I stopped in to Graphic Connection on Monday to order t-shirts for our Vacation Garden School. The store has a whole wall of t-shirts that were generated in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing and the lockdown in Watertown. I asked Caryn, who works there, about the experience of creating and selling the shirts this spring and summer. Graphic Connection sold over 4,500 of these special t-shirts before May 30th, giving 100% of the proceeds to the One Fund. Since then, a steady stream of folks continue to purchase the shirts, often folks visiting Boston who’ve made a special trip to Watertown as part of their pilgrimage though places affected by the hard events of that week in April (and a percentage of the proceeds still go to the One Fund).
Thousands of t-shirts. What does that mean? Certainly the purchase itself means a lot — supporting the One Fund and, through it, so many victims of a senseless, violent crime. But wearing the t-shirt — be it “Watertown Strong,” “Boston Strong,” or the Boston Marathon commemorative runner’s jersey — is an intentional gesture. I would guess for most people it’s a sort of visible prayer: I am holding those affected close to my heart. I am in solidarity with them, and I am ready to share my strength or courage to them in whatever way I can.
All through history, people have vested themselves in signs and symbols of their allegiances, their faith, their prayer. I know a doctor who works with critically ill children who wears prayer beads on his wrist every day at work. I have friends whose tatoos are permanent vestments of solidarity with those whom they’ve lost or a vocation to which they’ve been called.
What’s on your sleeve? If you have a “Watertown Strong” shirt, what are you “saying” when you wear it? If you chose not to wear one, why not?