A couple of years ago, after attending our first Boston Pride together as a family, my youngest son asked me why no one in our home town celebrated Pride. He was 5 at the time and was a bit confounded by the masses of people that turned out downtown to throw confetti and dance in the streets, but not a single rainbow was visible in his own neighborhood. This was the same year he came home upset because kids had made fun of his rainbow painted toenails in school. He was only in kindergarten, and it significantly changed the view he had of the world. He felt the high stakes cost of what it meant to be "different" in any way and falling dutifully in-line, he implored me to take it all off. It sort of broke my heart. And so this is the plight of our kids and teens, to covet sameness and familiarity as a way to be accepted. This follows us in silent and confining ways, into adulthood. We learn not to color too far outside the lines.
I've often wondered to myself where my people are in my own community as well. I've longed to see the depth and soul of this little New England town and hear more stories of truth and heart amidst the landscape of jaunty nautical themes and trendy commercial finery. Aren't we so much more than that?
The next year, the Rainbow Wishing Tree was born. One morning I took my kids out of school to art bomb the town square with a gesture of faith and love. It was a few days after Orlando. Lots of hearts were hurting. Maybe there was someone else who needed this too, I thought. It turns out there were hundreds.
"Health for all my patients, family and friends"
"That in the worst of times there can be light"
"I wish that one day our existence as LGBT folks will no longer be a radical act"
"I wish for a cure for my mom's cancer"
"I wish for peace"
"No one will go without healthcare"
"That racism will stop"
"For people to be nicer to each other"
"For everyone to goto school in the woods"
"My daughter to heal"
"A better future"
"That people will realize we are all in this together"
"I want it to rain hearts"
"For more time with my grandkids"
and so many more.
The importance of this social experiment was not just to create community around art, solidarity and love -- though I'm so incredibly grateful that people showed up with their hearts and their stories (thank you, Newburyport) -- but it was also a way to show my kids and remind myself that sometimes we need to be the creators of our own places of belonging.
In this second year of the Rainbow Wishing Tree, my boys feel the importance of our offering. They see how it makes a difference in our own back yard, and how it allows for more of us to show our true colors and soul, even if only on a tiny 3x5 paper heart. The impact is so much greater and far reaching.
Tomorrow it will all come down and another couple hundred of wishes will be read and archived by me and my family. We see and honor each and every one, and hope they all come true.