One day a young man decided to see if he could exchange a paper clip for bigger and better things, and after a year’s worth of trading, he ended up with a house in Canada! It’s called the Paperclip Challenge and on February 24, I was challenged to see what I could exchange for a paper clip. The following Monday morning I went to work at North Kansas City Hospital, not thinking of the challenge, until I glanced down at the desk in the nurse’s station. I was surprised to see a paper clip conveniently lying there, seemingly waiting for me to find it.

A Heart Takes Shape

heart-shaped paperclipI picked it up and wondered how I could get someone to give me something bigger and better for it. After pondering the dilemma, I concluded that I didn’t just want something bigger and better, I wanted something meaningful. Then I had an epiphany. In order to receive something meaningful, I must attach meaning to the paper clip. Since I believe nothing means more than love, which is represented by a heart, I fashioned the simple paper clip red-orange roseinto a heart.

With the little heart in hand, I set out to trade with my fellow employees. After a few failed attempts, I stopped by our Patient Care Supervisor Angela’s office. Angela was instantly excited to trade for the heart, which she hung on her bulletin board. Angela had received a bouquet of flowers that morning and was glad to receive something else that was meaningful. She offered me an orange-red rose, the prettiest flower in the bunch. We were both happy with the exchange, and I set out to make another trade for the beautiful rose.

Soup Bowl to Share

Several co-workers agreed the rose was indeed beautiful, but they had nothing meaningful to trade. I found Bonnie, an RN, enjoying a bowl of soup in the breakroom. I sat down and offered to trade the rose for something meaningful. She responded that she only had the soup she was eating, and she wanted her soup. I pointed out that when she finished the soup she would have an empty bowl, and I would be glad to trade her bowl for my rose. She gladly accepted! Her bowl was ceramic, decorated with a floral pattern, and came with a well-fitting lid. It was meaningful to me because I knew my teenage daughter would appreciate it since she likes to take food with her to work.

Susan with bowlI was so pleased with the bowl that I was tempted to end the paper clip challenge! I decided I would only trade the bowl if I were offered something enticing. I didn’t know what I could be offered that I would want more than the lovely bowl, but I was curious to see.

Registered Nurse Serena offered me a charm that she received from a friend years ago. It read “Nurses on the Go.” It was definitely meaningful but not quite enticing enough for me to trade the bowl. Before leaving my unit for lunch, I stopped by to see Monika, our unit’s pharmacist. She informed me that she has purchased bowls like mine for her daughter to use in college and would be happy to trade me for the bowl. Since I didn’t want her cookies, she asked for time to think of something meaningful to trade.

No Sale

While going to the Cafeteria, I stopped by a few offices, where I was offered a handmade anklet and a cute bird-themed notebook. They were both charming, especially since I love things handmade and I also love birds. But, they were still not “bowl worthy” enough for me.

Wood birdOn my return from the Cafeteria, I stopped by one more office to seek a trade for the bowl. The employee had animal figurines decorating her office. I recognized them as being African. She explained that Steven, who works in IT, brings back figurines from Africa and sells them. He sends the money he makes to Africa to help the village where he lived. For me, these figurines were extremely meaningful, and I offered to trade the bowl for one of them. She declined and stated that I would have to find Steven and buy one myself!

From a Land Far Away

Back on my unit, Monika saw me and surprised me by saying, “I know what I can trade for the bowl! I have a figurine that I bought from Steven to help his village.” I was astounded that the very thing I wanted to trade for the lovely bowl was being offered to me after all.

What a serendipitous series of events! I started my project by fashioning a simple paper clip into a heart and a desire to trade it for meaningful things. I traded it for a beautiful rose, then for a lovely bowl, and ended with a very special bird that originated halfway across the world.

Bonnie, Angela, Susan and Monika

Full Circle

As happy as I am to receive the bird, I gained much more from this experience. The Paperclip Challenge helped me learn new things about my coworkers, and I enjoyed uplifting encounters with them. The challenge verified for me that people tend to be generous and eager to join a cause. It reaffirms that the people I work with have big hearts.