Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Day to Share a Kind Word, or a Helpful Deed, or Both

Did you wake up today with the irresistible urge to encourage someone? Share some kindness? Help someone out? Do some good? Well, today is the perfect day for it, because January 26th is:

Toad Hollow Day of Encouragement

No, I am not making this up. Ralph C. Morrison did. Well, he and a group of dedicated Voluntoads. 

Yes, you read that right: Voluntoads

Perhaps a bit of backstory is in order.

First, just what is Toad Hollow Day of Encouragement?
Simply put, it is a day to make a heartfelt connection with others, to share "a kind word with your fellow man." 

So. Heartfelt connection? Share a kind word? Got it. But, how did THDoE come about?
It all started with an old schoolhouse, an elderly lady, and a storyteller. The schoolhouse, built in 1834, sat at the end of Knox Street, in Kalamazoo, Michigan. A lass by the name of Eunice was a student at that school, way back when. Then, many years later, Eunice was profiled in the local paper, and mentioned her old school. 

At the time the article was published, Eunice was once again a student, this time taking a community college class taught by one Ralph C. Morrison. Mr. Morrison read the article about Eunice. And when he came to the bit about Eunice's girlhood school, he fell in love with the name:

Toad Hollow Country School

The Power of Words
So smitten was Mr. Morrison with those words, that he began using two of them in his other gig besides teaching: storytelling. He invented several yarns about the soon legendary Toad Hollow. And when audiences, equally smitten with the place, asked its whereabouts, all he would say was that it could only be found "in your heart."

Legend Becomes Reality
Toad Hollow continued to exist solely in folks' hearts, through Mr. Morrison's tales. Until one day, when Kalamazoo County officials offered him land from a seldom-used park, to be used for his storytelling. He accepted. Then he formed a non-profit, all-volunteer society to operate the park, in 1992. Together, he and the volunteers built an 1800's pioneer homestead and town, and refurbished the old grist mill that was already there.

Toad Hollow, finally a reality, hosted all sorts of events, including Renaissance Fairs, Civil War reenactments, etc. At one time, Toad Hollow's all-volunteer staff numbered over one hundred. They referred to themselves as "Voluntoads," and ran classes on blacksmithing, quilting, and soap and candle making. Then three years later, the county reclaimed the property. All but the grist mill was donated by Toad Hollow to other historic organizations and museums. The site is now known as Scotts Mill Park.

But, that was not the end of the beloved Toad Hollow. The Voluntoads picked up where they had left off in the town, only now they did so off-campus. They started seven schools, with storytelling, writing, barbecuing, and early American arts and trades among the offerings, which they kept running until 2003.

That all sounds awesome. But, you still haven't said how the actual day came to be.
No, I didn't. 'Cause every good story always has an equally awesome backstory, doesn't it? At least this one does. But we're done with the backstory, so let's get back to the original question in question: 

How did THDoE come about?

The long and short of it is, Toad Hollow Day of Encouragement sprang from the Voluntoads' labor of love in sharing what they knew with others, first in Toad Hollow, and then in the later classes they offered. They believed that proclaiming Toad Hollow Day of Encouragement would motivate folks to act similarly - share what they know, help where they can - not only on January 26th, but every other day, too.

And they didn't stop there. They also created Toad Hollow Day of Thank You (June 20th), and Toad Hollow Week of Encouragement (mid-March). But those are other stories for another time.

Join in the fun
So, how will you share what you know with others today? How about coming over and sharing your snow shoveling skills with me and my fluffy, snow-covered driveway?


Oh, well. It was worth a shot.

Thanks for visiting, and I hope you find a way to connect with others on this very snowy (for my corner of the world, at least) Toad Hollow Day of Encouragement.