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Irene keeps on working; her purple cast doesn’t slow her down.

My gratitude today is inspired by the purple cast on my leg!

While hiking with my family last week, I slipped on a steep slope, breaking an ankle bone, and we feared further damage if I tried to keep walking. What happened next is a story about the kindness of strangers and the power of teamwork.

As I sat on the cold ground, far from home in another state, holding my ankle, and trying to forgive myself for not wearing my hiking boots, my dear husband Ed and our amazing daughter took charge.

Shortly before I fell, our daughter had met a fellow hiker on the trail. She exclaimed, “I just have a good feeling about him,” before she raced up the mountain and got him to come back to help us, while Ed stayed with me and called 911.

As my family then charged down the mountain to meet the rescue teams, the hiker, Nick, plopped down next to me in the dirt. With gentle kindness, Nick put an arm around me to warm me up, kept me talking so I wouldn’t faint, and kept me safe.

Ed met and escorted the rescue team of nine firefighters back to me as fast as they could march. As they carried me in a litter for two miles down the steep, rock-strewn trail, these compassionate and capable responders wrapped me in a cocoon of kindness, making every effort to reassure me and keep me comfortable. They delivered me to the hospital, handing me over to the competent and caring emergency staff.

Now my ankle and lower leg are bound in a bright purple cast. I chose this color because it represents the Fullpower Adult Safety branch of our work, and is a daily reminder of the kindness of strangers, whose help kept my injury from getting much worse. I will be wearing it for six weeks. And here back in Santa Cruz, we are blessed with support from our friends and family as I find new ways to maneuver, and re-discover strengths and agility I forgot I had, as my ankle heals.

I have so much more to be thankful for! In Kidpower, we teach that most people are GOOD and this means most strangers are GOOD. My faith in that message is constantly reaffirmed. So many people care so much and do what they can to help total strangers – because the ways we are the same are so much more important than our differences.

Here in California, I am also full of gratitude for all the firefighters from here and from afar who are putting their lives on the line, helping thousands of strangers in need, and fighting the devastating fires that are causing so much suffering.

Finally, I am deeply thankful for Kidpower, because the amazing work we have created together brings me so much joy and purpose and hope in our troubled world.

So this Thanksgiving, I encourage you to look around, notice, and give thanks for the kindness of strangers and of the people you see every day. They may not have carried you down a mountain, but kindness comes in many forms, small, as well as big. Let us take the time to recognize it, appreciate it, and share it.

Wishing all of you in the U.S. a happy Thanksgiving holiday.

And for everyone, everywhere: I wish for peace, safety, and joy.

PS. Please help Kidpower keep kids safe by donating in any amount for #GivingTuesday on or before November 27th. All gifts given now through #GivingTuesday will be doubled – thanks to one of our long-time generous supporters. Every dollar works wonders!

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Published: November 22, 2018   |   Last Updated: November 22, 2018

Kidpower Founder and Executive Irene van der Zande is a master at teaching safety through stories and practices and at inspiring others to do the same. Her child protection and personal safety expertise has been featured by USA Today, CNN, Today Moms, the LA Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Publications include: cartoon-illustrated Kidpower Safety Comics and Kidpower Teaching Books curriculum; Bullying: What Adults Need to Know and Do to Keep Kids Safe; the Relationship Safety Skills Handbook for Teens and Adults; Earliest Teachable Moment: Personal Safety for Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers; The Kidpower Book for Caring Adults: Personal Safety, Self-Protection, Confidence, and Advocacy for Young People, and the Amazon Best Seller Doing Right by Our Kids: Protecting Child Safety at All Levels.