It's called "Swap a Heart". Everyone gets a t-shirt to decorate any way they want, hopefully relating to the short essay they are encouraged to write. It is hoped one will write about something they are passionate about, that makes them tick. I'd like to share what I wrote and painted here:
For a little over a year now I have taken time to observe the faculty and students at ______ High School. Working in the lunchroom doesn’t give me a chance to observe them in the classrooms, but seeing them wander by, wander in, and wander through the lunchroom has had me thinking about one thing in particular: the observance of the Pledge of Allegiance.
One particular co-worker of mine is crazy into scouting. She has worked with the cub scouts for possibly more years than I have been alive. When I first came here about five years ago I marveled as she paused every morning to place her hand over her heart and recited the Pledge. Every morning! It brought home to me my own lack of respect when it came to what the Pledge of Allegiance meant to me.
In the years since I have only seen one young man stop on his way to class (even though he was late) to place his hand over his heart, face toward the flag, and recite the Pledge. One young man. That’s it. I became saddened. It takes a minute at most, yet no one else has done the same.
In recent months a popular protest amongst Americans is to kneel during the Pledge of Allegiance and the singing of the National Anthem. I have been struggling to understand why, in particular because the things they are protesting for are the very things the National Anthem, the flag, and the Pledge stand for. In my mind these individuals were disrespecting the very things this land was dedicated toward preserving.
Most of the time I find social media difficult to stomach, as people far and wide have decided it’s the best place to lay out their every opinion, whether it’s warranted or not. I was grateful for it in the last few weeks, however, as I was given a small insight into the reasoning behind those who kneel.
The reasons came down to one simple thing: hope. Hope for something better. We are a nation of individuals who hope for more than the lot we have been given in life.
Hope for freedom to walk down the street without fear.
Hope that our words can and will make a difference somewhere.
Hope that as we go about our daily lives there will be those who see us, our needs, our fears, and our courage.
Hope that if we did not start our lives in America, we can make more of our lives here.
Hope that the color of our skin, our hair, or our eyes will not make people uncomfortable, but embraceable.
Hope that when someone looks our way the state of our smile will be more important than the state of our clothes, our car, or our home.
Hope that our children will grow up to be the leaders who will make the changes necessary to allow our hopes to become reality.
And when our hope feels frail, as though the fires have been trampled to the point where even the embers are unseen, that is when we kneel. That is when we take the broken and shattered pieces of our hope and place them at the feet of God, in whom we trust.
This we do in the hopes that one day He will heal our hope enough that we can see ourselves stand once more, hands over our hearts, one nation under His protection and guidance, whole again.