Yesterday I had the pleasure of participating in an impromptu service project taking place at the Boston Memorial Run in Raleigh. I’d gathered some friends a few days before to whip up a website and gather paper, markers, and other supplies, and the project – “Triangle Loves Boston” – was born. It consisted of asking people to create a message of love and support for folks in Boston recently affected by the bombing at the Boston Marathon. We’d then photograph them with their message and upload it to share virtually at www.trianglelovesboston.com.
Standing at our own little table within the mass of 2,000+ folks who showed up to run in honor of Boston and the victims of the April 15 bombing at the Boston Marathon, I let the energy of the crowd wash over me. We hadn’t had much time, nor spent much time putting together our little project, and we had no idea how it would go. But that was okay with me. It was simple, and its message was simple. It was about connecting.
As of April 1 I became Executive Director of Activate Good, the nonprofit I founded in 2005 and had led as Board President through this year. Managing the day to day efforts of the organization on top of guiding its vision has been a dream of mine for nearly a decade, but it’s not easy. Sometimes, you get stuck in the weeds and have to do the necessary but occasionally more tedious work of running the organization at your desk. You start to get distanced from the cause and it’s good to have reminders of why you’re doing what you do.
While sharing messages of love and support for others virtually may not have the same type of “return on investment” as volunteering to mentor youth, working to solve homelessness and the like, it was refreshing to put together a project that allowed me to step out from behind the desk and connect with others on a very basic level. Also, because we were careful not to tie “Triangle Loves Boston” too closely to the Activate Good name – we didn’t want to be perceived as trying to promote ourselves in the midst of this tragedy and its subsequent broader show of community support – there was less pressure to succeed or fail at this project – but really, when all you’re trying to do is show some love, it’s hard to fail.
I remember watching one woman create her message at our table yesterday. She stared at her blank paper for minutes, contemplating her message. She painstakingly selected different colors of markers and composed her message, creating a beautiful, long paragraph – the longest message I think I saw throughout the effort. The whole time she had this somber, serious look about her. Focused. I don’t know if she knew any one in Boston, or if she had just felt so connected to the tragedy that she needed to take her time with this. I couldn’t read much of what she was writing while she was working on it (things were chaotic at the table anyway, as more and more people approached), but I made a mental note to have a look and read her special message later. I felt I owed this to her thoughtful spirit. We never spoke. We never exchanged names. But in that moment I felt like she might be a friend. Here is her message: