Day Fourteen: Write on My Wall

I set up some butcher paper (though I am doubtful that anyone has actually slaughtered an animal in our staff lounge) on the wall and ask students to respond to my comment, “I’m going to miss this class.”  I also set up a “class wall” where students can arbitrarily add their own comments.

It’s primitive.  Cave walls.  Graven images.  Simple, perhaps, but more complex in its simplicity.  We are limited and yet, these limitations foster the creative impulse.  Students not only write comments, but they also sketch pictures, change colors, alter hand-writing and draw arrows to comments.  On Facebook, my wall is linear.  In my classroom, the wall is a web.

It’s more than that, though.  “My wall” quickly becomes a collective space and it’s nearly impossible to differentiate the two sides. On Facebook, my wall is always mine.  In the classroom, the wall is ours.

“That looks pretty cool,” I mention to a student.

“I guess so,” he says.

“What do you mean?” I ask.

“I guess it’s nice to write on a wall.  That’s the appeal of tagging.  But I like that,” he points to the mural on our wall.

“Why?” I ask him.

“It’s us without the words,” he says.

His friend says, “Besides, we won’t throw it away a day later.”

Day #13 – Writing on Walls

“Are you scared?” Christy asks.

“I’m terrified,” I tell her.

“We’re going to look ridiculous,” she warns.  We take a collective deep breath and hope for the courage to pull this off.

“What if we look dumb?” she asks.

“We will, but at least we’ll look crazy together,” I tell her.

*     *     *

Christy decides on windows, because they’re a more accurate metaphor of Facebook.  “A wall is opaque, but a window lets you in.  But it only lets you see so much a person’s life.  It’s transparent, but you can see your own reflection in it.  To me, that’s Facebook.  That’s how social media works.”

“Besides, people will be able to wipe it away.  It won’t last forever.  Just like a Facebook wall.  A simple click and you’ve erased what you don’t want on your wall.”

Still, Javi the Hippie has an unsightly orange wall and I’m tempted to take up his offer of writing on it.  Maybe we’ll plan a Living Facebook event and invite people to write on his wall.

*     *     *

We stop by Rich and Pamela’s house first.  They live in a church parking lot in an area that gets a lot of graffiti, so I’m waiting for the police lights and siren to tell us that our experiment is going too far. Christy writes her congratulations in huge swirly girly letters.  I draw a cigar as a virtual present for Rich.  I’m wondering if I should have picked up a real one for him instead.

“That cigar looks like private parts,” I complain to her.

“Just add some lines and make it smoke.  Just go with it,” she tells me.

We give each other a fist bump and take off to Shannon’s house.

*     *     *

Shannon greets us outside as Christy starts writing out a note of encouragement.  I write, “You’re awesome,” which is true of Shannon.  But she’s much more than that.  She’s caring, compassionate, kind, a strong leader who knows how to be humble.  And something about the phrase in my choppy, awkward letters doesn’t capture how we feel about the role she has played in our lives.

What begins as a small note becomes a face-to-face conversation.  We sit out on a front porch and engage in conversation with her neighbors.  For all the talk of social media replacing social interaction, here is a neighborhood where kids play hop scotch and chase each other and grownups talk about work and politics and God without a fear of breaking social conventions.

They invite us to an impromptu talent show put on by the neighborhood kids.  It’s a bit Brady Bunch, I suppose, but there’s something fun in the nostalgia and the memories of the talent shows we staged when we were growing up.  It’s more than that.  There’s a sense of beauty to the way each child can perform without worrying about performing.  They are accepted regardless of skill.  It’s American Idol in reverse.

*     *     *

It’s dark when we reach David’s house and his roommate looks baffled and perhaps a little angry at first when he sees people tagging on their window.  After explaining what we were doing, he gives us his smart phone with the flashlight app.  Even in going old-school, it’s a new-school technology that saves the day for us.

The kids are asleep on the way back from Scottsdale, leaving us with the relational space to talk about fear, social interaction and the way we define friendship.

“We need to go places together more often,” she tells me.

Agreed.

One of the unexpected benefits of this project is that as we do something crazy together, we have to trust each other in new ways.  It feels like it did when we were dating and we were unsure and we took risks because we wanted to know one another more intimately.