Monday, June 23, 2008

It's all about the stories...

Shelley and I were in Wake Forest last evening. We decided to stop at the local Chili's and have dinner. We were seated quickly and our waitress came to the table to take our drink order. I noticed a very swirly tattoo script poking under the edge of her t-shirt sleeve and decided I would ask about her tattoo when she brought out our drinks. When she returned and served our drinks I asked about the tattoo, she lifted the sleeve and revealed a very neat tattoo script that said "Bad Girl". She was quick to fold the sleeve back in place and lifted her right sleeve and there was one word and two dates,

She spoke very plainly, "This is my memorial tattoo to Brandon".

I love the art of tattoos. The body as a canvas, moving, walking, traveling, always with a piece of art attached. Like all art, there is good and there is bad. I know a good tattoo when I see one and I know a bad tattoo when etched permanently in the skin.
I flip through the tattoo magazines and tattoo art books at Barnes and Noble on a regular basis, just to enjoy the beauty of the art form. I have no tattoos, nor do I plan on ever getting a tattoo. If you have them great, if you want one, get it. I have one caution, pay the money for a good artist and good artwork. Remember, a tattoo could last for thousands of years.

Back to dinner with my wife. Our waitress (Katrina) took our food order and I determined I would ask her about the memorial tattoo when a proper moment arrived. Our food came quickly and we enjoyed our time together. When Katrina brought the check, she lingered just a moment at the table, I asked her to tell me the story of her memorial tattoo. Her words were simple, "This is a memorial to my 15 year old brother who was killed by a CO2 cylinder from a piantball gun. He was cleaning the gun , when the cylinder flew off, struck him in the forehead and he died.
There is a website that talks about it and the other folks who have died or been injured." Katrina then flashed a purple wrist band with the website address clearly printed, "". She continued, "When I am in a grocery store or other places, young guys think my tattoos are cool, then I tell them the story of Brandon and give them the website. I hope it might help someone else avoid the pain." You could tell by the conviction in her voice and the concise wording of her story that she had told it many times.

I wondered about the pain of her family. The loss, the suddenness, her drive to tell others to be careful.

I have found most tattoos have a story, many times the story is of hurt and pain and loss. Other stories are of drunken craziness or joy, to remember a good time or significant event. Tattoos are bookmarks in the memory that cause people to remember and re-create the emotions of the moment locked in ink under the skin. They are billboards filled with the passion of life, the pictures in the story book of human journey.

Katrina wears her tattoo to remember and hopes others will take time to ask and to listen to her tale.

How many folks do you meet on a weekly basis who carry art work on their bodies?
Have you ever taken the time to ask about the story behind the art? What kind of spiritual conversation might be started by a curious question? Are you brave enough to ask? Do you have a story that should be told in ink on your body? If Jesus were here, would he carry body art to tell the story of God?
Oh, by the way, Shelley and I did NOT take Jesus with us to the Chili's...Jesus was already there when we arrived;-)

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