An awkward, loving giant: On sticky notes, peace tea, homemade songs, and giving and receiving love in our communities

“He that gives should not remember.
He that receives should not forget.”
―The Talmud

“It is more rewarding to watch money change the world
than watch it accumulate.” ―Gloria Steinem

“Everything is so good you might get a lot of energy and love everything and you might get bigger and bigger as a giant or something like that.”
―Ezra at age 4 (now age 6)

Dear Maple Street Families,

What sustains us, especially post-election, comes in the little and accumulated ways we take care of each other. Our little love notes of protection on our wall and in Union Square add up and get “bigger and bigger as a giant or something.” And then we have this homemade sticky note giant, held together by tiny bits of tape and glue and a whole lot of compassion. Walls of sacred love notes are ancient, and they are so needed in our present, troubled times.

In the last month, I found myself going to the pre-school classroom oracle for wisdom. Today I sat in a little chair for a moment and was spontaneously served invisible peace tea by some children in the Squirrels and Chipmunks classroom.  It was delicious, healthy and tasted like community.

I am supposed to be writing about fundraising right now. I wasn’t hired to do development, and even after much practice, I do it in a messy, imperfect and deeply loving way, just like we do most everything at Maple Street School. But over time, I have learned to ask for donations and tell our stories in ways that help add to the bucket of love in quarters, dollars, twenties, hundreds, thousands, and more.

I did take some fundraising trainings, went to meetings, worked with consultants, and organized spreadsheets. I danced, pranced, and skipped through a half marathon. We have raised a lot of funds together, we still have a ways to go, and some of us are weary.

When I am tired, I often return to gratitude, vision and practice.

Gratitude: I thank all of you for this expanding-in-size-and-love village. This is not a little thank you, but a giant thank you: for decades of work done by hundreds, perhaps thousands of people. This school has witnessed and fostered so much play, learning, and growing of small humans who are now bigger humans, who are potty-trained, who easily ride on their own the Q and B trains they once admired so much and held a hand to ride through our diverse and beautiful city. But adults grow, too, and over the years many adults have also found service, love, compassion, and wisdom at Maple Street School.

Vision: Our vision is about welcoming, protecting, and standing up. On tours, we often say that at Maple Street, you get to be you: you get to wear a dress; marry who you want; love your skin and hair; be proud of how you jump, dance, sing, run, talk, build castles, climb, paint, and feel. You get to be a friend and you get to be supported and loved, too.

Practice: Our practice is one of creating community through play, meetings, difficult conversations, pop-ups, circle time—and, of course, sticky notes and invisible tea! In accumulation, small actions create a beloved community.

In addition to gratitude, vision and practice, I also ask with everything we do, What do we want to teach our children about this? Our co-op, in its essence, practices the world we want our children to live in. It teaches children that giving and receiving are beautiful things in themselves, that money is for changing and creating, not just consuming, and that whatever you give and receive is enough. You are always enough.

A couple weeks ago, I was sorting out my own giving on a digital sticky, trying to figure out what my gifts say about my core values. I wrote that my gifts are about:

Remembering with love
Honoring history
Taking a stand
Being in solidarity
Easing pain and poverty
Stopping danger
Finding vision
Finding joy in the arts
Access and empowerment, and
Creating something
I am sure there are more, too. For instance, this morning I was thinking and feeling the importance of nature, the parks and our Earth. And writing this, I am thinking about all the people I desire to be in solidarity with, the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Our goal is to create a beloved community, and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.” At Maple Street, we continue to fundraise in order to grow our community, keep it diverse and affordable, offer scholarships, and—most of all—raise thoughtful, open, caring, loving, beloved humans: sticky-note giants, peace-tea drinkers, welcomers, protectors, stander-uppers.

To receive is special, and to give is special, too—maybe more so. It completes the circle that builds community and makes our school more diverse, expansive, kind and socially just.

Our teacher Peggy wrote a new song for the children:

Love, love, love, love, love
Amour, amour, amour
I stand for you,
You stand for me
Yes, we are brave in our community

You can hear the children singing this song here. The second line changes as the children sing it, so they sing “love” in different languages:

Amour (French)
Amor (Spanish)
Milosc (Polish)
Ai (Japanese)
Liebe (German)
Ahava (Hebrew)
We are looking to add other languages spoken by families in our community. (Please email me yours!) And with all this love, we are launching our sticky-note peg wall. You can buy a peg to have your name, your vision, or your favorite quote engraved on it! You can buy your peg and choose your inscription here.

Let us build our community through sticky notes, peace tea and homemade songs. Let us welcome, protect, take a stand, and teach our children to do all of these things well. Let us use our giving to communicate our core values and fund our vision, our beloved community, even when we are weary, and trust that although the present is deeply troubling, together we are a giant—a giant that is awkward, that is learning and makes mistakes—but a giant of energy, love, compassion, diversity and social justice.

Please donate, write, love, expand, create, change, give and receive. Let’s be a peace-tea-drinking, justice-creating, freedom-singing, welcoming, protecting, standing-up sticky note Giant Community together.

In cooperation and love,