I have to admit that this post is going to be edgy, but one can do that on their own website, right? I'll start by sharing my friend Karen's beautiful pictures of what summer is really all about. A bowl of crisp, sweet beans. A dragonfly, basking in the sun.
Or even a field of gold. Isn't that such a spectacular photo? I love it.
But in my neighborhood, there are different signs of a different season. A time to show everyone else how inclusive and loving one is... by proclaiming it in their front yards. Down the street from my neighbor's front yard whose sign reads "Rich Michalek, The Chimney Man," (I love when local businesses advertise in our yards. Shouldn't we get a percentage off our bill?) there are signs of a different kind. And they seem to be popping up fairly often. The most popular sign is this one. "You Belong."
Huh, I thought to myself, while walking Murphy through our little area's streets. Who Belongs, exactly? Everyone? Only certain people? Visitors? I wanted more specificity. So I did a little digging. It turns out, after Donald Trump was elected, something called the Sprout Fund launched a community art initiative to positively affirm that we all "belong." We can presume, then, that with a new president, we Americans who have called this land our home for generations suddenly stopped belonging. Okay. Then there's this sign.
This is part of the "Welcome Your Neighbors" program. This series of signs grew out of an idea from the Immanuel Mennonite Church out of Harrisburg, VA. I tend to like most faith-based initiatives, as long as they don't dribble over into politics. As I read further in this program, I found this explanation:
"Posting signs is a way to show our deep commitment to sharing God’s love in the world. We encourage you to join us in welcoming the stranger, getting to know your neighbors, hosting and being hosted, reaching out across divides, providing shelter, seeking justice, and sharing love with friend and stranger."
Who could possibly deny the spirit of such a cause, right? The signs come in a whole host of languages and are easy to print up and post, smack dab in the middle of your lawn. And a lot of people have. The Welcome Your Neighbors website further explains its mission:
"Join us in welcoming everyone to our communities. Make a statement in this time of division about our desire to be welcoming communities."
There's no question. America is divided. Why exactly, I'm not totally sure. I didn't vote for Barack Obama either of the times he ran for President, and I'm not a republican, so it wasn't a straight party-issue thing. I may have preferred a different candidate, but Obama became our President. Fair and square. I never tried to speak out against him or tear him down in public. He was MY President. And whatever decisions he made, I hoped they were in the best interests of America. I wanted America to be a good, safe place. A fair place. A place of opportunity. Maligning Mr. Obama or trying to smear him on social media never once crossed my mind. We live in a different world today. Hence, this "time of division."
Then, there's this sign. Only two of my neighbors have it up in their yards.
It appears these signs cost money. I found one on Etsy for $16. Do people have to pay to have one? And where does that money go? Amazon's selling them for $17.99, with proceeds going to Black Lives Matter. Makes sense. After doing some reading, it appears posting this sign in one's yard is a sign of anti-racism. Black lives do, in fact, matter. Let's hope there's no question about that. I wonder if my neighbors in the predominantly black areas near me appreciate seeing these signs. My guess is they'd prefer safe streets, quality schools, job training for their children, and equal access to opportunities that don't exist in their zip codes. You know. All the stuff the people who keep getting elected say they're for too. Huh. How much progress have they made?
Still, the most sobering, and in my opinion, meaningful sign is this one. If I'm not mistaken, it was created by my neighbor, Vanessa German. Her idea was simple. Her message, even more so: Love is the only way to stop hate and violence.
I guess my reason for writing this is to say... enough signs. We need action. Rather than sharing words with your neighbors to prove how fair and anti-racist you are, make a difference. Get involved. Speak up and take action! (just don't lose your job over it, okay?) Putting a sign in your yard, or slapping a CoExist sticker on your car, or a "Stop the Hate" decal on your bumper, doesn't really do much, does it? Because sadly, I too often find that the people who are the most "for" fairness, who are the most outspoken advocates of inclusion tend to be the most unfair to others who – gasp – don't share their exclusive views.
I guess there's a sign that says exactly what I'm feeling right now. Perhaps if these started popping up in people's yards, I might actually drive one into my grass, too. (I looked for it online but, sadly, it doesn't yet exist.) It simply reads:
WE MUST DO BETTER.