I woke up more depressed than usual this morning after receiving some very bad news in an email from a good friend last night.
Things only went downhill from there.
As the morning wore on, all I wanted to do was drink a fifth of Jack Daniels, take a fistful of sleeping pills, crawl into bed, then just wait for the world to go away. It's not a solution that you can wrap a bow around and get all happy about, but it does work... albeit temporarily. But this kind of resolution doesn't really solve anything, and can become dangerously addictive and destructive over the long-run. Having been there before, I know.
So I decided to do what I always seem to do now-a-days when depressed. Visit Any Soldier, request a couple of addresses for some poor bastards (or bitches) stuck in Iraq or Afghanistan, then make some care packages to send out. It may not solve my problems, but it will make me feel better that I am making somebody else's miserable life a little better.
Though it's not easy for me. I do not in any way support this war. I never have. I don't buy into the "fight them over there so we don't have to fight them here" mentality because nobody can define "them" in any meaningful way. I have been conditioned to distrust our political leaders. When other countries were saying "hey, wait a minute, let's look at this WMD data a little more closely before we do something stupid," our leaders threw 9-11 in our face and went ahead and did something stupid. No real plan. No exit strategy. No sense.
But how is that the fault of someone sent off to fight and die in our name?
Who can say what makes somebody sign up to be a soldier.
Maybe they signed up so they could get money for college. Maybe they are running away from a life that's worse than a war. Maybe they want to belong to something bigger then themselves. Maybe they are true patriots and believe defending this country is worth risking their lives. Maybe they just want to help out. I don't know.
But what I do know is that they are risking their lives on my behalf and are far braver than I am for doing it. They didn't start a war, they're just trying to do their job the best they can and make it out alive.
So I make care packages.
I send things from home in the hopes that I can brighten their spirits and warm their hearts. I hope my generosity will inspire generosity in return. I hope they represent our country well and treat victims of war with caring and dignity.
I drop everything in my busy life and I go...
I buy snacks. Not shitty snacks that taste like crap and nobody wants to eat. I buy name-brands I know will be appreciated. Snack-Pack chocolate pudding. Campbell's Chunky Soup. Planters Trail Mix, Nature's Harvest snack bars. I find candies that won't melt. I grab a large variety of gum flavors. I buy Oreos and Doritos. I find "to-go" packs of Pringles chips. I seek out luxury foods that I miss when I am far from home. I go to three stores to find a big-box of Red-Hots. I don't really like the idea of killing animals for food, but this isn't about me, so I buy bags of real Oberto Beef Jerkey.
I buy only the best personal hygiene products. Military guys have to shave everyday, and nobody wants to do that with a cheap-ass razor. So I buy the best, most comfortable disposables I can find. I ignore the bargain brands and purchase Neutrogena shave cream. I make sure I have real Q-tips cotton swabs, authentic Kleenex tissues, super-sweet individually-wrapped rolls of premium toilet paper, and only the best toothpaste, toothbrushes, foot powder, lip balm, sun-screen, and everything else I can think of.
I buy magazines. I want to send Maxim with a naked Eva Mendes on the cover (hey, that's what I would want to look at if I could die at any time)... but nudity and partial nudity are forbidden. Instead I buy puzzle books, sports magazines, and some good comics.
I read that soldiers like to watch DVDs in their off-time, so I buy some. And not the discount crap that's old and everybody has already seen... I buy brand new releases of top movies and don't even look at the price tag. And, because opening a DVD is almost impossible under the best conditions, I pre-open them and remove all the tape and crap. I then write "ANYSOLDIER.COM" in permanent marker on the cases and DVDs to try and make sure they aren't stolen and sold.
I buy Beanie Babies. Maybe the soldiers can use them to make friends with the most innocent of victims in this war: the children. I hope such small gestures build friendship and compassion with future generations. I hope it brings a smile to somebody's face when they have nothing to smile about. I hope for so much from something so little. I send hope because, when all is said and done, it's all I really have to give.
I write a note of support and well-wishes because sometimes knowing somebody cares about you is better than an Oreo cookie.
Then I come back and box everything up. I am careful to double-bag any liquids. I am careful to send the shipments of food in separate boxes from the toiletries... because nobody wants Goldfish Crackers that taste like deodorant. I take time I don't really have available to make sure everything is packed perfectly so no space is wasted and everything is protected. What fun is a box of smashed cookies?
I've spent $300. I'll spend even more in shipping charges. It hardly seems adequate.
And now I feel a little better. Maybe even better than if I had taken Prozac.
Tonight I am going to go see The Queen. I hope the movie is as good as people say, because I can't afford to be depressed and visit Any Soldier again until my next paycheck.