Charting new territory

Dear President Trump,

It seems to be my week for finding messages in bottles. When I was walking the dogs I came across a large piece of shiny white paper on the sidewalk. Because it was litter, I went ahead and picked it up. When I turned it over, I found that it’s a school project by a child whose name must be Neil because in the upper left corner he’s cut out and pasted the letters for this name. It is one of those beginning of the year projects where kids have to cut out a bunch of things from magazines to say something about their summer. Neil’s collage is mostly pretty typical. Mostly. The pictures he chose include some trees, a patch of weedy looking grass, a glass jar of kale, an imagined sci-fi landscape, a gecko face, a pear tart, some shitake mushrooms, an actor playing Einstein, a cartoon of a Black man watching hockey, and an adolescent girl playing soccer. In addition to his name, the words included are “food?,” “pear power,” “Love,” “The Best,” “Homework in backpack, backpack on kid,” and on the hockey watcher cartoon “Alexa, order me a pizza!” followed by “I really think you should have a salad.” There’s one more word in very small font in the lower left corner and it’s “depression.”

What is that last word doing there? Neil is almost certainly either a 5th or 6th grader, so no more than 11. I know young kids feel depressed and some even feel that way most of the time but it seems really odd that Neil put it on a school project. It is the smallest piece of paper he cut out, even smaller than the individual letters of his name, and it’s glued down at the very bottom edge. The fact of that one little word changes the whole tone of the collage and feels really sad. My hope, though, is that in including it, it signals Neil knows himself and he’s willing to let others know he’s having a tough time. It also is striking to me that Neil included a picture of a girl playing soccer. I really don’t know what that means, but for a boy his age to include a picture of a girl of any sort seems like a good sign. Neil may be charting new territory for how boys get to be in the world and if so, that is some serious good news.

May we all be safe to say when we are depressed.
May we all be happy to let the hard emotions be there too.
May we all be healthy enough to be ok being complicated.
May we all be willing to see each other’s unique, preciousness.

Sincerely,
Tracy Simpson

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