The challenge? Perform 1 million acts of caring between now and March 28
By Maura Legare
In the past few years, we’ve all heard the phrase, “Actually, one of the good things to come out of Covid was . . .” Meet Salley Gibney, EG resident since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, relocating from Vermont via Providence to be closer to family. Salley is more than a “good thing” to come out of Covid, she is a force of life, warmth and positivity and seeks to spread that message by making “caring connections” on a daily basis. In every place she has lived, she embraces the community, volunteering to teach sailing in Providence when she first arrived, helping to care for her grandchildren throughout the pandemic and beyond, making friends all over town and even enjoying cold-water swims at Sandy Point year round. Diminutive in size but a giant in energy with a smile that lights up a room, Salley has been gracing everyone she meets, literally all over the world, for decades with her spirit, compassion and optimism. And now that she is living here in East Greenwich, we are lucky enough to call her one of our own and we can celebrate her presence and powerful message in a very special way this March.
First a bit of background on Salley. As she puts it “it all started with a dream, a very real dream.” She was living in Vermont, working as a nurse and raising her two children alongside her beloved husband Bob. At a particularly challenging juncture, when her husband had changed jobs and was “commuting” to New York, she was feeling a bit isolated. One evening, she awoke from a dream about a coin that was emblazoned with an angel and featured the phrase, “You are never alone.” The dream was so real that she actually went searching for the coin in her bed, convinced that she would find it. When she realized it was in fact only a dream, albeit a very powerful one with a message that really resonated with her, she set out to have the coin recreated. Where better than Vermont to find a series of woodworkers who recreated the coin, complete with a laser-imprint of the angel.
She began distributing these coins to perfect strangers in her town, which was only the beginning of her campaign to share her message of compassion. She actually started a nonprofit, You Are Never Alone Foundation, through which over 150,000 of these coins have been distributed worldwide. As Salley puts it, they are a “simple, tangible reminders that we all matter.” Projects included traveling to Houston to meet with displaced survivors of Hurricane Katrina, attending pre- and post-deployment ceremonies for Iraqi war heroes, and even to schools in Bangladesh. She has greeted each and every recipient with a kind word, a hug, and the assurance that they are not alone, they matter. And hence was born the phrase “I Matter, You Matter.” In 2011, through the work of her foundation, she started the worldwide I Matter, You Matter Day at a Friendly’s Restaurant in Manchester, Vermont. Local families and schools shared the message with family and friends and over 6,000 posts were shared through Facebook around the world. While her foundation was dissolved in 2016 due to her husband’s declining health, Salley has continued to share her message of positivity and empathy. She is particularly devoted to veterans and students, especially now as so many suffer from feelings of loneliness and despair after Covid. Her message is simple: small acts of caring make us all feel better. Over the past 11 years, I Matter You Matter Day has been celebrated from Manchester, Vt., to Broward County, Fla., with visits to nursing homes, gently used toy collections, special notecard programs at various schools and many more beautiful acts of caring.
Which brings us to the month of March 2023. Salley is posing a challenge to all of us here in East Greenwich in our schools, churches, Scout troops and senior homes, the opportunities are endless. She is encouraging us all to perform one million acts of kindness from March 1 to March 28 which is worldwide I Matter, You Matter Day. Opportunities to share caring run the gamut from a simple wave, a held door, a phone call or text to letters to veterans and those who are homebound. No matter the act – it counts and if shared by a post on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, will encourage others to follow suit. As Salley says, “Caring is contagious.”
Admittedly, there is no official way to count but Salley, ever the optimist, is confident that this message will be shared, and received, with the same open arms that she so willingly shares with everyone she meets. Just like the waters at Sandy Point that ripple when this little ball of energy jumps in there, the number of people who have been touched by Salley Gibney’s caring and positive message continues to grow. She is a beautiful example of the positive effect just one person can have on the world, one angel at a time. For more information a downloadable poster to share with your organization about Worldwide I Matter, You Matter Day, or Salley’s Caring Coins, please visit https://thecaringcoins.com/
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