Earlier this week I dragged my kids out of the house to run some errands. Our stamina for this sort of thing is not great these days. We have to wear shoes?! And potentially see people outside of our house?! Are we sure this is a good idea?? But I coaxed them with a stop to pick up our library holds, and though their new books kept them fairly happy and distracted, they were still cranky and whiny and bickering as we neared the end. So much so that I almost skipped the last errand: checking our Butterfly Boxes PO Box. But we were nearby and it had been a ridiculously long time since it had been checked. So I ignored the bickering, and pulled in to the post office.
And I am so happy I did.
Waiting for us inside box 13754 was the happiest of happy mail. There was a donation, yes, but this sweet note is what made me tear up as I sat in my car ignoring the two kiddos poking at each other in back seat.
"Thank you Butterfly Team for the work you do. I wish I could do more. Maybe after Covid I will volunteer."
The complaints from the back ceased as my kids noticed that I wasn't paying any attention to them, and they asked what I was reading. I showed them the note, and, in the way of 7- and 10-year-olds, they oohed and aahed, said it was cool, and asked for my phone to send their aunt Adrienne a picture of it.
The thing is, when we started Butterfly Boxes, when it was just a little seed of an idea, I was desperate to show my kids that people were still so good. People were welcoming and kind and, when given the opportunity, would give what they could to the community around them. Adrienne and I believed that to our absolute core, though what was happening in the world around us had shaken us. So we set a mission to welcome, and to be intentional about inviting people to welcome with us in a variety of ways. And we grew our little baby non-profit, and when it was ready, we put it out into the world, confident in our efforts, but ultimately unsure of what would happen, of who would join us in our mission, or if anyone would at all.
Well, it's four-and-a-half years later, and if you're following us, you know we had no reason to worry. Because of course people are good. Of course people are welcoming. Of course people want to send a toothbrush or a backpack or a sweet stuffy to help welcome a newcomer to our beautiful community. Of course people want to give two hours on a Saturday to come pack bags. Of course people want to gather to eat a delicious meal and meet new neighbors. Of course.
And even though we know the "of course" is true, it never makes the confirmation of that truth any less exciting. Four-and-a-half years ago, as we tracked donations, first from our family and friends, then from friends of friends, then from states and people we had no traceable personal connections with, we exclaimed to each other, "It worked! People are giving! People want to help!"
Four years ago when we hosted our first pot luck, as Adrienne and I collapsed exhausted into a booth for a post-event treat, we stared at each other agape. "It worked! People came! People ate! People talked! People want to meet their neighbors!"
Eighteen months ago, we set a goal to provide 300+ bags for Guatemalan asylum seekers in rural Oregon communities, and we received so many donations, we filled a huge box truck AND both of our cars. Ultimately, we did pack over 300 bags, and on the drive home from Salem, we called each other from our individual cars, still in awe of what our community helped us pull off. "It worked! People sent enough!"
And most recently, just this last November, in the middle of a pandemic, of chaos and uncertainty, we set our most ambitious goal yet for our Warm Winter Welcome. Coats, hats, gloves, and blankets for TWO organizations we partner with. Surely this time we set the bar too high. More people are struggling, people have less to give. We prepared ourselves to maybe not meet our goal this year.
But, of course. Of course the goal was met. Of course our community came through, as they truly ALWAYS DO. As I slowly lost sight of my washer and dryer to the mountains of coats and blankets, Adrienne and I called each other, multiple times a day. "Someone sent us ten men's coats! Look at these hand knit hats! People gave so much, we can get MORE blankets!"
As we start to move past the last year, we are in a place of rebuilding. During the pandemic, we passed nearly all of our inventory on to our partners at Refugee and Immigrant Hospitality Organization, so that it could be put to better use than sitting in a closet. So step one of rebuilding is restocking our inventory to be able to pack our bags. We are currently making specific asks for:
- finished Butterfy Boxes bags, all ages (but older kid and teen boy bags are always lacking)
- resuable face masks and small hand sanitizers, as we will now be including these in all bags, kids to adults. Numerous options can now be found on both our Amazon and Target (sort by "Most Wanted") wish lists.
We know that this may feel like a time when we are ALL rebuilding a bit after the last year, and that many resources are stretched quite thin. Never underestimate the power of word-of-mouth, or a share on social media. Even if you are unable to give right now, word might reach someone who can. If you are not already, you can follow us on both Instagram and Facebook @butterflyboxespdx.
As for the last part of this sweet note, "Maybe after COVID I will volunteer"? That's step two of our rebuilding. Stay tuned.
Alysson and Adrienne