08/02/2012 09:33 am ET Updated Oct 02, 2012

$2 Can Make A Difference

Do you think you can make a difference with $2? If not, think again! John McLaughlin is a Los Angeles senior and he is putting his $2 to work every day. John has not quite embraced technology, and he may never, but he certainly understands his role in our global society. Although John does not have access to the Internet, he leverages his daily newspaper and landline phone service with unlimited talking to make a difference. However, using technologies some of us have forgotten how to operate, John has made friends with his local librarians. "Can you look this organization up for me, Sir?" is usually how the call begins between John and his local librarian. His librarian has been providing him with non-profit addresses and phone numbers since John's retirement and has come to learn John by the sound of his voice. It was not until John called my organization, Greening Forward, that I was touched by this man's generosity.

You would think that a man without Internet must be shut off from the world, but in fact, John is ready to debate with you on any of today's headlines: NPR funding cuts, Corporation for National and Community Service cuts, alternative energy and attacks against President Obama. John says that his civic passions began when he was just a young boy and he saw his mother volunteer her time in local prisons. He witnessed how someone could freely give their time to honor the fact that we all deserve basic liberties such as dignity and self-confidence.

John says that computers complicate life. He once told me a story of how his friend works 9 a.m.-5 p.m. without a computer and then has to come home and check emails for another two hours. John is a reminder that sometimes going back in time is helpful.

Often over lunch or a game of bingo, John hears his friends making negative comments about today's young people. John interjects and says, "Youth are just not given a chance." John agrees that today's youth are the most disadvantaged society of people in the world. There are many stereotypes about young people, but there are also stereotypes about adults. I think that young people are hardly ever in the position of power to talk about adults the way adults stereotype young people. Yet we must admit there is something to be said about both groups. It is up to folks like John to embrace the ideas of youth and support a generation of 21st century problem-solvers. John welcomes this challenge and hopes to continue knocking down barriers.
When I met with Greening Forward's fiscal administrator, Earth Force, Dr. Lisa Bardwell, CEO of Earth Force, showed me the envelope and letter John had sent. The letter was short and to the point, but the money order was a little unclear. $2,000? Whoa! $200? $20? Lisa noticed my interest and made the discovery a little easier by pointing out it was a $2 contribution. In joy, we laughed together and remembered that most days we get nothing at all.