a long time ago i took a girl’s black t-shirt to the local embroidery shop and had them embroider the word “be” on it. it was a gift for my beloved daughter when she was a teenager.
be yourself, in every situation, in every way. feel empowered to be strong and vibrant, with education and experiences to choose from, a blank canvas on which to paint your future.
back in the day, in the early 80’s, my husband and i, directors of a youth group, attended a conference, which i think i remember taking place in atlanta. the theme was “you are promise” and it was an upbeat, positive-memes-loaded reminder dedicated to youth. it never occurred to either of us that it would not be aimed at absolutely ALL youth – regardless of race, sexual orientation or gender identification, ethnic background, religion, or economic circumstance. “you are promise” was – in our viewpoint – for everyone.
today’s world – in what should be following forty years of continued enlightenment, continued inclusion, continued support of all, continued de-marginalization, continued love – struggles to get anywhere near self-actualizing as a place of promise for everyone to grow, to just be.
instead, the word “promise” gets all webbed into violent strains of discrimination, supremacy and extremism, and the word “be” is reconstituted into self-agendizing virtually everything.
this board was installed and painted on a shop window downtown two years ago now, after the riots in our town, a place reeling with grief and questions and fear. i can still smell the smoke in our open-windowed house, still hear the shots and the sirens, still remember the visceral images. most of the boards are down, but this has been there ever since.
upside-down with polka dots and handprints, it seems a gentle, though sobering, reminder – to be yourself, in every situation, in every way, its presence perhaps a suggested promise of acceptance.
just like a black t-shirt that’s in a bin in our basement.