Our world seems to be unraveling. Many systems are falling apart right now: insufficient affordable housing, millions of people without health care, fewer family-wage jobs, rising student debt, extreme weather events and climate change. The worse things get, the easier it is to see disconnecting as the only sane approach.
We have come to a different conclusion; we believe engaging in a conscious effort to love one another can bring us to a place where we can effectively address our challenges. We’ve seen love transform our own lives. We started a project called Love Wins Love to nurture conversations and bring people together by making prayer flags that honor those who are living unsheltered in King County.
Two years ago, with a small Department of Neighborhoods grant Denise set out to make batik hearts at an Earth Day event. She stepped out of her comfort zone and hired Susan, a Real Change vendor she’d just met, to work the event. We worked really well together and became friends. With leftover supplies we kept setting up heart-making stations. Now we’ve made more than 2,000 hearts with the community. We’ve noticed that extraordinary conversations happen around the painting table, and we’ve seen the spark of connections, friendships and even romance.
From the heart project came prayer flags. Last summer, when Susan spoke in support of homeless encampments in Ballard and others talked about how ugly the encampments were, we realized that encircling the encampments with prayer flags would bring beauty to those places and also say to everyone who saw them, “Love lives here.” We also realized prayer flags take a little while to make, and maybe people would stay for slightly longer conversations.
Our goal is to bring people who are unhoused and housed together to make prayer flags.
The One Night Count this year found 4,505 living unsheltered. So that became our goal: 4,505 prayer flags. Each one a life. Each one a prayer. The 4,505 prayer flags will stretch almost a mile when tied together. Wrapping City Hall or the Capitol in Olympia with a mile long string of prayer flags will be a beautiful, honorable way to bring a message of the need for shelter to the eyes and the hearts of policymakers.
When Denise thinks about how her life has been enriched since she went beyond her comfort zone to hire “that homeless woman in the Seahawks outfit” to work with her, she is incredibly grateful that she had the courage to acknowledge her own bias —her fear, really — and chose love. Because of our friendship, we both have more faith in humanity. And in our dark days, we can hold onto that. It’s solid. And it is growing stronger.
We call our project Love Wins Love because love is regenerative. It makes us more resilient and our journey more joyful. Acting together reweaves our community person-by-person, act-by-act, place-by-place.
Please become part of Love Wins Love. We have about 4,100 more flags to make. We need your help! Learn where we’ll be working next via our Facebook page: Love Wins Love. We are always looking for people to join the team, but if you don’t have time, we always have a donation jar at our booth to help pay for supplies.
It’s time to create a more beautiful world together.
From May 13 through 15, we will be making prayer flags at Break Free in Anacortes. When we open our hearts, we see there is a clear connection between climate change and homelessness. We are all in this together.
Love and compassion need to be at the heart of how we respond to extraordinary challenges.
Love Wins Love co-instigators are Susan Russell and Denise Henrikson. Susan Russell is a Real Change vendor and housing advocate who believes if her work helps one person, she is successful. Denise Henrikson is an artist and community activist who believes people can change the world every day.