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edgeIn high school, my friend Charlie and I drove around town as fast as we could and swore we would always live life on the edge. I haven’t been in touch with Charlie much in the last few years, but from what I know, I think he has mostly kept his promise… as have I.

Right now, we are on the edge of many things. When Mark Peters and I first learned we had to leave the country, we chose Pakistan because it was the most challenging place for us to go. On the whole, Americans were not looked upon very fondly, and there was a very real threat of danger in going there. We chose Pakistan because this was the path with an edge. Change doesn’t come about by avoiding our fears, but only in entering them and working to improve and strengthen the situations therein.

After having spent so much time collecting so many good wishes, I have developed a greater sense of the inherent goodness of all. I no longer have any fears of entering into Pakistan.

india_todayWhen Mark and I first talked about going there, we talked about going in and getting out, as quickly and as covertly as possible, dropping our love bomb and leaving before we became targets. Now, a group of us are all walking in as huge national news stories. Our story is literally everywhere. From newspapers all over the country to large magazines like India Today, bits and pieces of our work are recognized now by most people we encounter. Both the President and Prime Minister of India are intimately aware of our work and just today, The Dawn, the largest newspaper in Lahore, Pakistan, ran our story as its main, front page feature, with full color photo and all.

By no means are we going in covertly; we are walking in – literally – pushing the letters from Amritsar to Lahore – with every spotlight on us.  And we are unafraid.

bikecartsThrough the hard work of Mark Jacobs, amazingly, visas were issued for our whole team – Indians and all – to enter into Pakistan. There were small delays and we are now entering on the 24th. From Lahore, we will head to Karachi for the World Social Forum and then back up to Lahore for a huge event where we will officially present “The World’s Largest Love Letter.”

Plans are already in the works for the continued buildup of this project after Pakistan. This effort has an energy of its own, and to me it feels as if we are simply being pulled along to take care of its details to the best of our abilities.

Following Pakistan, most of us will be returning to the US, but will continue to nurture this forward.

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kapadiaFrom Mumbai, we headed up to Ahmedabad for an unsual event celebrating the unity within diversity. From different places of worship (Hindu Temple, Jain Temple, Muslim Masjid, Christian Church, Sikh Gurudwara, Jewish Synagogue, and Parsi Agyari), kids gathered from various backgrounds. Five massive strips of Hindi text from “The World’s Largest Love Letter” were marched down the congested streets of Ahmedabad in a bold visual display – each strip requiring 60 kids to carry it. The strips all ended up at the Gandhi Ashram, where an event took place, with approximately 1500 kids there to sign the border pieces, read aloud their letters, and join in a dance celebration.

The historic ashram buildings were all wrapped entirely by the massive colorful banners – newly painted by HB Kapadia school as well as the Ashramshala kids of Manav Sadhna.

As always, the ever-giving folks at Manav Sadhna, demonstrated nothing but the humblest of heroism, playing a pivotal role in orchestrating this amazing production in just a matter of days. They even fed the kids!

mahindrajourneyAfter the Ahmedabad event, we all hopped in our bus fully adorned with children’s artwork. This bus was loaned to us by the trucking company Mahindra and Mahindra, along with two trucks, also fully decorated in children’s art.

From Ahmedabad, we drove to Kutch, in Western Gujarat, where we stopped in remote villages along the border route, to collect letters from kids in rural areas. The purpose was both to have a fun road trip and also to demonstrate that this is about all of India – rich, poor, urban, rural – no matter the place or background of a child, they are all included in our project.

kutchIn truth, this whole effort is only superficially about India and Pakistan. It is about recognizing the potential connections inherent between all beings, and taking the necessary steps to develop those connections.

Along the journey, in a remote Muslim village, I was surprised to find the village all lit up with dozens of diyas – a sight very rare in a Muslim village –a surprise for my birthday. It was truly beautiful and something I’ll always remember.

villagediyasWe drove through Rajasthan to Delhi, where we took care of a few more things necessary to make this campaign grow, and then we headed to Haryana and Punjab, where we stopped at more rural schools, including the one next to Loveleen’s family village, where we had the treat of stopping along the way.

With so much activity, there has never been much downtime. It’s amazing we’ve been able to go like this for so long and stay so positive. What we are working on is just so simple and special that it seems to somehow keep us sane and upbeat – despite the challenging conditions. What an amazing trip it’s been.

first_stepI just got an email from someone I’ve never met who has been reading this blog and says that reading it has helped keep her inspired in her own service work with “at risk” adolescents.

I started to write her back and then it occurred to me that what I was going to say was pretty relevant and that I should probably write it here instead.

In life there are many different types of service.  Some types – like what we are doing now – may be seen as big and rewarding. Other types – like what she is doing – are difficult, unglamorous, and may at times even seem like a losing battle.

I realized long ago that we’ve all been dealt different hands in life and to judge one’s merits on the superficial size of one’s accomplishments is not a real indication of success.

Success can only be measured in the moment, relevant to how you respond to the conditions on hand.

Right now, I’ve got enough money to keep going on this project. I have a computer and web access. I am a white male in a country where that has value. I grew up in a good school system.  I am healthy.  I have the right conditions to take on things that one may not be able to take on in the face of poverty, sickness, learning disabilities, discrimination, etc.

Service has two components to it: 1) you try to make a positive difference, and 2) by humbling ourselves in the process of trying to make a difference, we can blossom spiritually. One can work to make a difference by spending years trying to get an autistic child to tune in or by spending years trying to change a law that will affect millions. Both courses are equally valid – they are both ‘The Work’ that needs to be done in our world, and it’s only through our own hearts that we can measure what work feels most important for us to take on.

longjumpJust last night, I met four young boys inhaling solvents on the streets of Delhi. This problem is huge with kids in the cities of India. They are all starved for love and it seems like with enough love and support, they would quickly let go of this habit. I tried talking with them for a while and then put Loveleen on the phone to speak with them in Hindi. We made a minor difference, but to make a real difference, I would have to stop this project and focus on these kids. Wherever we go, there are millions of areas where love and attention is needed and to walk away is always difficult. There is no right path. It is in choosing something – anything – and applying our care to it that we can and will make a difference. What’s important is to keep growing in love and humility and to keep engaging in positive transformation.

As far as growing spiritually in the process, in many ways the less rewarding work is the greater type of work, because through its challenges, the pearl comes more quickly, where in the reward-filled work, ego traps are all around.

kidsletters01Earlier in the year, I posted opportunities for people to contribute to my blog so that I could do acts of kindness for them here in India. A long while back I started spending more and more money. It started in transportation to and around different cities, visiting schools, etc., then in buying markers and paper for school kids to write friendship letters to kids in Pakistan, and then went on to fund thousands of dollars worth of “The World’s Largest Love Letter” and public service announcements. I operated with faith that by not holding back and moving forward into the beauty that the money would eventually follow.

Because of this faith that the money would come, I held onto the idea that I would keep the money that had come in through the blog for small acts of kindness instead of using it on this project. Some friends have come forward and helped out in very generous ways, but overall it’s not looking like we will find a big sponsor for this project. If you donated anything to me through this blog, it’s probably a good time to say that it has been invested into “a brand new approach to world peace,” and I feel very content knowing that your money was very well placed.

kidsletters02I heard recently that the American war in Iraq is costing $100,000 every minute. Do you have any idea how much money this is? And all it is buying is a whole lot of chaos and aching resentments that will take generations to heal. On their scale, the cost of our project may equate to about 15 seconds total, and I feel pretty confident that with just a handful of people and a network of support, we have accomplished much more. There were times on this project where it would have been very easy to stop everything as the costs became hard to bear individually – especially from someone who spends his life doing unpaid service work – whose wife earns money doing social work. But when looking at the comparative cost and seeing how much it would buy, it is a bargain of bargains, and to stop out of fear would be tragic.

This project has touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of children and adults – probably now millions – throughout India and abroad and it is still very much growing. Its success cannot be measured by just the letters we receive, but in each and every child we have met, and the overall spirit of love and friendship that has gone out into the world. This truly is a recipe for a better world and where its ripples will reach, no one can know.

Thanks to each of you for trusting in me with your money and you need to know that in a very real way, it is your contributions that have helped make this dream a reality.

The expenses are still ongoing and if you would like for your money to be the money that made this happen, feel free to Join the Dream. :)


Photos by Maria Durana

mumbai03Mumbai was an interesting experience. When I first arrived, I headed to
Gopi’s. It took me about 2 hours to get there through traffic. From there, I quickly had to get to the other side of town to change my airline tickets back home. This took me a couple more hours. I quickly got a taste of what was going to be a dominant element – with all its congestion, getting about in Mumbai is like moving through molasses.

We had so much to accomplish in Bombay and I quickly got to work. Almost immediately we got two big thumbs up for the use of both Wankhede and Brabourne Cricket Stadiums. When we later decided to change the date, however, both stadium bookings fell through and from that point, so much of our time was spent either campaigning to get the stadiums again or looking for alternative venues.

Our overall goal was to get celebrity support for our project, particularly during the big event. Through a contact of our friend Meghna’s, I got the mobile number of just about every superstar in Bollywood. Without a venue, however, it was hard to sound credible and much of what we could have been moving forward with had to be delayed.

mumbai101The public service announcement was set in motion almost immediately. Working with Buddy and Black Magic was a treat. They did a phenomenal job.

I met up on day one with Jocelyn, a new volunteer who had come to Bombay specifically to work with us. She was great. A little later, Mark and Yoo-mi, Maria, and Smita all came to town. Eventually, we were given a place to stay in a part of town far, far away. From there, a typical day would consist of fighting to squeeze onto a local train ridiculously overstuffed with a dense mass of sweaty men, and then working to prioritize and take on an endless ‘to-do’ list where every item on it was absolutely priority number one.

Everything involved personal meetings all over town and only about four or five meetings at most could take place in any day – if lucky. We spent our time trying to get venues, funding, celebrities, artists, etc, etc., and so much more. Food and sleep were placed on hold for months, but what an amazing experience.

My corporate hairstyle had grown in and I held onto it as long as I could.

With more time, it’s likely we could have turned this into the biggest thing in decades, but we raced forward, all knowing our personal lives would fall apart if we delayed. In the end, one of the most popular Indian bands, Aasma, agreed to play for free, and several big stars said they would try to show up. For various reasons, many of these things fell apart, but the event was a huge success anyway. The emcee, a TV celebrity named Nasir Kazi, from the hit show Kyunki held the event together beautifully.

mumbai16In Bombay, we had the amazing privilege of working together with so many inspiring, kindred spirits. There are just too many to mention here, but overall it was just such a truly rich, beautiful, and memorable experience.

There really are probably hundreds of fascinating stories buried within this one blog entry. In the end, we did walk away with one big celebrity agreeing to work with us on a second public service announcement, and we are pretty certain if this happens, many others will follow. I am working hard to nurture this and make it happen while on the road now in other parts.

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