Yesterday Simon got a piece of mail from 4 year old Josie, daughter of some friends of ours in Peoria. It was a typed chain letter, inviting Simon to join The Sticker Club. We were instructed to send stickers to the two children (Molly, who we don't know, and Josie) whose names and addresses were listed. Then, we were to move Josie's name to the top spot and put Simon in position 2. All this was simple enough. The request that made my heart sink was, "send this letter to 6 other people." Six. Six other kids. Not two or three, but six. This was troublesome. You can't just send a chain letter to anyone. It has to be someone you know, but not that well. Someone who will recognize your name and return address, but who you don't see more than once a year. The shame of passing this kind of hassle on to families we see on a regular basis would be too great.
I agonized over the Sticker Club all night. My struggle may have been brought on by the not-so-subtle guilt written into the letter: "If you cannot do this within six days, please let me know because it is not fair to those who have participated." I didn't want to be unfair to Josie by short-changing her 1/6 of the stickers she was longing to receive. So I racked my brain for hours. Who could I send this to? I identified a few distant cousins, but after that I was stuck. Then my list had to be modified when I realized that my cousin (whose 3 year old girl was a prime candidate for the Sticker Club) had recently had another baby, and I hadn't sent a card. So, she had to be taken off the short list. Can't ignore the birth of a new child and expect someone to smile upon receiving a chain letter.
In the end, I decided that maybe I should shift my focus from the children to the parents. Of course I welcome an opportunity to make children happy, but what about the parents? I reflected on what a headache the Sticker Club had caused me. Then I had a vision of my headache spreading, like a menacing cloud, to each family I invited to the club. I just couldn't feel good about sending this kind of task to already frazzled moms and dads.
So, I did send stickers to Molly, to ensure she would receive her full allotment. And then I sent many, many stickers to Josie, to make up for her loss. Maybe her mom will distribute them slowly with each day's mail, with accompanying stories: "Look, Josie, you got some stickers from a child in France!" "Oh, Josie, these came all the way from Chile!" "Wow! These stickers are from Cookie Monster, Josie!"