After dropping the kids at school yesterday, though I had deadlines to meet and errands to do and really just wanted to get a scone from Starbucks above all else, I decided to take a walk. I pulled into a small wooded lot on the edge of a trail that’s conveniently located between the kids’ school and the main commercial drag in our town, put my earbuds in to listen to the news, and started walking.
I think it was just after hearing the latest on the despicable United airlines snafu—or maybe it was news about the apparent homicide of the first Muslim woman judge in the U.S.—that I saw, in the near distance, a shock of bright color in the middle of the still-leafless woods. As I ventured closer, I saw that there were about three dozen flags, hanging on a clothes line. Each one had a message, in different handwriting.
I turned off the news. I started to read.
Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
There’s no shame being a broken man. Just pick up the pieces the best you can.
When you can’t control what’s happening, challenge yourself to control the way you respond to what’s happening. That’s where your power is.
Some were aphorisms. Some were personal stories. A few were happy scribbles in a child’s hand. All were positive. There was no sarcasm. No teenagers had come along and drawn any dirty pictures. There were just these lovely, bright messages, written by people who had stumbled upon this trail as I had; and a box full of blank canvas flags and markers, with a message attached: “These prayer flags were put up by Cub Scouts from Den 6 in Natick’s pack 22 after learning about religions of the world. They are based on the idea of Tibetan Prayer Flags. Please join the scouts in sending prayers, wishes and good thoughts blowing in the wind, spreading good will and compassion to all.”
Apparently, the installation of prayer flags like this is part of a larger movement called “The Peace Flag Project,” that organizations all over the world are participating in. I hadn’t seen one before, so this was new to me. My immediate thought was that the “universe” conspired this—for me to stumble upon such a heartwarming tableau exactly when I needed it—but then it occurred to me that the reality was even better: That good people, with all the right intentions—in this case, some cub scout leader who thinks out of the box—made this moment so. After a long winter leadened with fraught politics, social media sniping, tragic news around the world, and a few personal medical issues that tested my resolve, it was a moment I needed. It was just—nice.
For those who live in the Boston area, I urge you to take a walk this beautiful weekend in the Hunnewell Town Forest in Natick; the flags are a few hundred yards down the path that begins off of Oak Street just south of Route 9. If you’re looking for a project to do this spring that might fill your family’s or community’s cup in a similar way, check out this information on the website of The Peace Flag project.