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A Pebble in the Pond


‘…a worthwhile viewing experience that’s a guaranteed feel-good proposition for these seeking a spiritual boost…’

A full disclosure is required for this one, I’m a huge fan of the humble charity shop; it’s a no brainer to pick up an old DVD or two at a fraction of their streaming price, and make a charity donation at the same time, and maybe grab a shirt or some sunglasses as well. I was a regular customer at LA stores like Star Wares initially in Santa Monica, then Melrose, that sell props and clothing donated by Hollywood studios and stars; fortunately, I’ve got the same hip size as Rue McClanahan from the Golden Girls, so her unisex jeans are a perfect fit for me. In a charitable transaction, everyone is a winner.

Such ventures require a little entrepreneurial thinking outside the box, creating opportunities for customers and beneficiaries alike, and capturing how such good deeds and donations can benefit the modern world is the subject of A Pebble in the Pond, a worthwhile viewing experience that’s a guaranteed feel-good proposition for these seeking a spiritual boost. Writer and director Paul Howard’s documentary is about the physical act of doing good to those around you, and that’s worth anyone’s time.

A Pebble in the Pond uses interviews, animation, history lessons and specially shot footage to capture an on-going positive narrative that you probably know little about. Operation School Bell is a movement that provides clothing, backpacks, equipment and even nursery care for needy children. It’s the product of the Assistance League, which has being going for over 125 years, and was created by Anne Banning in the wake of the San Francisco earthquake. She was largely responsible for the early form of something that’s very familiar to us now, the charity shop; seeing such altruism in dynamic action is the big appeal here.

A Pebble in the Pond provides plenty of examples as to how generosity can provide social assistance where institutions fail, even creating individualised puppets to help the expression of kids with special needs. It’s worth railing against a society that centralises our overall wealth in such small groups that such help is needed for so many, then expects us to applaud the generosity of a CEO’s financial donations, but that’s hardly the fault of the charity or non-profit organisers; one day, perhaps, we’ll work together to make a better world.

For now, A Pebble in the Pond is a recommended film for those who are fed up with the self-defeating selfishness of today’s world; it’s a breath of fresh air to see the impact of the Assistance League, and depicting such successful, imitable, business models is vital for the notion of supporting each other to evolve. Seeing children, policemen, volunteers, industry figures and more working together is good for the soul; despite the billions to be made from stoking divisions, there’s more connects us that divides us, and A Pebble in the Pond does a great job of getting that vital message across.



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  1. The problem is, as I see it, that people have become so accustomed to “somebody else” taking care of problems (whether the RCC back in the bad ol’ days, or the flipping government in the bad new days) that they forget, most likely willingly, that our responsibility is to take care of our neighbors. We don’t have to buy them a new car. But to take 10min out of our own time and listen to them can make a world of difference in this busy world where everybody is too busy to pay attention. Mrs B and I tithe, but even after that, we regularly give to our local food pantry and if we know something about our neighbors, we do what we can (without being obnoxious or intrusive).

    But the thing is, doing good deeds isn’t enough on its own. It is good, but it is not good enough. And that’s where most people want to drop things.

    And looking at reviews on amazon, this seems to be mainly about the LA, hollywood area. Places like that test my Christianity, I must admit. Because while I joke on and off with you about dens of iniquity and such, part of me really would like to wipe such places of filth off the map. And that is not the response I should be having.

    Ok, that’s enough blathering from me. Sometimes I think I should just keep my mouth shut…

    • I guess what I like about this film is that it makes visual something that we would like to think was going on; people looking out for each other without judgement. And maybe it’ll inspire people to act similarly, even when there’s no camera running…

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