This isn’t my usual flavor of post, since I usually try to be optimistic and hopeful and generally just not a killjoy (at least in public…haha). However, we do live in a imperfect world, so I think there’s room for going against the grain sometimes!
It looks like there’s been a growing movement to display positive, feel-good messages in public places. A few weeks ago, I was driving down Lake Shore Drive (endearingly referred to as “LSD” by locals) towards the University of Chicago when I saw what appeared to be a giant wooden tag with the words “you are beautiful” carved into the front (see here). Just today, I was on my way back from the post office when I saw this sprayed onto the sidewalk:
And apparently, so Google tells me, there are actual groups whose missions include posting these sorts of messages in public spaces. For example, The Joy Team posts inspirational tag lines on billboards, while Operation Beautiful puts up affirming messages just about anywhere where people might see them, from bathroom mirrors to car windshields.
I have to admit, a small part of me is actually a little annoyed when I see these messages. Don’t get me wrong – I think they’re about 10 million times better than what’s normally graffitied on city sidewalks and walls. And if someone’s day or week is made better because of a positive message, then I’m glad it’s there. However, I can’t help feeling that they can come across as trite to someone who is going through deep sorrow or suffering. I can’t speak for how others would feel, but I’d imagine that if I was in a season of depression, seeing something like “smile” or “you’re awesome” wouldn’t really help. Or what if I was in a I’m-on-the-wrong-track phase of life? I wouldn’t need to be told that I was awesome – a more fitting message might be, “Wake up, girl!” or “Get your act together, you can do better than that!” (But please don’t go posting those around.) Of course, as strangers, there’s only so much we can do to help someone whose life we know nothing of, so we do the next best thing in an effort to do something. I get that. Still, maybe there’s a way we can say something that’s more, well, likely to be true or meaningful regardless of who you are, if we are to say something.
Maybe “this won’t last forever.” Or “there is still grace.” Or hey, maybe the occasional J.R.R. Tolkien quote. Personally, I like “even the very wise cannot see all ends.”