"So what are you selling?’ Davis County fairgoers asked when they stopped at my booth, A Hopeful Note. I replied, "Absolutely nothing’ then added "and this is the coolest thing you will do while here."
As I explained the purpose the booth, which was to gather messages of hope and encouragement from strangers to strangers in crisis, fairgoers asked, ‘why are you doing this?" The answer, because of an experience I had back in May, 2012.
I’d explain that two days before the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Salt Lake City, my daughter had a cancerous tumor removed from her breast. I went to the Race with a notebook in my hand and announced, "We are two days into this, will anyone write a note to my daughter?" The outpouring of love and support was overwhelming.
Across the board, the message was the same. "I’m a better person for the journey as I have my priorities straight. I know what really matters. I live totally in the moment, not worrying about what might happen in a week, a month, a year. I count my blessings every day and I laugh a lot more."
Later, it occurred to me that as my daughter lives in San Jose, Calif., the whole experience was about strangers writing a hopeful note to a stranger in crisis. As I related this story to the fair-goers standing around the booth, all would nod their heads in agreement because the messages I gathered for my daughter struck a familiar chord. No matter the specifics of the crisis, all listening seemed to agree that what was voiced by the breast cancer survivors was not only their experience as well but also sound advice in general.
So families sat in the shade between The Baby Tooth Booth and A Hopeful Note and clipboard in hand, they wrote. Mothers wrote a note while their little children drew pictures. Teenage girls dragged their boyfriends over handing them a piece of paper and after a few minutes, both were totally engaged. A whole group of teenage boys grabbed paper and pencils and wrote thoughtful messages with one writing "You’d never see the stars if it wasn’t for the dark." People in wheelchairs pulled onto the grass and balancing the clipboard, they shared advice on how they were dealing with their particular challenge.
Over the four days of the Davis County Fair, more than 450 men, women and children took a few minutes to lift the spirits of a faceless stranger. How wonderful. In a world where there is so much attention to the negative, how absolutely wonderful.
But now what? What do we do with these charming notes we’ve gathered? Do we put them into a book? Do we make a bunch of books and put them in a bunch of places where there are people who could use some encouraging?
Do we laminate each page so the books will last? Then where do we take them? Surely cancer patients would like to read a copy while they are getting chemotherapy treatments. How about Battered Women’s Shelters or waiting rooms in hospitals? Would they appreciate these? Certainly. But do we give the books away or do we charge? What if the organization that would benefit is working on a shoestring, anyway?
At the end of the day, we want to find a way to continue gathering these Hopeful Notes. We want to interview people then upload their comments onto the Internet so anyone anywhere could access these comments at three in the morning when they can’t sleep because their minds are spinning and their stomach in knots.
Although these are great ideas, here is the rub. I’m a mom in a basement. And although a very good friend of mine volunteered to man the booth from start to finish each day of the Fair, the reality is neither he nor I have another dime to invest. We can’t go any further on our own nickel.
Writing a Hopeful Note is a very good thing. Reading them is even better. However, getting these into the hands of those who need them is the whole point. And we need help taking this to the next level. To make donations, give suggestions or join us in this effort, please visit babytoothbooth.com. Thanks.
Lorna Rosenstein is a Layton resident, a citizen activist and executive director of both Waterwatch of Utah and Utahn’s For Better Dental Health. While at the Davis County Fair, she was the Tooth Fairy at the Baby Tooth Booth.