I went for a run this morning. I’ve been doing that a lot more lately because I think running can cure almost anything. When I feel like the light is closing in on me, I go for a run. It restarts me.
I live in a very liberal town. I think something like 90% of us voted for Clinton. And so many were Bernie supporters before that. It’s as blue as blue can be. But on Wednesday morning I realized that I also live in a bubble. We are so closed off from a great deal of America. (Facebook reminds me of this.)
Anyway, lately I’ve been running through the downtown areas. A number of local businesses have allowed their patrons to write on the windows. The town is being coated in positive messages, colorful murals and displays are popping up everywhere. It’s quite lovely. Messages of hope, love and acceptance. And I’ve stopped to take in as many of these as possible. They make me smile.
I love my town. But I do live in a bubble.
On Friday we hosted a meeting. Families I have met and some I’ve never met attended. It was a big deal for me. But I’m trying to become more active, inclusive and less fearful. I’m trying to do things that make me uncomfortable.
So we made this come together. And as the grownups discussed what we could do to help and how we might act, our children created artwork to send to Hillary Clinton. I set up a table full of art supplies, covered it in a paper tablecloth and let them do whatever they wished. At the end of the evening, I was left with a crazy colorful tablecloth. Here is a small part of it:
That said, kids have been a true inspiration for me lately. I think we can learn a lot from our children. So I’ve been trying to pay better attention to them.
Toward the end of my run today, as I neared my house, I saw a little girl drawing with chalk on the sidewalk outside of her home. She was maybe 7. I saw what she was writing and asked if I could take a picture of her words. I thought it was perfectly innocent—because it was perfectly innocent (more so than I realized, actually). It combined three words that were used quite a lot during the election, only not in the same order. (I am not going to say the phrase because I promised her mother I wouldn’t—more on that later). Anyway, I thought it was beautiful. I find a lot of the little things beautiful these days. And so I took a picture.
About 10 minutes later, as I pulled out of my driveway to go meet Corie for coffee, I saw two grownups outside that very same house. A woman was using the same chalk to cover it up. (Later, it would be erased entirely.) She made eye contact with me, flashing a worried look. I moved on. It was strange, to say the least.
I brought it up to Corie while we watched our kids cover themselves in leaves on the playground. I told her about the picture, showed it to her and then mentioned that the family didn’t seem too pleased with the drawing and the fact that I had taken a picture. That’s when Corie said, “Weird, those words were from the first grade vocabulary lesson.”
A few hours later, home again, a house full of kids. One of the boys visiting, a boy I absolutely adore, said, “Something happened today! But my dad told me not to tell you! There is someone who is concerned about something! But I promised I wouldn’t say anything!”
He was so worried!
I brought it up to Toby who suggested I just be direct and write to his father. So I did. I emailed his dad asking, “If there is anything wrong, please let me know. We adore your family and I would like to make whatever it is better.”
Turns out, the mother of the little girl stopped by his house and asked why I may have taken the picture. She knew we were friends and thought she’d find out more because it made her nervous. She was even more concerned with what I might do with the picture. So Walter and I walked over to set her mind at ease.
It was true: her daughter really was innocently practicing her first grade vocabulary words using sidewalk chalk, words that could mean something out of context given the recent election but didn’t mean anything at all. It was a strange coincidence. And a touch funny.
I laughed and said, “It’s kind of hilarious.”
“I would have found it hilarious last week. But this week? Everything has changed. Are you on Facebook?” She continued. “Because it’s gotten really ugly lately. And I am just so nervous these days.”
Because Facebook has become the great divide. I’ve watched family members, once close, unfriend one another. I have seen fights break out between friends. There is so much emotion. So much anger. So much misunderstanding. No one is actually reading anything anymore. No minds are being changed. No one is learning anything, everyone is just one big raw bundle of nerves, ready to react. It’s become a massive echo chamber.
I reassured her I would never post the picture on Facebook and that I understood why she was so nervous and that I was so sorry I was the cause of that. And then I told her I would delete the pictures, just as she had done with her daughter’s chalk drawing.
This election season has been absolutely brutal. And it ended in the most explosive manner imaginable—with a Trump presidency. But the dust will eventually settle again and we will get up off the ground, brush ourselves off and make a go of it again. We have to.
Keep making art. Keep writing. Keep talking. Keep drawing in sidewalk chalk. Don’t erase anything. Keep writing on windows. Keep giving hugs, handshakes and lending an ear. Do something that makes you uncomfortable.
Or, as my dear friend Corie would say, “Let’s start a parade.”