Be the Cause

Meeting 2 young ladies during “Lights On”

I volunteer with Lights On because I get to meet people that I normally don’t get to meet in my boring life which is based on pushing buttons all day (like George Jetson) and spending time with my family.

People say I’ve evolved in my life because none of the friends I currently have don’t have drug addictions, haven’t been to jail, don’t loseWeight Exercise control when dealing with lust, anger, etc. I do have a few friends that live on the street, but lately I’m not sure how much we contribute to each other’s lives.

Life is kind of boring (I’m not being facetious or just trying to be funny). My favorite experience in life is meeting people that are very different from me. So, I go trying to find situations where my horizons maybe broadened, ie, find something that will stimulate me to think.

I’ll just tell you about these 2 young ladies that I met from 1am – 4am Sunday Morning. I’ll need your advice because I didn’t tell them what I think I should have. We met more people that day, but I’ll only write about these 2.

Right as we were about to close down the RV at 4am, a bus from The Irvine Farm pulled up. There was an a black man and a very skinny young woman that came out. The lady looked like she was wearing a space suit. The jail had “lost” her clothes, laptop and her cell phone. She had come down to party with her friend in Anahiem. She lived in Sacromento! She was 19! (People that our tax dollars employ, decided it was ok for a 19 year old woman to be released at 4am in the morning in a paper suit). We gave her some pants, the use our our cell phones, some soda, and just had the oppurtunity to show some concern. What would she do if we weren’t there? I guess she could have called her mom collect from inside the intake/release area, but that wasn’t so simple. From some of the people she talked to on the phone, I inferred what she was arrested for. She told me, “I was surprised my mom bailed me out. I didn’t want to miss my (high school) graduation.” Her friend, who she was arrested with, was bailed out sometime before her and she wasn’t sure if she was still in town. She told me that if her Cadillac Escalade had been towed, she was going just say “f*ck it” and take the train back to Sac-town. I knew what I wanted to say to her. Actually, I was going to ask a question like “at your young age, do you think you are going a little too fast?” But the moment never came where the words came out of my mouth. When I volunteer at Lights On, I tell myself to concentrate on not being judgmental. I admit, that I do make some gut judgements, but I try my best not to show it. So, in that uncertainity I didn’t say anything. After she called and found out that the hotel she stayed at didn’t tow her truck. So she called a friend got some money wired, got in a cab and left. I just asked her if her truck was ok and told her not to drive if she felt sleepy at all. I was so worried about her that I didn’t pay attention to the other guy all that much. I hope he didn’t think it was because he was an older black man and she was a little white girl.

Earlier in the early morning around 1am or so, we met another young lady about the same age. Her name was Joy. She was really joy. She was really happy to be out after a couple weeks. She was a waitress and she had a DUI. She turned herself in and did the jail time because she couldn’t afford the fine. While getting a physical to see if she could spend her time at the Irvine Farm, she found out she was pregnant. She said she cried the first night. She was alone and I understand how much it must have sucked to be alone in jail and finding that out. She said the next day she felt really happy. She loved her boyfreind and his family took care of her well. She couldn’t wait to get out and tell him. She said she was shipped back and forth because she was a “medical liabilty” at the farm. She said there was a dorm full of pregnant women at the main Santa Ana jail. She said she didn’t talk to the other women because, “there was too much drama” that she didn’t want to think about. She said there were some stories that made her really sad and glad that she wasn’t in that situation. I was glad to know that she actually did talk or at least listen to some other ladies going through what she went through. We told her not to tell her boyfriend over the phone. But, she was too excited and ended up telling him. He jumped in his sporty little car and drove from the Colton area. While we waited Joy said her mom had died while she was young and she wasn’t very close to her dad. She felt blessed by the way her boyfriend’s family cared about her. She also thought how telling her dad might bring them to talk better again. I had the thought to tell her to not be afraid to tell him, but to expect a “protective” response from her dad because another young lady that got pregnant that I knew at 20 was told by her dad “how could you do such a thing? are you stupid, to get pregnant at this age?…” I bit my lip on that because I didn’t think it was my place to bring that expectation on her dad. I wanted to say it, just to tell her that if anything like that comes out from the estranged relationship they had, to not let it bug her. It’s just a stupid gut reaction. But I bit my lip, because I wan’t sure how to say all that at the time. She got a chance to talk to Sonali about her son. We told her to make sure she finds a good doctor. Not to be afraid to ask for help. Don’t be drinking. Read all the pamphlets she can get her hands on. She was beaming with excitement. That was good to see. My sister was like that about 2 years ago. After her boyfriend drove up, I had the notion to congradulate him on being a dad, and wanted to say something to the affect of Seagram Miller’s words, “I doesn’t take a man to make a baby but it takes a man to guide a baby in the right direction… to help keep her/him menaty strong when the bad times comes along.” But I didn’t get a chance to, because after I shook his hand, Joy jumped on him and you should have seen the kiss. They must have been mouth locked for a good few minutes, and out of embarrassment I walked away. I’ve never kissed anyone like that. It was amazing. Joy was 20 years old, her man was younger. They were 2 youngsters not sure how they would go about raising a kid or even if they could afford it, but they were happy and drove off kissing.

We all went back home to our families and jobs where we push buttons and came back again to “Lights On” the next weekend.

Going back to my statement about meeting people different from me. I don’t think I met anyone all that much different from me. Just learned how some react in situations that I’ve never known.

Free Hugs=Lights On

Two different events took place last Saturday, March 31st that I could never ever forget…as long as we all shall live. These two events were completely equal in the ways that they affected my heart so profoundly.

“How could two events be more different?” you might ask. For the Free Hugs event, some very brave btc volunteers all met at Starbucks in Manhattan Beach (most of us were terribly late because of the meters everywhere.) Tip numero uno that I learned as an organizer…scout out the territory first, so you don’t have to ask participants of event for quarters that you don’t have ;) Thanks Vivek, you saved us! So we all met with our signs made and some of us wore our Free Hugs tshirts that gracious volunteer, Christine made for us at the last Free Hugs function. So for Free Hugs in the MB, we were out there at the base of Manhattan Beach Pier…some people filmed us with video cameras and digital cams. If we end up on some random news channel or the like, I may deny that we did this loopy thing called Free Hugs. At least I was in disguise (wearing sunglasses & hat). ;)

And now on a serious note…it’s truly scary how tough it can be to give our love to others in this world. Did I ever think I would be standing in front of a major pier and street intersection with a free hugs sign and with a free hugs t-shirt on…hugging strangers? Probably not. Did I ever think that I would be at a jail from 11:30pm to 4am walking just released inmates to an RV in order for them to have free donuts, a cigarette, a cup of coffee or for them to make a call to anyone to have them pick them up and take them home? Maybe not what I’d normally choose for entertainment on a Saturday night. Their homes could be on the streets, a car or an abandoned house….and to some of these inmates, home was in the jail…As I’ve heard before, the structure, routine can be a symbol of some sense of safety==outside is the potential threat of pimps, police, drugs, alcohol, traffic, abusive husbands, wives, girlfriends, boyfriends. As mentioned in Supun’s blog, we heard a lot of stories. As volunteers for this event, our jobs were to listen. I found myself trying to hear the stories and wondering and visualizing what might have really happened, but what I noticed was that these people (just like you and I, but you and I in some supreme dire straits) needed to verbalize…it was important to talk things out…whether the person talking was angry with the system, telling us about how they were wrongly accused of something, or saying how much he/she missed his or her kids.

Do you wonder why I would go to something so positively warm and fuzzy such as giving free hugs to beachcombers on at the pier to going to a jail after 11pm at night? Any onlooker could witness that the scene had drastically changed at so late an hour…there were no smiling kids, no couples holding hands, surfers, families out for a day in the sun. There was darkness in the sky and in some hearts we met…but there we all were… volunteers standing by each other…telling our own stories, laughing and building in some ways a barrier and a safety net for these strangers walking our way. I would like to think we were a light at the end of the tunnel, a huge breath of fresh air, a saving grace for all the people we met. But in the dark night, I feel we were primarily subtle reminders of compassion… compassion to who some may feel should be unforgiven, not paid attention to…maybe even thrown out on the curb like a Sunday paper…not ever having a chance to be read. We all seemed to pick up that paper and read and understand what may have previously seemed blurry or scribbled through.

As we stood with our free hugs signs, it was also a test in kindness. Some may wonder…who are you giving hugs to? Do you know them? Many people asked, what are you doing this for? And the same questions came from the previously jailed…walking in darkness, but seeing a light…it was dim, but they saw it…and as I mentioned to our friend, Sonali, whom we missed so much at this event…it was like a re-birthing in some ways…yes, kinda corny, but the thread that tied the two events=Free hugs & Lights on together was a re-birthing of love…some people that we hugged joined us and held signs alongside us, some told us they will never forget that day and learned lots from the very action of…offering hugs to everyone (no strings attached). And same with the “Lights On” service project. Some wondered….what was our slant?…what made us come out there so late? I thought to myself as they asked this—what they really could be feeling inside was: “why would you want to greet us on your saturday night outside a jail? What good are we to you, the world, our families, our community?” All I know is…Friends who may feel friendless, remember that dim light you saw burning from the RV? That dim light also burned brighter in all of us…because we were able to meet you and intercept some harsh realities of falling out of jail…similar to falling from a skyscraper and being expected to land square on one’s feet.

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