Back in August, I was not looking forward to what would have been our 31st wedding anniversary. When the day arrived, I adopted a just-keep-your-head-down-and-make-it-through attitude.
I came home at noon that day, tired and drained, and found a package in my mailbox. It was this shirt, sent by my Sonny Boy and his girlfriend.
I laughed as I opened it up and looked at it. My whole attitude changed. I believe I even said aloud, “Damn right I am!” I slipped the shirt over my head and went back out in the world, my head held high, feeling great, feeling strong.
That experience led to an icebreaker exercise I did with one of my classes. On the first day of the semester, I gave each of the students a piece of paper, a marker and some tape. I told them to write a word on the paper that described them in some way and then tape their signs to their shirts. Then, they had to go around the room, find someone with a word that began with the same letter as their word, talk to that person and then introduce him/her to the class.
It worked beautifully. We had a wide variety of signs: “Smart,” “Motivated,” “Funny,” and the ever-popular, “Athlete.” The students had a good time getting to know each other and it gave me a chance to talk about the power of language.
Unfortunately, about two weeks into the semester one of my students died. Though they did not know each other well, I thought it would be best if I told the rest of the class members so I made the somber announcement at the end of one session.
There was silence in the room.
Someone said, “He was the guy who sat over there, right?” pointing to the empty chair. I nodded. More silence, and then I heard, “Hey, wasn’t he the guy who wrote ‘Loved’ on his sign that first day?” I smiled, suddenly remembering that fact.
Then I heard one of my older students say, “Well, you can’t get much better than that—going out loved.”
It’s near the end of the semester now and so just out of curiosity I asked the students yesterday if they remembered the signs. They did indeed. They all remembered their own signs and more importantly, at least one person in the room remembered another person’s sign.
I think we go out into the world every day with a word on our chests. Invisible though it may be, it is still powerful. Maybe it is something we are, or maybe it’s something we want to be. Whichever it is, we alone have the power to to select the word and project it.
So, (you knew I was going to ask, didn’t you?) what sign is on your chest as you go out into the world today?