I was running late already, but when I turned left instead of right my fate was sealed. As I approached the library in a harried state, I saw a young man hanging out close to where I was going to park my car. Is this safe, I questioned.
No time to worry now; just park the car and get everything inside. Everyone will be arriving soon; we have booked the library for two hours. Will everybody show up? … and the big question, will we be able to assemble 200 love bundles in that amount of time?
Everyone did show up. We folded the scarves in half length wise and laid them out across the conference table. It was kind of like making Giada De Laurentiis’s lasagna roll ups. First the scarf, then a layer of socks, next a layer of hand warmers, and on top of that a protein bar. Alongside the protein bar, lip balm, and then the piece de resistance, a paper crane containing the most important spice; an inspirational quote. Roll that all up nice and neat and tie it with a piece of raffia. Viola a “Love Bundle.”
Someone was singing “Rollin, rollin, rollin, rollin, rollin, rollin”, there were other songs from the Lion King, and comments like, “I am rocking these love bundles,” and “Make sure you blow a kiss into each one of these babies.” We talked about the TV show Blacklist, catching fireflies when we were kids and Moulin Rouge. Each team member disclosed their signature strengths and opportunities and at one point, someone said, “I feel really close to you guys right now.” It was hard to tell if the comment was playful or dare I say sarcastic, but personally… I felt like I had 6 new best friends.
Because of all the frivolity I don’t recall when I first noticed, but I saw that the boy who was standing by my parking place had moved inside. He was sitting on a chair that made it possible for him to see everything we were doing. Throughout the two and a half hours we were there, my eye would catch him, and I was reminded he was there.
What’s he doing? Something is not right. At times I couldn’t tell if he was sleeping or just slumped over playing on his phone. Is he homeless? Is he waiting for someone? Does he just like hanging out at the library?
And then I would be carried away in the friendly atmosphere of new found friends who on their own time, chose to come together to make a difference in the lives of homeless adolescents.
Someone once posed a question similar to this, “If a star appeared in the sky that held some great significance: would you see it?” I’ve thought a lot about that question over the past month and have wondered if I would.
About an hour and a half into assembling “Operation Love Bundles,” I walked out into the hall and approached the young man. I said, “Just hanging out at the library today?” He didn’t look up at me, but said in a flat voice, “Yeah.” I said, “You’ve been sitting here a long time.” Again, without looking up, he said “Yeah.”
I walked back into the assembly room wondering if I should do anything more.
To make a long story short, I didn’t. We finished the project and ended with so much oxytocin floating through the room, it was intoxicating. Thank you’s and promises of working together again on a charitable cause carried us out to our cars.
Out to our cars… As we were loading up 7 oversized Target bags containing 200 love bundles, I noticed the boy standing in the same place he was standing when I drove up. What is he doing I asked myself again. Should I do something? Should I give him a love bundle? Should I ask him if he is okay?
I drove away.
Today is February 9. We are dropping the bundles off at HYRC on the 13th. We are experiencing a record breaking heat wave in Salt Lake City. Our love bundles were created to let homeless youth know they are not forgotten and to keep them warm on cold nights. Participation on this project has been overwhelming. Many have walked, not just talked and for that, we at Pioneers of Peace are so grateful. We know there is a magical synergy that takes place between the giver and the receiver, and all are measurably edified…and that’s what Pioneers of Peace is all about.
But as I reflect back on “Assembly Day,” I can’t help but think I missed the star. If I could have a do-over, at the very least, I would call up my courage and try harder to engage the young man. Perhaps I would’ve asked him to help us. What is the irony in putting together 200 love bundles in the middle of a heat wave when there might have been 1 with us from start to finish, and we did nothing.
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” `Maya Angelou
To that young man, I say, “I am so sorry. I will do better next time.”