Be the Cause

Reflections on the Stuffed Animal Drive

On Saturday, January 29th, a group of volunteers got together at the BTC warehouse in Santa Ana with the goal of collecting and packing 1000 stuffed animals for children in Sri Lanka. In addition to collecting the stuffed animals, they planned to attach hand-written notes to each of the stuffed animals in the hopes that their message would uplift the children affected by the Tsunami. Due to the kindness and generosity of so many, we actually STARTED the day with over 1000 stuffed animals!!!

The focus of the entire day was on the children. Not only were the stuffed animals going to be delivered to the children of Sri Lanka, but it was also the children who volunteered that helped make this event succesful. The children helped build boxes, sorted stuffed animals, wrote personal messages, created signs and directed traffic. The children worked in the true spirit of service to prepare the gifts and send them all with love to the children of Sri Lanka, of whom over 9000 were effected by the Tsunami.

The volunteers themselves had amazing stories!! A couple of little girls shared how they were vacationing in Thailand during Christmas and woke up on December 26th planning to go the beach, but for no particular reason just decided to go the next day. The aunt of two young Sri Lankan volunteers lost her home in the Tsunami, and yet these two children were cheerfully working on a project to help Sri Lankan people they don’t even know. Their father showed us pictures and a map of Sri Lanka, which made the whole project that much more meaningful. A very young volunteer, Sebastian,who came with his grandmother, literally worked non-stop (except for the occasional donut break) for several hours. He never got tired or bored. He was truly inspirational to watch. Another young boy, Joshua, and his friend Chris, serenaded the volunteers with several songs from their clarinets, including “A Whole New World”. A whole new world indeed.

Everyone worked so hard in between snacks and lively conversation. As the day passed on, volunteers continued to pack stuffed animals into donated boxes that were stamped “To the Children of Sri Lanka”. By the end of the day, we had collected over 3000 stuffed animals!!!

But that was only the beginning. The storage and transportation of the stuffed animals began as soon as the stuffed animals were sorted and boxed. Over 100 boxes were transported to Northridge, California, to an awaiting sea container, which left for Sri Lanka on Feb. 12th.

Once they arrive in Sri Lanka, the stuffed animals will be distributed to the children by a group called “SARVODAYA”. Sarvodaya is Sanskrit for Awakening of All”. The group is the largest people’s movement in Sri Lanka and was started almost 50 years ago. The philosophy of Sarvodaya is drawn from Buddhist and Ghandian principles. They are non-political and help people of all religions and ethnic groups. This group was a good match for BTC.

A lot of love and care went into this event and that’s what made it so successful. The people who participated had the intention of not only sending stuffed animals but also sending love, and it showed in everything they did. The love just kept on coming in the way of more stuffed animals and notes, for several days after the event. One batch of notes was especially touching. It came from some severely disabled high-school students from Oakland, CA. Their notes and pictures reflected that even when our minds or bodies are limited, love has NO limitations. In addition to their notes and pictures, these children collected coins from home and sent a check for $25.00 to help kids in Sri Lanka.

It was really a great experience to witness to the kindness and generosity that people are capable of when given the space and opportunity to do so. It inspired and challenged me to dedicate myself to creating those spaces and opportunities wherever I can.

Compassion Cell at Sunrise

It was the lady that wasn’t participating at all that made me realize how important this event truly was. We were busy preparing for this month’s Compassion Cell in our usual fashion: organizing last minute supplies, moving chairs around and making the necessary signs to direct people to our area. This month’s Compassion Cell brought Orange County volunteers to the Sunrise Senior Living Home to engage in true acts of selfless service. Our goal was to prepare valentine arts and crafts with the residents and give them our unconditional friendship for a few hours. In the end it wasn’t the activities at all, but rather this one elderly woman who taught me what friendship was all about.

We were moving chairs from the television room into the overcrowded banquet room to create more places to sit. We were walking briskly so that we could spend as much time as possible with the residents. As we walked past her I noticed her discontent with our actions. Fortunately she was not shy and she quickly expressed her unhappiness to both me and Amit. Amit and I took one look at one another and knew instantaneously that our Compassion Cell had begun. We set the chairs down and finally began to listen. She expressed how things change so quickly, without any warning and without any communication. No-one had taken the time to explain why we were there, or why the chairs were being moved. The moving of the chairs was just one more incident of unwanted change in her life. Staying in a ‘Senior Living Center’, we can only imagine the changes that she has had to deal with… the chairs were only a symbol of that very change.

She was intelligent, far more than what I had expected. She conversed fluently and matter-of-factly. She said that she would join us, only if she was inspired to do so. She spoke bitterly about recent incidents, and yet laughed at our comical jokes. In short, she was like many of my own friends.

Later on, when I finally saw her in the banquet room participating in the same arts and crafts as the others, she had a huge smile on her face. I could tell that we had somehow given her some sense of belonging and comfort during our brief stay. It was in that moment, that I too smiled.

In fact many of the residents seemed delighted during the activities and expressed a deep sense of gratitude for our stay. As we would thank them for the opportunity to come into their homes, they would in turn thank us for spending our time with them.

Along with making the valentines crafts for the residents, Alfred took photographs with a polaroid camera, and BTC volunteer Sonja rocked the house with some amazing opera singing. All of us were blown away by this young girl’s talent. After Sonja dropped her talent on the scene, Joshua, a slightly younger BTC volunteer rocked the audience on his clarinet.

As usual, after the Compassion Cell we all shared our experiences with one another. A new volunteer expressed that she had gained much more from the residents than she had given. As the saying goes, the more you give, the more you receive.

In the spirit of friendship,


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