A lot has happened in the past 24 hours, and it got me thinking…
I once posted a note that simply said “Lead with dignity.” It is, in my opinion, a statement that is a no-brainer. I mean, who wouldn’t want to lead with dignity? This note, however, prompted someone to comment with “Bummer you had to go political.”
I should mention that on that particular note, I sketched the bust of Barack Obama and that I posted this note on January 11, 2017. Obviously, the days leading up to Donald Trump’s inauguration were filled with tension. When I read this person’s comment, I immediately had a couple of thoughts. First, how dare you? You’ve been a fan of my page and my notes for some time. And because I chose to highlight the leader of the free world, someone who spent 8 years in a position of power, and someone who I respected (but didn’t always agree with), you all of a sudden want to throw a fit and unfollow me? Good riddance.
My second thought was more reserved and level headed. I wanted to let this person know that just because our opinions vary, that doesn’t mean we should make our voice heard and walk away from the conversation.
After sitting with this person’s comment for a few minutes, I wanted to respond as the creator of Lunch Note Sketch, the person who started drawing notes for his kids based on love, tolerance, and creativity. After all, I want to be the father of three who teaches his kids what it means to respect others, how to have open discussions, and that debates are healthy. So, I wrote:
“Thank you for taking the time to comment. The notes that I make for my children are meant to inspire and encourage them to be better people as they make their way into adulthood. This includes being creative, being good listeners, and generally being nice to everyone they may encounter, whether they agree with their views or not. I chose to sketch Obama because he showed me how to care as a leader. I made note of how he looks at people while they are talking. He hangs on every word and seems to genuinely care about listening to what each person has to say. Every news clip, every press conference, every time he shook someone’s hand, he appeared to give the person he was interacting with his fullest attention. While I’m sure there were times he may have been testy, I thought even in debates, arguments, or against opposition, he appeared to hold himself to a higher standard than I could have done. And for that, I appreciate the fact that I learned a lot about what kind of demeanor is required to be a respected leader. That’s what I chose to highlight here. If I can teach my kids that you should look people in the eye and give your full attention when you interact with others, I’m confident that this skill will only help them in their lives.”
But, since that person unfollowed me, I’m sure he/she didn’t have the chance to read it. I found that to be truly unfortunate. I wanted to let this person know that I had no intention of getting political, but rather continue teaching my kids about the qualities I admired.
Now, 7 months later, I sit in the comfort of my home watching the news about events taking place in a city I called home for 4 years—a city I moved away from just last year. I sit here watching my wife cry as she watches the video of the aftermath of a car running into people and driving away. This is a video we had to turn off. As far as we know, we didn’t know any one of the injured or killed firsthand. But, to watch such violence on the streets where I once walked, just blocks from where I worked, was heartbreaking. I spent a lot of time on those exact streets supporting the local businesses. I walked those streets admiring the quaint shops, the laid back attitudes, and the smell of the Virginia mountain air. I spent lunch hours eating at many different restaurants in that area soaking in the southern charm. Unfortunately, I will forever have a new thought when someone mentions Charlottesville. Seeing the message of hate and intolerance, manifested in the form of a car running through a crowd of people, will be seared in my head.
It doesn’t have to end there, though. While there may be a single blemish in my mind on an otherwise perfect southern town, I refuse to let hate win. I started Lunch Note Sketch with the goal of elevating positive messages, first for the sake of my kids, but ultimately for anyone who saw my daily messages. While my intent is not meant to be political, I will do whatever necessary to spread a message of positivity. If that means I get political, so be it. And even though we might disagree on some things, know that I am open to respectful conversation and debate. In the end, I vow to fight for love, tolerance, and equality. There is simply no room for hate.
A heartbroken, but determined, Lunch Note Sketcher