This I Believe

Mandy - Cincinnati, Ohio
Entered on June 28, 2007

I believe that, if you look hard enough, you can find good in almost anything.

But six months ago I gave up looking. One disappointment too many sent me to bed. On the days that did I find the energy to crawl out of bed, I was faced with a world which expected me to leave the house. And when I left the house, I was surrounded by people who winced when I couldn’t finish a sentence without tears. Finally, I confessed, “I don’t want to die. I just don’t want to live for a while.”

And then a friend asked me to make art for his inner-city counseling center and so began a month-long ritual of collecting junk from the streets of Cincinnati. And with a bit of care and a lot of glue, green wire twisted its way into leafy tendrils and smashed amber tail-light covers were reborn as golden sunshine. And somewhere along the way I got dragged into the whole rebirth thing. The habit of forcing myself to find beauty and meaning in brokenness leaked over into my life.

But the story goes on. As I looked at the city around me, a city with so many struggles and so many hopes, I knew I had to make the process available to others. And so I created a city-wide art project which I called The Collect. For two months, all Cincinnati was invited to drop pieces of junk (we called them “artifacts”) at local coffee shops. Cincinnati responded with bike wheels and sunglasses, doll parts and Christmas ornaments.

Last week I gathered all the “artifacts” and laid them out for one of the most unusual parties ever to take place in the basement of a church. Fifteen artists had finger foods and mingled as they picked through what looked like the remnants of a very dismal yard sale. In their eyes, the rusty jetsam became teapots and aliens on bicycles and all manner of marvelous things. And off they went, with boxes of junk under their arms, to work their magic. So now all Cincinnati awaits September when, at the final art-show, we get to see our trash reborn.

You see, whether we believe that this world is the way it is because of a series of coincidences (with a little human error mixed in) or that it’s a once-perfect-now-fallen place (which, totally oversimplifies a few of the major views), we have cause to stand amazed. If just one bird could find its way across continents, if just one fetus formed a perfect set of lungs, if just two people could love each other, it would be a miracle. We remember lost birds, weak babies, unrequited loves and so we see what is lacking. There is undoubtedly something lacking. But these “miracles” take place everyday. This world is more than half full.

If you look hard enough, with a little creativity and perseverance, if you really look, you can find good in almost anything.