I'd like to say that Bar Mitzvahzilla painstakingly designed his own Mitzvah Project, carefully alligning it with his Torah portion, with his inclinations, and with the causes that are near and dear to him in the world. Right. Weeks and then months went by with Husband and I nagging more and more loudly, "What about your Mitzvah project?" and Bar Mitzvahzilla alternating between two responses: 1) "I don't know, what do you think, Mom?", and 2) "How come the Israeli kids never do Mitzvah projects?" (he based this on a one-friend survey.)
So, to cut to the chase, I just want to say that there's the theory, the image in the mind, and then there's the reality. He finally chose collecting for a homeless shelter that moves families into independent housing. This involved setting up collection boxes at three central locations and figuring out how to get word out that they were standing there waiting for donations. I, it turns out, have a flair for public relations. Bar Mitzvahzilla is now locally famous, with notices appearing in the Phoenix paper, the local Jewish paper, in our synagogue newletter, and emails sent to everyone we know. In 115 degree Phoenix, we've been schlepping a lot of donations.
But there had to be an end date and a haul-it-in-to-the-shelter date. In our safe little world, we had an image of what this looked like, somewhat based on their website. We imagined some Horatio Alger thing, families struggling to right themselves, and us, patronizingly swooping in from above, carrying bags of stuff, like a family of Jewish Santa Clauses. I imagined a photo of Bar Mitzvahzilla with the director as he handed over all this stuff he collected, shaking hands, and maybe a certificate of some type, like those really big checks they make up for photo opportunities.
Here's what happened instead. We drive to a very scary part of town where there are gang members strolling the street. The evening attendant is in an office that has an inner gate and an outer gate to protect her, layers of security. There are kids of every age running wild everywhere, screaming and swearing, and calling each other names that, if anyone else used them, would get them killed. We deliver a truck and SUV-load of stuff. It is unloaded into an empty storage bin, then locked. We drive away.