Back in January, I and five other teachers chaperoned our school's senior trip to Walt Disney World. We do this annually and usually have a nice (but excrutiatingly exhausting) time. This year was no exception. The weather was close to perfect, the crowds were very manageable, and the kids (as far as I know) were "good".
WHEN YOU DIE I WILL BREAK DANCE ON YOUR CASKET.
Now, we were shocked; and it takes a lot to shock people who work with teens. What thought processes, assuming there was thinking involved, does someone go through when making that purchase? Who says, "Now that's what I want to spend my money on."? And then, who chooses to wear it to Disney World where little kids are everywhere? I bet parents were having to explain that boy's sweatshirt to their kids all over Disney World that day. I mean, what a statement.
So, being educators, we decided to try to figure out what was going on with this kid. One chaperone even wanted to try to catch up with him and have a chat to see what was going on in his head (certainly not me--I wanted to rip the jacket off of him and report him to Mickey Mouse for a bad attitude). But, it got us talking. What would make someone wear that statement plastered across his back? We tried to spin it positively: maybe he would be so happy that you lived such a wonderful, Christian life that he would break dance on your casket in celebration of your eternal reward in Heaven. We decided that was a stretch. We thought it could be a band name and asked some of our own "skater dudes" if they'd ever heard or seen anything like that. They had not and acted kind of surprised that someone would wear that (I hope none of them rushed out to buy one). We couldn't come up with anything other than the statement the shirt made: this was an angry kid. So angry that he plastered it all over his back and wore it to the "happiest place on earth". How many other angry kids relate to that message? Scary.
If we all had to wear across our backs in giant block letters our true feelings about life, the human race, society, etc., I wonder what statements we would be making? On some days, I'm sure mine would not be very nice. I guess we would know people on a different level where they couldn't hide their true feelings. Hmmmm... When someone does something awful, like this week when the guy opened fire on the guards at the Pentagon, you often hear the people interviewed that were "close" to the person say things like: "they never would have thought it was possible", or "that's not the person we knew", or "we never saw that side of him". Maybe this angry kid at Disney was doing us all a favor by wearing that jacket. His message was clearly delivered. I still don't like his jacket, nor the people who manufactured it, nor the store that sold it to this kid, but it does make you think about the message you're putting out for the world to see. Maybe it's not plastered across our backs, maybe our faces, or tone of voice, or body language reveal enough. The impact was strong. It's been almost seven weeks and I still think about that kid's sweatshirt. Message delivered. I wonder what messages I've delivered over that time? Do I really want to know?