Sometimes things haunt me. Not necessarily in a bad way. They brew and boil and bake in my head it’s true but that just means they’re usually there for a reason.
Several weeks ago myself and two colleagues took the train into the City for a conference. On my way into Manhattan, at 125th Street, Harlem, that’s where I saw this billboard for the first time and thought to myself…
That’s interesting. I wonder if that word is misspelled on purpose?
Then I thought….
Who would put up a billboard that says ‘Grattitude’ and why?
I didn’t get it but couldn’t dismiss it, so it got me and the brewing began.
Later that day and in the days that followed, I found myself thinking about what I saw and why it wouldn’t go away. I’d already picked my “Word” for the year. It’s Faith, not gratitude. Gratitude. I struggled with the word’s presence inside my head from the moment I saw it sprouting from its concrete carpet straight up into the clear, blue sky.
It was so unexpected. So big. Who put it there? Why is it spelled wrong? Am I grateful? What am I grateful for and how grateful am I? The notion of it all lingered. The boiling set in and it stayed with me, simmering as things I eventually end up writing about often do.
A couple of weeks later I found myself Googling “gratitude in harlem” and came across an article from the Greenwich Post (2012) that offered an explanation for it’s existence.
“It’s a billboard with an obscure message for the powerful and wealthy, the dispossessed and poor, a billboard that says simply “GRATTITUDE.” It is a copy of an acrylic paint collage of newspaper clips and art books by pop artist Peter Tunney, who added the extra “T” as an expression of, he says, turbo-charged gratitude.”
I found another site established in September, 2013, that uses the billboard to promote their GrAttitude Project.
I love the GrAttitude Project and believe whole-heartedly that no act of kindness is too small and I like the way Attitude is embedded in GrAttitude.
It is after all an attitude: gratitude.
Last week I took the New Haven line into the City again. This time, to meet friends. Even though the weather was really bad, I was prepared, camera-ready. I craned my neck for 10-minutes before pulling into 125th Street station, afraid I’d miss it, wanting to catch a glimpse and possibly a picture of it this time. Sure enough, I did. Not without thinking “Why?” though. Why am I haunted by this?
It’s just a word. Right?
It’s thought provoking.
And this time I noticed something different.
The E is backwards. The E in Grattitude is backwards! I didn’t notice that before. That puts a whole new twist on things, requiring even more thought.
So, I keep thinking about gratitude.
Was the billboard like this a few weeks ago? Or was it like the one I found when I Googled it? What does it mean that the E is backwards now? Is “gratitude” as I know it backwards? Not communicated enough or effectively?
I don’t know.
And I really don’t know what the artist’s intentions were or if the billboard I saw last week is different from the one I saw several weeks ago. I still don’t know who put it there or why and it probably doesn’t matter but I do know this: I considered myself to be a pretty grateful person until I saw this billboard and the word took up residence in the forefront of my mind.
Seeing this word in an unsuspecting place made me think.
A lot, as in turbo-charged. About gratitude.
That was the effect for me and it’s a profound one.
In the middle of the South Bronx when people look up and see this billboard, maybe they see a message being sent to the powerful and wealthy, dispossessed and poor…… or maybe it’s just meant to make anyone who sees it think about gratitude and what that means for them, in their life. Gratitude is not bias. People are grateful for different things at different times of their lives. What I take for granted others may be very grateful for and vice-versa.
Sometimes, it’s nice to have a reminder come to you out of the clear, blue sky.
What do you think? Have you seen the billboard?
Photo Credits #1 & #3: Google Images
Photo Credit #2: ©2014 KarenSzczukaTeich & TakingTheWorldOnWithASmile.com
This week I’m taking a cue from a blog I follow where the genius mom actually documents her kids’ quotes! Brilliant, cause kids really do say the darndest things!
If you follow my blog, you probably know I have two kids (that I love and adore) but I will only be quoting one today, my 10-year old daughter. Besides, if I were lucky enough to even overhear a conversation, let alone have one, with my 13-year old son, the entire quote would most likely consist of these three words:
Um, Yeah and Nah.
I’m a good mom and have just documented my boy’s quotes for the past six months.
My girl on the other hand, is a non-stop chatterbox. (I think it’s a gender thing.) Ever see the Volvo commercial where the Dad puts his 5-year old daughter in her car seat, closes the door, gets into the driver’s seat and takes her to school, all the while, she is non-stop chatter, going on and on about who knows what?
That’s my Hannah and at age ten, not only do I get the non-stop chatter about who knows what, I get the added bonus of her opinion!
Here are a few recent ones….
My daughter goes to a progressive school and we do not practice any formal religion. I of course went to Catholic school and was a practicing catholic until I went to college, receiving many of the sacraments up until that age, including confession of my sins.
Not too long ago, my girl came home from school and asked,
Me, in freak-out mode responded, “A sin? Why? Why do you want to know what a sin is?”
I heard it was bad. My teacher doesn’t teach us about sins or war or anything. She pretty much teaches us that the world is perfect but I know it’s not perfect.
You’re a super sleuth, Hannah and you’re right, the world is not perfect.
On Getting A New Car
At the onset of having to get new wheels, I admit, I had a brief moment of panic at the thought of having to bring the car I loved so dearly back to the dealership it was leased from, knowing, now, there would be no way I could afford to lease the same car again. Myself and my girl were driving around town when it hit me and without really thinking about it or looking for a response, I tugged at the steering wheel and said,
“Hannah, how am I going to keep this car?”
Not a full minute passed before my girls’ wheels started turning and she sprung into solution mode……
Mom, I got it! From tomorrow to the end of the summer, I say, we go out in the middle of the median and sell like there’s no tomorrow!
Sell? Sell what, Hannah? Lemonade?
Lemonade AND ice-pops mom, lemonade AND ice-pops!
Turns out, I LOVE my new car but Thank you, Hannah!!
A year and a half ago, I brought Edward home. My Edward is a creepy but important part of me being able to live life on life’s terms and while we sometimes bring him out to participate in various family activities, his primary function is to keep a watchful eye on my 22-year old punk neighbor.
Edward does an excellent job!
In a few weeks we will begin the process of moving from the only home my daughter has ever known.
Mom I think we have to leave Edward here.
At least until we get to meet our new neighbors.
Well, if we put him in the window before we meet them, they’re going to think we’re freaks and they won’t bring us cookies or cupcakes (cause we’re the new neighbors) and I want the cookies and cupcakes.
Point well taken, Hannah. I want the cookies and cupcakes too but Edward comes with us.
Besides, we both know you love him just as much as I do!
Aside from the funny stuff, there are also great pearls of wisdom and insight, as well as profound statements that often come from this blessing of a child, leaving me stunned but mostly, extremely grateful for the gift of her life in mine.
Those I’ll save for another day.
Meanwhile, for more adept quotes from other skilled and clever kids, visit the Young American Wisdom blog — the inspiration for this post!
For happy thoughts from a happy kid, visit Hannah’s blog, I’m Thinking Happy!
If you have an endearing or humorous kid quote, feel free to leave it with me!
Photo Credit #1: Sin
Photo Credit #2: Super Sleuth
Photo Credit# 3-5: Karen Szczuka Teich & http://www.takingtheworldonwithasmile.com
“Yard sale! Yard sale! Come check out the yard sale!”
Forget the PennySaver. Who needs the classifieds in the newspaper?
Why even bother to advertise on Craig’s List when you can have this??
That’s right, for the price of a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich on a croissant, this willing and able 10-year old will happily take your idea, event or function on the road! She comes complete with borrowed wings, a friend’s home-made shield, soccer shoes, red knee-high soccer socks, a Tinkerbell birthday hat and her very own pink-wheeled scooter!
Let this Billboard Baby loose in your neighborhood and customers will be clambering at your door, yard sale or lemonade stand. Satisfaction guaranteed!
But wait! Don’t just let these pictures alone convince you…. here is an actual client testimonial:
“No one came to our yard sale for HOURS. Finally, we agreed to give Hannah’s approach a try. It was amazing! A miracle! She literally stopped traffic! As soon as Hannah hit the pavement, customers started coming out of the woodwork (or at least their homes, to see what all the commotion was) and over to our yard sale. I’ll never have another yard sale — without her!” ~ Karen Szczuka Teich
Okay, so while everything at my Everything Must Go yard sale eventually went, unfortunately, most of it went to the Goodwill. Not exactly the money-maker I had hoped it would be, despite the literally months of planning and preparation. Who knew the biggest flea market venue in the county was holding their annual “public” yard sale the same day I was having my little “private” one? Apparently everyone. Except me of course.
Oh well, I guess we never would have discovered Hannah’s new knack for advertising if our sale was such a success in the first place, right? It’s all in the way you choose to look at things and honestly, watching Hannah scooter through the neighborhood while hollering her heart out about our “sale” was worth every idle hour!
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (mostly to remind myself),
It’s not what happens but what you do– how you deal with — what happens, that really matters.
It may not have been a profitable day but it was a great day, nonetheless.
Photo credits: © Karen Szczuka Teich.