I’m 137 pins distributed into this project as of today. This means about 140 interactions with people so far, and as you might expect, those interactions vary widely. This project is about human interaction — how we choose to treat other people. I was telling my friend Janice about some of them, and she said, “You’re writing these down, aren’t you? It’s part of the project! You should be telling the stories that go with this.” So begins “Pin Tales.” These are the stories associated with this project, both the good and the bad. When you feel like a bit of light reading, join us on Tuesdays for the latest Pin Tale. First up:
The Boy With The Hat
Mark and I went to a theme park (we love theme parks). As we were leaving, we found staff lined up to wish everyone a good night (and probably to answer last-minute questions). I was passing by a young man (every year, more of the population is younger than I am. He was probably in his 20s). As I passed, we smiled, but then he looked at the Love Bead Safe Harbor Pin (let’s say “Love Beads”) I was wearing. He approached me, speaking softly.
“Do you know what it means to wear the safety pin?,” he asked. I said that yes, I did, it was a Safe Harbor Pin and that I’d made it. I always carry a few with me, so I offered him a set. As he took it, he said, “You made this?”
“Yes,” I answered, “I make them and give them to people.”
He didn’t say anything for a moment. He just stared at the set of pins, lying in his palm on their little card. “People are getting harassed,” he said quietly. “I know people who’ve been bullied, and…” He looked up and made eye contact. “Is it all right if I hug you?”
As people who know me can tell you, I’m not big on physical contact with anyone I’m not close to, but I couldn’t say “no.” I nodded, and he hugged me quickly. “I can’t wear this while I’m working,” he told me, “but I will wear it. Thank you.” We said our goodbyes, and Mark and I headed for the Administration Office at the park (we had a quick errand there).
As we came out of the Admin Office, I heard my name. Looking around, I saw the young man jogging toward us, with something in his hand. “This is the hat I wear when I’m not at work,” he said, showing me a hat with his new Love Beads front-and-center. “I’m going to tell my friends,” he said, “that this came from someone I didn’t even know, who makes these and gives them away. I’ll tell them that we aren’t alone, that there are people we don’t even know who want us to be safe.”
“There are people hoping good things for you who don’t even know you,” I said.
“Can I hug you one more time?,” he asked. We hugged, said goodbye, and Mark and I left.
I’m a big ol’ introvert, so just talking to strangers is a stretch for me, but a very wise friend once said, “If it’s important to you, don’t wait until you feel like it, or feel up to it. Do it scared.”
When I started this project, I wasn’t even sure of the purpose of it myself. It was instinctive, divine inspiration, a need to react to the increasing negativity and hostility I was seeing and hearing. Soon, I realized that it’s about the potential in every human interaction. Every time we meet, or talk, we make a choice about who we are and how to treat other people. Friends can tell you there are no signs of incipient diety about me. No aura of sainthood. I fall short of my expectations on a daily basis, if not hourly (some days are like that). So this project reminds me of the potential in every moment.
With each interaction, I make a choice of how to approach or speak with someone, and he or she makes a choice about how to treat me. All the choices we make become who we are, in our own eyes, and in the eyes of others. We are largely who we decide to be.
In that moment, I decided to come out of my comfort zone, and so did The Boy With The Hat. We decided how to treat each other, and how to respond to how we were treated. In that moment, we both decided to cooperate to build something small and beautiful.