Notes for the Wall
Standing at the Walgreens in downtown on an unusually rainy Saturday in Los Angeles, I looked down at the display of notebooks. I wanted one that was aesthetically pleasing, like it out of my dreams. Meanwhile Patrice, who was visiting me that day with her boyfriend, was getting annoyed.
“Just grab that little one,” she said, pointing to the 50-page spiral down at the bottom. “It’s $1.29.”
“I want something unlined,” I whined at her, continuing to scavenge through the different pads of paper, my Converse squeaking against the tiled floor. Although my best friend has a lot of patience when it comes to me, this was a little intense.
“It’s not like you need huge papers, just get something basic for people to write in. No one’s going to judge the idea based on the paper, and G-d’s not going to care if it’s lined.”
I grumbled, knowing that she was right as usual, and picked up the $1.29 notepad and two packs of pens. I went to the counter and we headed off to the Last Bookstore and, in turn, the beginning of this project. I knew what I wanted to do. It was just a whim of an idea, something that I thought would be fun to do and a nice gesture for all my friends.
In Jewish tradition, the Western Wall where the temple of Jerusalem once stood is the holiest of all sites. In addition to being there and saying prayers, it is customary for travelers to insert their deepest prayers and individual wishes in the cracks on little slips of paper. And immediately after I got off the plane, that would be my first stop.
I remembered several weeks ago I was having dinner with my friend Gary, who I jokingly call my adopted baby brother. We were talking about his recent trip to Israel and my upcoming one. According to him, my friend Brie wanted him to take a note from her to slip in the Wall.
“I ran out of time and I wasn’t able to get her note before I left,” he said. “So I wrote a note for myself and one that said, ‘Whatever Brie wanted.’ It’s not the same, but it worked for the moment.”
It was that thought that there were people who I loved who probably wanted this opportunity that inspired the idea. It wasn’t every day that you got the offer to deliver your heart’s deepest prayer. So for the week before my trip, I would collect people’s notes to take with me. Right before I left, I would fold them all up and place them in a little Ziploc baggie and then place them individually in the Wall. The goal was to have everyone I love give me a note. I wouldn’t read them; I just wanted them to have the opportunity to have a prayer in a holy place.
It started with Patrice and her boyfriend, scribbling as we were standing in the Last Bookstore. Then Gary stood up next to a column there and jotted his note. He was followed by my friend Jonathan, who took the notepad into the dollar section to perfect his prayer.
My closest LA girlfriends Melissa, Julie and Brie wrote theirs while we were sitting at a burger joint off the Sunset Strip that night, with Julie helping Melissa put hers down while her seeing eye dog Timber stared up in curiosity about this strange activity from under the table. Throughout the day, it was fun to see everyone pass around the notebook, laughing about what they would write and asking me questions about what they should put down. I would always reply with a smile, “Whatever you want.”
The next morning, I journeyed into downtown LA with Audra, my roommate Zac and my friend Alli for her birthday brunch. As we settled down at the table and I was getting ready to tell everyone about the project, I joked, “I love getting the family together for breakfast.”
Everyone nodded and agreed, and then I pulled out the notebook and began to explain the project. And as I sat there looking at them, there was something that reminded me how a year and a half ago, after I officially returned home to Los Angeles, I was scared about not having a group of friends to share my world with. Now I was blissfully surrounded by people I adore and who have taken me in. I wanted to honor them in this journey I was about to take to Jerusalem. Their grace is what made me strong enough to get to this point in my life.
“I can’t afford to take you all with me,” I said with a laugh. “This is the second best way to do it, I guess.”
As breakfast continued and I passed along the notebook (being very careful as to not read any of the prayers that were given), my heart leapt from the joy. It was strange, and maybe in some weird way the project was selfish. But after two years of insanity trying finding your place in the universe and then succeeding, a couple of wishes from the people you love written on slips of paper to take to the holiest spot in our world — well, it’s the least I can do.
So if you are one of my closest friends and you see me before Sunday, be prepared, as you may be handed a pen and paper.