On Monday, I received an email from a reader named David who wrote: “Little lights scattered around the park last night. Second time already. Someone was placing little glowing lights throughout the park last night with notes attached. I took one as it was free. The note says: “If you are lonely, sad or missing someone special, please take this free Friendship Light.'”
The idea of “little lights” lighting up Washington Square Park pathways and benches in this way drew me in for sure. I envisioned magical fairies too! This was something I had to see. So, on Tuesday night, around 9 p.m., when the third visit of the self-named “Friend to the Friendless” appeared at the park, I was there!
Sitting on the edge of the Fountain, I sat there facing northwest just waiting, looking around, taking it all in, not sure what to expect, and then all of a sudden, a green light appeared on the Fountain Plaza!
How do they get there? Well, it is nice when there is a bit of mystery remaining so I won’t reveal that (tho’ you can probably guess… Not fairies but who knows?…).
The inventor of these colorful lights which are called Friendship Lights is a young man named Jack, and he was there at the park that night, of course, as well.
Jack talking with two young women on the Fountain Plaza about it:
There was one hoarder…
When the little boy tried to get me to give him mine, Jack, the creator of Friendship Lights, encouraged him to give his extras (he had four at this point) to others. Of course, you can imagine how exciting this would be to discover something so colorful, mysterious and bright – and many of them – popping up at a park, especially as a young one!
People come across them and maybe they are missing a friend or had a bad day and a typical reaction is to feel heartened by this kind and unusual gesture. One side of the card attached to the lights looks like this:
The lights look like this:
Why did Jack choose Washington Square Park to debut the “Friendship Light Program?” He says, “I thought about debuting in Washington Square Park because of its diverse group of people, and I knew the students who frequent the park come from places throughout the country and world. My view is that many of them feel home sick and could use a friend and a smile. That has been confirmed by the many people that walk up to talk to me and those that email.”
It took the inventor a year to take the project from an idea to an actual something you can hold and experience. The lights use a watch battery; they never go off, and will remain on for a few months. After that, the battery can be replaced (info on the web site). The Friendship Lights are made of biodegradable plastic and smell like bubble gum! Jack manufactures them in Brooklyn where he also lives. He is truly one of the most heartfelt people I’ve met. He visits people if they are lonely and need a friend, are in the hospital, sick or depressed.
And by launching this Friendship Light project at the landmark park, he has brought a little bit of extra magic and light to Washington Square!
He’ll be back to the park … so keep your eyes on the paths and benches at night.
Jack says, “My dream is to travel around the country and give out these lights and hear people’s stories.”
From the reception thus far, that would be welcome to many.
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All photos by Cathryn, except last photo (of the group of lights) by Eli Garcia