Friday, August 29, 2014

Collateral Kindness - Paul Holton

Summary:  As a loving father and compassionate family man, Paul Holton found it hard to reconcile his innate goodwill with his role as a steel-nerved interrogator for the Army National Guard. 
Until one day, deep in Iraqi territory, surrounded by the horrors of war, he realized how he could make a small but significant difference in the lives of the children all around him. On impulse, he began asking friends and family to send him little things like toys and toothbrushes to share with children devastated by deadly conflicts.
 
From that small gesture, his efforts have grown into an international humanitarian organization that now blesses children across the globe. And in the process, Holton learned that the more he focused on helping the people around him, the more he was able to cheerfully endure the hardships of his duty.
 
This fascinating account from the front lines illustrates the simple truth that kindness can heal even the deepest wounds.  (Image and summary from collateralkindness.com.  I was provided a complimentary copy of Collateral Kindness in exchange for an honest review.)


My Review: Chief Warrant Officer Paul Holton found more purpose on his second tour than he bargained for.  Amid the stress, the uncertainty, the goals of the United States Military and the personal goals of Chief Holton, an unexpected and abiding love for the Iraqi people grew.  He found himself wanting to give back, and found it in the most unlikely place.

I was so touched by this book.  Let me be up front, Chief Holton is not a literary scholar, he's a military man with a story to tell.  Sometimes, the grammarian in me started to surface, but the story he was telling was powerful enough to allow me to just go with it.  I was so touched, not only by his ability to see a need others were overlooking and find a way to relieve that need, but by the generosity and the kindness of strangers and of those he came into contact with.  So many were willing to help alleviate the uncertainty with a donation of toys, with a shared meal, a hug, or with donated time.  I loved witnessing the evolution of Chief Holton's secondary mission Operation Give.  He wrote this story to tell of the acts of kindness that were so common and so unreported during the war.

Holton does bring up the scrutiny that Operation Give placed him under, and unfortunately, the amount of resources and time it took led to a potential court martial.  I felt like the mention and the resolution of it came out of left field, and I wish that it had been a little more clear how it resolved, and why the scrutiny was issued.  But that's only because I have an insatiable curiosity, and you just can't dangle a carrot like that and then snatch it away!

The work that grew of its own volition continues today, and while at times, Collateral Kindness felt like one big ad for the project, I truly feel it's a story that needs to be shared.  I remember when I was in a Statistics and Elections class at the start of the war.  I had a very, VERY liberal professor.  One evening, as he was going on about the Iraqi war, I noticed that the man sitting next to me getting more and more tense.  I wasn't the only one to notice, and soon, the professor couldn't ignore the ring of students paying more attention to this particular, tensed student than to him.  This brave student stood, apologized to our professor, and then told him he had no idea what he was talking about.  He had just returned from a tour of duty in Iraq, and proceeded to tell us what CNN wouldn't: the sacrifices the troops were making for the people; the businesses. schools, hospitals, roads, waterworks, and other structures that the military was voluntarily repairing; the support they were providing single mothers as they struggled to support their families.  He told us of the love that returning soldiers had for the people--not for Hussein, but for those he'd abused for so long.  I learned more in the few minutes this soldier spoke than I did during the 1/3 of the semester I was in that professor's class.  Collateral Kindness was the same testament of what truly happened over there-so much good that was left unseen.

If you're looking for a quick, feel-good read, this is definitely one to check out!

My Rating:   Three and a half stars

For the Sensitive Reader:  For a war book, this is quite clean.  Chief Holton is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and makes no effort to hide that, frequently talking about his faith.

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