An open letter to my daughter and son, the loves of my life.
I leave the house every weekday morning at a quarter to five to catch a van by six. Houston traffic can be a bear, so I have plenty of time during my commute to drink my coffee, reflect on the day to come, and study the parts of the city nearest the highway.
My commute takes me through some nice and some not so nice neighborhoods. One day, in an effort to amuse myself amongst a sea of cars, I began studying graffiti.
Graffiti is interesting. Some of is surprisingly pretty. I even have my favorite: Near the roof line of a stripmall just south of the I-45 Monroe exit, I noticed the words “Be Someone” spray painted in large black letters. That side of the building is otherwise clean of graffiti, making the words stand out that much more.
Unless you count cattle brands, the town I grew up in didn’t have much in the way of graffiti. So when I imagine this person who wants to “Be Someone” I could only rely on the information I had from TV and movies.
I picture a teenage boy, maybe fifteen or sixteen years old. In my head, he doesn’t have a great home life, and school has only been a priority in so far as the law requires of parents. Maybe he fills his time escaping into books or movies. Maybe he wanders the streets until he has no other choice but to go home. Maybe in his wanderings, he found a can of black spray paint and poured out all his frustrated ambition on to the side of a local business.
And what did he write? He didn’t say “For a good time call…” accompanied with an ex-girlfriend’s phone number. He didn’t leave a message to the local police department instructing them to perform a perverse act on themselves.
He wrote, “Be Someone”.
Along my commute, there are frighteningly depressing areas. Run down places where none of the signs are in English and the cars all look like they have been dipped in battery acid.
One particularly sad place is beneath the I-45 and I-59 interchange. There is a community of homeless people that sleep in the grass. From the van window, I see them waking up in the morning next to their meager belongings housed in shopping carts or old backpacks.
I am struck by their closeness. I sit not ten feet away in my commuter van, thinking about the laundry I have to do or the email I have to send. And there they are, crawling from beneath their discarded political sign to urinate on a freeway pillar. So close that I could physically reach out and touch them, yet so far from the comfortable life I take for granted.
These are the places that I see the words “Be Someone”.
They are so appropriate, so needed, in these dark and forgotten corners of the city we call home. I marvel at my mysterious painter, that his dream to “Be Someone” is tenacious enough to spite the harshness of the world around him. I wonder what his life has been and hope that he can someday do better for himself.
Because, my little loves, I still believe that, no matter where you are from or what lemons life has handed you, you can make it better if you choose to.
I am not condoning graffiti and if I ever catch you tagging anything I will make you regret it, with much public humiliation, but I hope you too will dream big enough to “Be Someone”.
More specifically, I hope you will dream big enough to “Be” your own “Someone”. I hope you can take a stranger’s message to heart and realize that anyone can be anything if they want it badly enough.
The road is not always easy. You will have to work hard. You might have to scrape by and, yes, even fail from time to time.
You will get where you want to be.
With all my love,