Monday, June 27, 2005

Weekend Recap

The Demigoddesses and I spent most of Saturday at the PRIDE festival, working at a booth for the Mother Bear Project. I found this grass-roots non profit last January through some friends from work who learned that I was a knitter and got me hooked on making bears. A Minnetonka mom named Amy started the project two years ago, and I am convinced that she is an angel. Or, if not an angel, then certainly at least one of them has her back.

I think the original goal of the booth was to drum up general support for the project, get a few new knitters interested, and sell T-shirts. At some point, Amy decided to bring along some of the bears she has received without tags to identify who made them, and without money to pay for their shipping to Africa. The idea would be to try and get people at the festival to “sponsor” these orphan bears by making a $10 donation, choosing a bear, and filling out a tag for the bear with their name, or the name of someone they’d like to honor or remember.

The first of my day's many small miracles happened early, as I found a most amazing parking spot right on Loring Park. It was the kind of parking spot that prompted me to check once… twice… three times to make sure that it wasn’t somehow illegal, because it was just too damn good to be true.

The second miracle came shortly after that, when the attendants at the Big Brothers/Big Sisters booth next door to ours said that they wouldn’t be using two of their tables, and offered them to us to use. The one table we had was covered with brochures and pictures and information. Most of the bears Amy had brought along were in bags underneath. The two extra tables meant that we could bring the bears out and pile them where people would be able to see them.

Thinking it would be a leisurely day, I had brought my knitting. Once the booth was set up, I sat down and took out my needles, prepared to wait for festival-goers to approach us. For about a minute, I watched people walk past and thought, this will never do. I haven’t been hawking Old Navy credit cards for nine months for nothing. So I dropped my knitting, grabbed an armload of bears, and began working the crowd.

“Sponsor a bear for a child in Africa who’s been affected by AIDS! They’ve all been made by volunteer knitters, we’re just looking for people to help us get them to the kids! Sponsor a bear? Sponsor a bear?” It didn’t take long to find a taker. Then another.

Demigoddess the Elder followed my lead, grabbed her own armful of bears, took position at the other side of the booth, and worked it on that side. The two of us got people to stop, and once they were inside, Amy and the other volunteers gave them the details of the program and told stories about the children. Demigoddess the Younger kept count as the pile of sponsored bears grew and grew.

Old people, young people, couples, groups, single people, and families with children… some of them froze in their tracks when they heard the words “child,” and “Aids in Africa,” reaching for their money even before they had heard the rest of the pitch. Others would see the colorful pile of bears and pause, hear what we were doing and waver for a moment, and that’s when I’d slip a pen into their hands, point them toward the tables and say, “Choose any one you like.” Once they were inside the booth, there was no getting out again.

At one point, a man stopped and asked me, “But what are you doing for the children here? Do you have any programs for them?” He was clearly poised to get on my case, and I was not prepared to debate with him, so I called Amy over. She told him that children in emerging nations have no access to the social services that children in more developed countries have, and while she’d like to be able to help everyone, she had to choose the focus of this particular project very carefully. She spoke to him for several minutes before being called away by someone on the other side of the booth. The man turned back to me, apologized for giving me a hard time, and sponsored two bears. Miraculous.

At about 3:30 that afternoon, aching, sunburned, and losing the ability to speak, I realized that my shift was scheduled to have ended at 1:00 p.m. We had handed out hundreds of brochures and business cards, a number of knitting patterns, and had found sponsors for 103 bears (and counting). But I was so jazzed by what I had seen, so moved by how good and generous and kind and caring people can be, and so genuinely amazed that I had played a small part in all of it, that I really didn’t want to go.

I am a single mom who works two jobs. I have a house and dogs and pre-teens and a boyfriend, hobbies and obligations and an enormous extended family. I’m busy. And a lot of the time I’m damn tired. But in spite of the white noise that is my everyday life, somehow this experience found me, and I was willing to be a part of it. In a day that was full of small miracles, that was probably the biggest miracle of all.

3 comments:

Batgirl said...

Beautifully done, EGG. This brought tears to my eyes.

Batgirl said...

That's EDG!

TheLumisponder said...

I am a single mom who works two jobs. I have a house and dogs and pre-teens and a boyfriend, hobbies and obligations and an enormous extended family. I’m busy. And a lot of the time I’m damn tired. But in spite of the white noise that is my everyday life, somehow this experience found me, and I was willing to be a part of it. In a day that was full of small miracles, that was probably the biggest miracle of all.

EDG, That sez all I need to know about you! You rock.