Have you ever noticed how things that are ostensibly the same, can upon closer examination be very different. Take tea, in this case Earl Grey. Earl Grey is black tea flavored with oil from the rind of a bergamot orange. Tonight I am drinking Tazo Earl Grey tea. The other day I had Taylor’s. We actually have four or five different brands of Earl Grey in the house, and each one is unique. I don’t pretend to know how the teas are processed in order for each to get its distinctive flavor. I just know that each one has its own characteristics, and its own appeal.
This brings me to wristbands. These are those bands that various charities and causes sell to raise money. They are all essentially the same band in different colors with different logos or words all supporting different causes. I believe the first one was Livestrong which sold them to promote cancer research. At least that is the first one I saw. Since then I have seen a couple dozen other bands for all different kinds of fundraising, and I have bought a bunch of them over the years.
The bands serve a few different purposes depending on whose point of view we consider. The most obvious purpose is to raise money for the organization selling the band. Second to that, the group hopes the person will put the band on his wrist so others can see it and thereby raise awareness of the issue they are promoting.
For the person receiving the band, I think it is easier for most people to donate to a cause if there something received in return, and the fact that the cost is a relatively small, fixed sum allows people to simply act on impulse. The person can also demonstrate his support for the cause by wearing the band. I suspect there is also some group identification going on as well.
As I indicated above, I have probably bought a dozen or more of these things over the years. I usually follow the same pattern. I put the band on my right wrist. I wear it for a few days. Then one day, I take it off and forget to put it back on. The band usually ends up in a drawer or a box somewhere. For me the low price makes it easy to part with a few bucks to support a cause, but it also means that the band itself doesn’t hold much value and as such I don’t think about it much.
About six months ago I was on one of my trips to Sarasota with my wonderful wife and step daughter. My wife had gone into the New Balance store to pick up something. While she was there she picked up three wristbands to support the Susan G. Komen foundation. She gave one to each of us. I looked at it, stuck it on my wrist and didn’t think any more about it.
A couple of months passed, and one day I realized that I was still wearing it. I wasn’t really thinking about it during those months, but each time I took it off, I put it back on again. Given my history with these things, I had to stop and figure out why this one was different.
The band is a simple one. It is black with a single word on it: “hope” written in small, red, lowercase letters. It doesn’t even have the name of the organization that benefited anywhere on it. Just “hope.” This resonated with me first on a subconscious level, and after I thought about it, on a conscious level as well.
What I realized is that simple hope is the thing that is underlying this blog and the project it is documenting. Without it, I would not have even started. The idea that I could construct a life better than the one I had been living wouldn’t exist if there had not been an ember of hope burning somewhere deep in an unseen, unspoken part of my being. That black band with its understated message spoke to that part of me. Six months later, it is still on my wrist and it still speaks to me. It helps me stay focused and it reminds of what I am trying to do as I go about the task of constructing a life.