As most of you know, Giant Letter was born as a response to the Sandy Hook massacre, ten years ago. We rarely respond to live events unfolding in the world, but we’d like to respond to yesterday’s massacre in Uvalde, Texas.
As I, Caro, grapple with my own anger about the event, I want to share a story with you about an experience I had in Texas a few years ago. The following story is recalled from memory:
On January 10, 2019, I heard loud sounds outside my window in Austin. A man was kicking trashcans down the street. By the time I got outside, he was kicking ours, and a white SUV had pulled up to engage the man. The two men were now in a screaming match about respecting people’s property. After the SUV drove off, I got in my car and followed the man, as he continued down the street.
Pulling up along side him, I cracked my window open and he glared at me for a second, his anger amping up, seeming ready to attack. I realize that he thought I was the other white SUV. When I noticed his energy calming a little, I engaged him.
“Are you okay?” I asked him with authentic concern about his outburst.
“That mother f_ _cker was all up in my shit! I didn’t do nothin!” he screamed.
“I saw him screaming at you, but I also saw you beating up my trash cans,” I winked, “what’s going on?”
He softened for a moment, saying,
“I got into it with my family.” Then he paused and his eyes got distant again. “…but that guy got all up in my face…mother f_ _cker!”
“I don’t care about that guy, I care about YOU.” I said, surprised that my eyes were welling up.
He seemed confused for a second too, and then he said, “I’m sorry ma'am, I guess I just had a tantrum.”
“Yeh, well I get em too,” I said.
“Not like me,” he laughed
“You’d be surprised!” I shot back.
“But that guy—“ he continued.
“Yeh, I bet that guy has big tantrums too.” I laughed, pulling over to chat with him.
He told me about his family dispute and how he’d lost control and didn’t know how to take it back. A part of me felt frustrated that my eyes kept welling up, until it occurred to me that I wasn’t crying for myself, I was crying for him. I was crying for our shared humanity and for his raw pain.
“I’m sorry you’re going through all this. Thanks for slowing down to open up with me about it.”
“I appreciate that. I really do,” he said, putting his shirt sleeve to his teary eyes, “I’ll be okay.”
After we said goodbye, I made a u-turn to go back home and as I began to pull away, I heard him scream,
I leaned out to look back at him and he yelled, “thank you for talking to me and making me feel like I matter!”
“Thank YOU!” I said, waiving back.
As I drove away, my heart beamed with compassion for this stranger. We shared a connection that could only be shared through processing pain together. I often think of this man’s courage and willingness to turn his rage into healing. He displayed the kind of strength it takes to transform a reflex for violence into a real transformation of heart. I commend him, wherever he is. Despite his bad behavior, he’s what’s right with the world, not what’s wrong with it. Anger is a valid and real emotion. It can be a powerful tool when it can inspire real change, redemption and general betterment of our species.
At Giant Letter, we don’t like to talk politics, but I can say this:
I was only able to approach this person because I felt that we existed on somewhat equal terms. If he’d had a weapon, I wouldn’t have taken the risk and he would have suffered alone in whatever repercussions his anger would have lead him to cause.
As we process the death of 19 innocent children and three adults in Texas yesterday, it’s important to understand that anger is what created the situation. Anger is a valid and real emotion, but doesn’t have to control us to beget more violence, especially when it is inflicted upon children who had to suffer because of an adult (an 18 year old, barely an adult) who couldn’t control his emotions. There are solutions and they begin with communication about heavy and difficult topics before the difficult topics become painful reality.
We think about how trauma can cause rage and apathy along with many behavioral issues that cause problems in human relationships. Learning about my own reflexes has been instrumental in healing my wounds. Are you curious about your own reflexes when threatened? See this link
If you are having thoughts of ending your life (or the lives of others) please, please, reach out to people at the suicide prevention lifeline.
Lastly, we don’t recommend approaching someone exhibiting rage, but compassion at a distance can also be a helpful way of supporting an individual who is triggered.
Love, Team Giant Letter
Hello Austin, Texas! We have just installed the letter at 1312 Broadmoor Drive. We hope that you can enjoy it for Mother's Day. We've also got a friend coming over to read Ancestral Tarot cards, which is less about predictions and more about healing through meditations on family and seeing. If you'd like a reading, please email us at email@example.com Hope to see you!
Love, Team Giant Letter
Hey Texas! It’s almost time for us to bring the Giant Letter down to Austin. It will likely be up for a month before heading back up to Chicago, so we want to be sure you know about it. We plan to install it for Mother’s Day where it will be dedicated to the Peters family.
Hello Rogers Park, we hope you will come say goodbye before we bring the installation down to Texas! While there's a winter storm approaching, we plan to serve hot chocolate from our window by use of a pully and bucket. Thank you for having us, we hope to see you again soon! Love, Team Giant Letter
Hello! Our 2021 installation is up again in Chicago. You can find us in Rogers Park, at the 1300 block of Albion at Glenwood.
We regret to announce that the high winds last night in Chicago, knocked the letter over. It will take a few days to patch it up and reinstall it. Thank you for your patience. We will announce a new date for a Rogers Park meet and greet soon.
Giant Letter is celebrating its 10 year anniversary this year. What began in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood in 2012, moved to Austin, Texas for a few years, now returns to Chicago in 2021.