This weekend was a major fundraising weekend for Child’s Army Cadet Corps. We send the cadets out in pairs to locations all over Cambridge with tagging boxes and bookmarks created by a member of their own corps. By the end of the weekend, they’ll have collected over $10,000. The folks behind the scenes count and roll coins. We have boxes of rolls of quarters and loonies and toonies. We get hundreds of dollars in bills. It’s a ton of work, but it’s hugely rewarding for everyone involved. My dad comes to help us on Saturday of tagging weekend every spring and fall. This is his 10th time helping us. My dad also collects 1973 Royal Canadian Mounted Police quarters.
Whenever I see them, I pull these quarters aside, and give them to my dad. I say “give” as if it’s a one-sided transaction. It isn’t. It’s a trade. My dad feels like he has to give me the money for the quarters. When I used to work at a bar and they showed up in my tips, I used to just leave them for him on his nightstand, but it seems he finds it stressful if the Mountie Quarter ledger isn’t balanced. So, we do the exchange of quarters regularly.
We asked my dad a while back how many RCMP quarters he thinks he has. When I just did a search for the quarters to fact-check the year, the Googleverse also offered up this funfact: 136 million quarters were minted. My dad must be closing in on about 127 million of them, surely. He said that he doesn’t even know where they all are. Ha! Joke’s on us!
Still, it doesn’t stop me from carrying a pocketful of quarters on cadet tagging weekend so I can trade out the quarters for him. And when he’s there with us, the change in his pocket will be heavy in quarters, too. We’ve trained the folks counting the returned boxes to pull out the Mountie quarters and my dad will buy them from them on the Saturday when he’s there. I even find them held for me from other fundraising or canteen money in our cashbox at the armoury.
I get it, once you ratchet up the support machine in my family, you need to be willing to commit years of your life to whatever you asked for. When I was in Grade 5 or 6, we had a “Pope Project”. We had to look in the newspaper and cut out the articles about PJP2’s Canadian tour. But my effort would not end at the Hamilton Spectator, and perhaps a Toronto paper. Oh no, no, no. My dad worked in a building that had a proper International News Stand, and he got newspapers from all over Canada – wherever the Popemobile landed, we had the local newspaper. By the time I handed in the 5 inch binder, bursting at the seams, we probably had about $50 into the project. I remember precious little else about the coursework of grade 5, but I remember how the Pope Project became a family effort.
Years ago, I told Auntie V that I liked a singular cow item in a store display when we were window shopping, and suddenly I was a Cow Person, and I got cow stuff at every opportunity.
Remember when Child collected a stack of egg cartons as tall as he is to trade for a canoe?
Remember when I asked for a few dozen Tim Horton’s cups to sprout seeds for my garden? Pfft. I could have planted the whole province of Saskatchewan with the number of cups I ended up with.
Still, I love that this is the way of my people. When I trade out a quarter at canteen, it makes me think of my dad. And when my parents spent 8 months rinsing out the cups from my dad’s coffee dates with Uncle Jack, or the ones my dad brought home for my mom, they thought about me. And when one of my friends saved up egg-cartons for Connor to trade for his canoe, it made her think of the great canoe trips she has had.
This Lent, may the afterglow effects of minor acts outshine the original kindness.