You are handed a program as you enter the House of Blues. Inside is a piece of paper that asks what you are carrying that is heavy and what light do you have to offer. You fill out the paper with a permanent marker and place it on a line next to the answers of others at the event. Some of these answers are simple or general. Others are painfully specific, with some people writing that the day of or just a few days prior to the event their loved one died by suicide. It shows that you cannot look at a room of people or even an individual and immediately know what they are going through. The person next to you may be dealing with there lowest lows, highest highs, or something in between.
Next, you head over to the merch table and pick up your desired items. If you purchased the pre-sale bundle that includes a t-shirt like I did or just wanted to buy To Write Love on Her Arms merchandise that was the place to pick those items up. After I got my t-shirt, I got to watch as a friend of mine waited to purchase merch and talked to people in line as if they were old friends. She later reported they connected by talking about some of her tattoos. It was a beautiful sight.
Next, you find a place to stand to watch the event. We stood on the level above the floor level which worked well since I am not vertically endowed.
At 7pm, the lights go low and a screen behind you talks about the impact previous Heavy and Light events have had and it’s incredible! There are people who have sought help and decided against suicide because of this event. The event kicks off with 25 year old poet Tonya Ingrim. She has such powerful command of spoken word. She shares poems of both struggle and hope. Next, Zach Williams serandes us with his music. Soon after, counselor Aaron Moore, LMHC takes the stage. He shares that he feels that stigma has decreased over the past decade and the honest conversations that To Write Love and its supporters have had play a large role in this. He encouraged folks that it is ok to seek help and pointed out that the program we received had a list of resorces inside of it. After that Jaime, the founder of To Write Love on Her Arms, shares about the organizations humble beginnings including his simple wish to be of help to his friend Renee. Next, Renee herself takes to the stage. Renee has a unique ability to express herself and to express truth in a raw yet strangely beautiful way. She shares that she had to reach out for help, but when she did it was there. My favorite quote from her was “Take action and let your heart catch up”. She adds that recovery and life have been messy and that’s ok. After Renee, Propaganda, an insightful rapper and spoken word artist, takes the stage and gets the crowd energized! My favorite quote from him was, ” You are a masterpiece that you want to replace with a silly selfie”. Next, a talented acoustic guitarist and singer, The Rocket Summer, takes to the stage and keeps the energy high. After that, Tonya took to the stage one more time and left an impression with the following quote, “No matter what the soil choose to bloom”. Jaime took to the stage once more as well, sharing his experience getting to meet refugees and challenging to get to know and love others even when it costs us something. Jaime, with the help of the pint sized Landon introduced Jon Foreman (who was formerly with Switchfoot). Jon Foreman was absolutely amazing! Personally, I loved that he played a couple old Switchfoot songs that I happily belted out loud. He even got to be unexpectedly reunited with a couple of old friends! He shared songs of hope and truth. He closed out the night by playing a couple of fun songs.
We left the event having heard through music and spoken word stories of struggle and hope. Heavy and Light was truly an event that acknowledged the reality of pain as part of the human experience yet highlighted the hope and love that is available to all of us.