Monday, July 11, 2016

37 Days of Beauty

The 37 Days of Beauty project has been on my list since I first started on this journey of living a more positive life.  Consciously looking for beauty in unexpected places is a small reminder of why life is worth living every day; beauty helps dispel darkness and negativity. 

In the past few days, this has become abundantly clear to me.  When I heard the news on Friday about the shooting of police officers in Dallas, preceded by the shootings in Louisiana and Michigan, my heart sank and I immediately felt down and depressed. I'm an emotional empath and I feel things from my environment very deeply, so for that reason I don't regularly watch the news; I can literally feel bad news in a physical way.  The one thing that stuck out in my mind as the saddest was the killer's statement, "I just wanted to kill white people".  He had no conflict with those individuals whatsoever, other than their occupation and the color of their skin.

On my way home that day I stopped by an art museum.  I felt compelled to surround myself with beautiful things so that I could dispense with the darkness that I felt. I walked through every gallery and stopped to look at every painting. I drank in all of the colors and minute details, read the moods of the subjects and marveled at paintings so lifelike I felt as though I could step right into the picture. The museum was having a special event to advertise three new exhibits.  One exhibit was by an African artist, one was by an artist from the Middle East and one was by a local artist.  Each artist portrayed beauty in their own unique way, with sculpture, colorful fabrics, photography, videography and huge canvases covered in paint. It was a celebration of multiple cultures, of people and places that make up our planet.

The tragedies and ensuing racial tensions also inspired a strong desire within me to spread peace and love in whatever way I could.  Surrounding and recharging myself with beauty made me want to radiate beauty to others.  Since I've been spending a lot of time contemplating on my passions, I realized that my natural gift and passion for helping others is one I have been running away from for a while. So I volunteered at an urban mission that feeds the poor and homeless and provides clothes, social services and spiritual teaching. I made sandwiches and helped serve food to people coming through the line. I gave out hugs to people who were smelly and bedraggled. On the surface the scene may not have been very beautiful with its line of poor, hungry souls, outfitted in dirty, mismatched clothes, uncombed hair and often missing teeth.  But during the church service I looked around and looked past the poverty. What I saw was a beautiful kaleidoscope of skin colors in every possible shade, from the midnight dark skin of a Sudanese man, to the warm caramel of a Latino woman, to the milk white of one of the children. I saw untold stories of those who were often the victims of circumstance or mental illness; people who were somebody's child, brother, sister, parent; people who had much to offer if anyone bothered to ask.  Seeing all of those people together, rich and poor, clean and dirty, black and white sitting elbow to elbow with one another was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen and gave me hope for our nation plagued with racial violence.

Right now I feel as if it is more important that ever to seek out beauty. It's not a way of turning my back on the ugliness of the current climate, but rather a way to cope with it so that the negativity doesn't drag me down. Beauty inspires me to spread more beauty to others, whether it is by showing love towards those different from me, standing up against hateful speech, or just spreading messages of peace. I encourage everyone to do the same.

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