What the signs don’t say

I was running today in Massachusetts because I’m here with family for the holiday, and saw two signs sticking out of someone’s front yard: YOU ARE WORTHY and YOU ARE NEEDED.

Listen. I’m all for mental health and affirmation, particularly around this time of year (well, any time of year). I think each of us need to tap into the intrinsic and unique values we bring to the world. I truly, in the bottom of my heart, believe the world would be a better place if we were each fully able, empowered, and motivated to pull our real selves into the world. This is part of what draws me to issues around justice; I think there is a lot of amazing human ability that is crushed or crippled by systems of power and oppression. It is unconscionable that some of us go through our one life less able to access the opportunity to be fully ourselves because of who we are and systems we were born into.Summer 01 Final

But those signs – YOU ARE WORTHY and YOU ARE NEEDED – rubbed me the wrong way. I thought about it as I chugged along on the suburban eastern sidewalks that wind past people raking leaves in their front yards, and town signage etched into stone that have been there long before there were paved roads.

What creates the feeling of worthiness, or being needed? Those are essential cornerstones to being human. We need connection to build meaningful lives.

Signs – staked in a lawn – are the antithesis of connection, for me. Sure, they bring a nice sentiment into the world. Sort of. But aren’t there already plenty of platitudes to go around? I’ve seen more compelling truisms on needlepoint hangings.

If I were suffering from depression or anxiety, would a sign posted in a lawn help remind me of my intrinsic value in the world? Or would it feel somehow too anonymous, like a “you don’t know me, so how could you possibly know?” kind of a thing?

I would prefer a “Take Care of Each Other”. Or, “Call a Friend Today”. “Call Somebody Today instead of Texting”. All kind of preachy, all kind of cliche and annoying, but somehow those carry more value and instruction to me than YOU ARE WORTHY and YOU ARE NEEDED because they are ways we can each demonstrate value and need of the people in our lives.

It’s Thanksgiving week. For me, the holiday is about connecting with family, feeling and practicing gratitude for these people that I love and who love me, and cooking/eating absurd quantities of food. My takeaway from those signs, that in all fairness were posted with good intent, is to do something this week that’s beyond the norm of what I normally do to express my caring for the people around me. We need and deserve that from one another.

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday. And sure, yes, YOU ARE WORTHY and YOU ARE NEEDED. But maybe find someone specific to say that to, and hear it from.


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