash." By the middle of September we thought that the chances of Carmen returning home were slim.
Then on September 24, Carmen came home in a ten-inch-square box that had a postmark from Hawaii! The box was packed with mementos of all of the wonderful places and people that Carmen had met. A straw hat from Wisconsin, to keep the sun out of her eyes. An Indian beaded necklace from Cherokee, Oklahoma. An autograph from Mickey Mouse when she went to Disneyland. A picture of her celebrating the Fourth of July in St. Louis. Another picture of her floating in a swimming pool "catching some rays" while she was in Arizona. Carmen made it to sixteen states, including Hawaii. Not too bad for five months of travel!
But Carmen came back with much more than just "things." She came back with friends whom a ten-year-old living in rural Iowa wouldn't have had a chance to meet. Ashley wrote letters to all of the people who helped Carmen along in her travels. She thanked every one of them for their help and friendship to Carmen and her.
Pretty soon, word traveled around our small community about the traveling bear, and Ashley was asked to give a program about Carmen to a group of over one hundred people. Ashley ended her talk by saying, "Be kind to traveling bears! And if you need a traveling companion, let me know because Carmen still has thirty-four more states to go!"
Since Ashley's presentation, Carmen has become a world traveler. Once again, we are awaiting her return. She was expected home some time ago, and we very much hope to see her again.
I never would have dreamed that a little bit of stuffed fluff could have taught so many things: patience to see what things can happen if we are just willing to wait, the ability to imagine what wonderful things might happen, courage to take the chance and allow those things to happen, and faith to believe in people and in the goodness in their hearts.
My favorite part of the story? After reading the journal, looking at the pictures and tracing the roads that Carmen had traveled, I opened the zippered coin purse that Ashley had sent with Carmen. Inside, folded in half, was the five-dollar bill that Carmen had left with five months ago.
Trash Bags Are for Trash
What do we live for if not to make life less difficult for each other?
I walked through the den on my way to get ready for bed and looked once again at the amazing mountain of duffel bags. Each bag had a stuffed animal, a luggage tag and a note from me inside of it. The pile of bags went from floor to ceiling, more than five thousand bags, enough for each and every foster-care kid in three states. My dream was coming true—big time.
After I went to bed, right before I went to sleep, I closed my eyes and thought back to when it all started ... when I got the idea for my dream....
I had been in second grade when I went with my two brothers and my parents to Paris, France. My brothers, Brock and Cory, and I had entered an essay contest about what we were going to do to change the world to make it a better place to live. We won and were chosen as three of ten kids who would represent the United States at the Children's World Summit. Nine hundred kids from around the world were chosen to meet with each other and talk about world issues. We exchanged ideas on solving the problems in our world today and had lots of fun during the days we were together.
While I was there, I met two foster-care kids. They were two boys, and after getting to know them, I learned a lot about what foster-care kids go through. They told me that when kids go into the foster-care system, they don't just lose their parents and their home, sometimes they are also separated from their brothers and sisters. Not every foster-care home wants to care for an entire family of kids. Foster-care kids also lose most of their toys and clothes. They told me that when the kids are picked up from their home by a social worker, they are given only a trash bag to put their few belongings into. This trash bag is what foster-care kids carry with them when they are moved from home to home.
I felt really sad when I heard this. I couldn't even imagine what life would be like without my family and home— much less what it would be like to have to live out of a trash bag. Trash bags are for trash, not for kids to carry their belongings in.
After I came home from France, I saw an after-school movie that was about a girl living in foster care. It was just like what the boys had described to me at the Children's World Summit, and it made me cry. Right then I decided that I wanted to help foster-care kids. These kids needed my help, because they were not being respected like they should be.
My whole family is into volunteering. Brock and Cory had started a project after they saw a show on television about some kids who died in a fire. The kids had died because the fire department didn't have this special camera that can see through smoke to find people in a burning house. My brothers began Project Rescue Vision in 1996 to raise needed money for our town's fire department. Of course, I helped too. I was only four years old, and I was the "President of the Art Department." My job was to hand-color all of the information envelopes that were given out. I helped them until I was seven. Then I began my own project for foster-care kids.
I started by asking my mom to stop at garage sales when I saw suitcases or duffel bags for sale. I would tell the person who was having the garage sale what I wanted to do with the bags, and most of the time they gave me the bags for free. I tried to put myself into the mind of a foster-care kid, and I decided that the kids should have a stuffed animal in the bag, too. I figured that if I was in that situation I would want a cuddly friend to hug when I was sad and felt lonely for my parents. People often gave those to me for free, too.
In October 1998, I helped organize a luggage drive during our local "Make a Difference Day." Some congresspeople and senators showed up to give their support, and I came up with this idea for everyone to get their hand painted and then put their handprint on a big banner to show that they had made a difference that day. I got all these kids to help paint people's hands. It was really funny to watch these important people have their hands painted.
The senators and congresspeople went back to Washington and told other people about my project, and then a company named Freddie Mac set up a grant for me and donated fifteen thousand dollars. I am the youngest person they have ever granted money to. Because of this grant, I had a story about my project and me on the cover of the Washington Post. Then the most amazing thing happened. President and Mrs. Clinton read about me and wanted to meet me. I was really excited! They were so nice, and I gave the president one of my bags with a Beanie Baby in it to give to any foster kid that he may meet. A few days later, he sent some bags to me from his own collection to give to foster-care kids, so I did.
My project really started growing because of all the media attention. Radio stations called me for interviews about what I was doing and some TV shows had me on. More people then heard about me from the TV and radio interviews and from word-of-mouth, and they called me to offer help.
Every week I called my friends and family to see if they wanted to come and put together bags. I always had help from many people. My class even helped, too. My teacher announced to my class what I was doing, and everybody started bringing stuffed animals and duffel bags to school. One of my friends brought in ten big bags full of stuffed animals!
On each bag, I put a luggage tag designed by me. On the front of each luggage tag is a picture of a girl and a suitcase with wheels on it. In each bag, I put a cuddly stuffed animal and a special note I wrote, letting them know that I love and care about them. My mom helped me type this note:
Hi, my name is Makenzie Snyder. I am nine years old, and I'm in the third grade. I collect suitcases and duffel bags as an act of kindness for those who are in need of them. God told me you could use a duffel bag and a cuddly friend so I sent this with love to you. I want you to always know that you are loved, especially by me. And, always remember to be positive, polite and never give up.
Love, your friend,
After the bags are stuffed, I call social workers to tell them they can come and pick up the bags to hand out to the foster-care kids. I have had a lot of support from several big companies, schools, churches, organizations and individuals who have donated money, or sent me bags and stuffed animals. I've even been on the Rosie O'Donnell Show! Several thousand bags have been sent out so far, and right now I have five thousand more ready to go, sitting in my den. Those bags will go to kids in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia.
I have had a lot of help from a lot of people, but most importantly from my parents and my brothers. My brother Brock came up with the name for my project. He said I should call it "Children to Children" since it was all about kids knowing what other kids want and helping them get it. My brothers have also given me good advice about always sending thank-you notes to the people who help me. They told me I had to work hard, call tons of people and to never give up ... and I haven't.
I know that this is just the beginning. There are 530,000 foster-care kids in the United States. My dream is for all the foster-care kids in the entire United States to receive a duffel bag and a cuddly friend. I know it can be done if everyone helps out. It is a lot of work but I never get tired of it. I remember the girl in the movie that I saw. If she had been given one of my duffel bags, she would have known that someone out there cared about what happened to her. I don't want any kid, anywhere, to go through what she or the two boys did. Kid to kid, Children to children— that's what it's all about.
Makenzie Snyder, nine
[EDITORS' NOTE: If you would like more information about Children to Children, go to Makenzie's Web site atwww.children tochildren.org.]
Run with It
Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.
The first time I saw Jeff was when my best friend, Brian, and I were in the fourth grade. When our teacher introduced Jeff to the class she explained that he was sick and that he might not be able to be in class all of the time.
Jeff was completely bald from cancer treatments, and he wore a hat. That was one reason that he and I bonded right away. Being the tomboy that I was, I liked wearing a hat—only I wasn't allowed to wear one in class. Jeff was allowed to wear his hat all of the time. Other than that, he was a normal friend to both Brian and me. Some things he couldn't do as well as the other kids because he had tubes in his chest for his treatments, but we never thought of him as sick because he didn't act that way.
The only time that we would realize that Jeff was sick was when he went for his chemotherapy treatments. We'd notice the difference, but we'd just sort of think, Yeah, Jeff's not feeling really well now, and then it would pass and things would be back to normal. Jeff, Brian and I were really sports-oriented, and we became best buds. We would swim, run and jump on the trampoline. As fourth grade progressed, Jeff got better and better. By the end of the school year he went into remission; the cancer was all gone.
Brian, Jeff and I spent tons of time together during the summer between fourth and fifth grades. We loved being outdoors, running everywhere and staying over at each other's houses. Before school started, Jeff went away on vacation with his family for a few weeks.
Then came the night that I will always remember. We were eating dinner when the phone rang. It was Jeff's mom, calling to say that Jeff was in the hospital. The cancer had come back. My reaction was, Wait a minute. What's going on?
Jeff and I talked on the phone the next day and he sounded like his normal self. I couldn't really imagine him being back in the hospital. Then, a few days later, my mom took me to visit him. When I walked into his room, Jeff looked really weak. His mom was talking about a trip to California for a bone marrow transplant operation, and how important it would be for Jeff. Even though everyone looked very serious and sad, the thought of losing Jeff never crossed my mind. I just thought he would get better.
During the next few weeks, before the operation, Jeff was allowed to play with Brian and me but he had to wear a surgical mask because he had to be careful of infections. I realize now that his parents wanted him to experience as much of life as possible while he could. One night, they took Jeff and me to this really fancy restaurant up in the mountains, and it felt sort of like a date. We both dressed up— which was weird for me, because I never wore anything but shorts and hats.
Excerpted from Chicken Soup For The Preteen Soul by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Patty Hansen, Irene Dunlap. Copyright © 2012 Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC. Excerpted by permission of Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted August 28, 2012
This book is inspirational. There are alot of sad stories. They are all true stories, which increases the emotion. Dont get me wrong. This is a definite read. There are alot of happy stories. Once you read this you will relize ther are people out there just like you struggling with family situations , bullying and other topics. These people give you tips on how to stay strong. Its nice to know someone cares!
6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 12, 2013
Chicken Soup for the Preteen Soul is fantastic book! There are so many inspirational stories....... most of them sad but quite a few are happy.
It's good to know there's alot of other people in the world who are out to do good things. This book reminds you that someone somewhere in the world is going through the same thing as you. This book has true stories, which makes these stories so special. Read Chicken Soup for the Preteen Soul! It's a fantastic read.
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 13, 2012
I havent read this book yet but i can tell its going to be good all my friends have read it and said that it was really good i have read most of the other ones SO PLZ READ THIS THX
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Posted November 26, 2013
This book is amzing despite how weird the title sounds these kids are amazing and have a great heart i want to do something big one day too that will impact the kids in this world too! :)Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 20, 2013
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Posted March 22, 2013
I'm almost twelve years old so this book really helped me with my problems, but there's only one little problem.... when uget the sample, for example, you're on page 3 but when you go onto the next page, they say you're on page 8. I hope they fix this problem, but overall, awesome :)
Posted March 12, 2013
Posted March 4, 2013
I have many....many of these books and atill have alot to collect but not one of the ones ive read is boring they all have great stories and a vibe thats hard to explain but it gets five stars from meWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 23, 2013
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Posted January 10, 2014
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