A Thought for Connecticut

Friday a friend of mine in California posted her thoughts on Facebook. She has two young children, and wanted to shelter them from hearing the bad news that was coming out of Connecticut. I have no idea how to respond, but my girlfriend made a good suggestion. Take an extra moment today to appreciate the ones that you love.

And then I’d stumbled across my own answer on Sunday morning – a Kindle ebook for children with a much more comforting story. I discovered the true story of five little kittens who were trapped in a burning warehouse in Brooklyn – until their mother rushed in and saved them all, one by one. One reviewer on Amazon described it as “a powerful story that a young child can comprehend and enjoy.” She’d read the book to a four-year-old “whose eyes grew wider as the text progressed, yet she never showed fear, only that rapt attention of wanting to know how the story would end…”

New York Hero Cat Scarlett

The book received 16 five-star reviews on its web page at Amazon. (For a shortcut, point your web browser to tinyurl.com/HeroCatEbook .) But best of all, the ebook is on sale for only $1.00 if you live in one of the regions in 29 states where Amazon is offering their “Amazon Local” discounts. I discovered today that they’re using that service to offer a free “voucher” which lets you purchase 50 different ebooks for just one dollar apiece — including Hero Cat. And some of the other discounted ebooks are pretty interesting too. For another dollar, you can buy a collection of six Jane Austen novels — or a complete collection of every Sherlock Holmes story!

If you want a shortcut to all of the “Voucher” ebooks, just point your web browser to tinyurl.com/VoucherEbooks. But even without the discount, Hero Cat costs only $3.99 as a Kindle ebook. And I was touched just by reading some of the reviews. “There was one thing that was not covered…that was so touching,” wrote a woman in Alaska. The brave little cat “had many scars from her fiery rescue, but her new owner was reported to have sung the song ‘You Are So Beautiful’ to her, every day that she lived.”

I discovered that the “Hero Cat” — whose name was Scarlett — even has her own page on Wikipedia, which shares some even more touching details. “After saving the kittens she was seen to touch each of her kittens with her nose to ensure they were all there and alive…and then she collapsed unconscious.” But when news then spread of this stray cat’s motherly bravery, over 7,000 people offered to adopt her and her kittens.

Ultimately Scarlett the cat found a home with a woman who had her own story to tell. “As a result of losing her cat shortly after being injured in a traffic accident herself, she had become more compassionate and would take in only animals with special needs,” Wikipedia reports. The Kindle ebook turns the cat’s real-life adventure into “a wonderful story of Mother love and devotion,” according to the reviewer in Alaska — and she also enjoyed the book’s illustrations.

I thought it was a good way to remember a story where an entire family confronts an unexpected danger — and then safely passes through it all, thanks to the love and devotion of their mother. The best children’s books can teach us something about ourselves, like the fact that we all have more power than we think.

And it’s as good a way as any to take an extra moment to appreciate the ones that you love.

Hurricane Sandy vs. Amazon

Sand bags for hurricane Sandy in New York City

My friend Nate lives in New York City — and he’s really grateful to Amazon. On Friday Nate told a remarkable story about life in the water-damaged city after it was hit by Hurricane Sandy. It was the largest hurricane ever to come out of the Atlantic Ocean, and it had had a huge impact on the millions of people who lived in the big city.

New York’s subway system wasn’t providing any service below 34th street “for an undisclosed period of time,” Nate posted on his Facebook page, “and cabs cost about $25 each way to work right now (and sometimes more).” But Nate felt guilty using any gas-powered vehicle, since it was obvious that there was going to be an ongoing shortage of gasoline. The answer turned out to be surprisingly simple: Nate decided to get a bicycle! “I tracked down a decent folding bike for less than it’ll cost in taxis next week alone,” he eventually posted on Facebook.

But here’s the funny part. Nate just placed his order on Amazon.com, around 4 p.m. Thursday afternoon. “I’ve got Amazon Prime, so the order shipped for free…” he posted the next morning on Facebook. And his bicycle had already arrived! “In 16 hours,” he posted in amazement. “A BIKE. To Post-Sandy NYC. For Free.

And Amazon was also delivering supplies to other New Yorkers, too. (“Take a guess,” joked The Huffington Post. “Why were two-gallon gas cans one of the most popular items sold on Amazon this week?”) People were also ordering gas-powered generators and even lanterns from Amazon, according to the Post‘s article. Difficult times called for creative solutions, and to get the supplies they needed, at least some people turned to Amazon.com for things they couldn’t find locally.

New York City after hurricane Sandy - the Plaza Shops underwater

In fact, in a comment on the article, someone reported that my friend Nate wasn’t the only person who was riding a bicycle across the gas-starved city. “There are thousands of them on the streets of New York City right now.” New York’s transportation department estimated that just on Thursday, there were 17,000 more bicyclists crossing the Brooklyn Bridge and the three other biggest bridges in Manhattan, Queensboro, and Williamsburg. Most of the bikes were probably in New York before the flood, but Nate was delighted that he could actually get one shipped in!

After the hurricane, people began to look at the world a little differently, and it was nice to hear stories about people reaching out to help others. One fitness center even posted a sign offering free hot showers or an outlet for recharging cellphones to anyone who needed it, Nate posted on Facebook. “I’m trying to figure out how I can order stuff from Amazon to be delivered to the people who need it on Staten Island or the Jersey Shore,” he added later, “because apparently Amazon are the only people who can get things places right now.” It’s nice to see Amazon’s expertise in shipping having a positive impact on people who really need it.

One of Nate’s friends even joked, “Maybe the government should commandeer Amazon until the crisis is over.” But Nate wasn’t even sure that was a joke, because he’d been so amazed by the way Amazon performed after the hurricane. “That was kind of my point. I was looking at getting some solar panels or generators shipped out using Amazon Prime. They have them.

“Apparently they could deliver them in 16 hours if I ordered them!”