In a few days I will break my own rule, and I will take off five bracelets, unfold the lavender tissue paper wrappings, and put on the new one. The new bracelet is the wedding bracelet. The wedding bracelet was made by an artisan who will benefit directly from its sale. The wedding bracelet is beaded and sparkly and silver and has a really cool magnetic clasp.
Until this morning, I was wearing six bracelets. My rule is that if I receive a bracelet as a gift, I wear it til it breaks. I have found that there are two suitable occasions for breaking this rule. One is to attend a very special event with formal clothing such as the wedding of a daughter or a son. The second is if someone asks me about one of the bracelets and I am moved to give it to them. This morning, I was asked about the simple, gray, plastic band printed with the words, "¡No a la violencia! ¡Si a la vida!" I received this bracelet about a month ago from a Salvadoran pastor, and the message on the bracelet is the theme with which the church is working throughout the year as it seeks pathways for ministry which build resilience against violence and build honor for life. My friend's enthusiasm for this theme motivated me to give her the bracelet.
Of the five which remain, three have identities which are familiar: the aqua, orange and white yarn bracelet from a sister in Nicaragua; a purple plastic coat-hanger shaped bracelet from a special girl in our sister community; and a patriotic blue and white bangle from Bishop Gomez.
Two of the five have stories to be told. The black plastic band has bright pink letters: Holly's initials on one side, and her message, "Love Life!" on the other. Holly was killed in a car accident more than a year ago. Her custom was to say, "Love life!" with a wave and a smile as she leaving. Holly's family and friends use the bracelets to keep this message alive, and as one way of gathering funds to support young women in our Salvadoran sister community in their high school and college education. "Ama la Vida - Love life" are powerful words to wear on a wrist and to put into action. I have worn pink "Love Life" bands, and white ones too, but I gave them away.
The fifth bracelet alternates 4 tiny black beads with 1 purple crystal bead in a sparkly pattern. It was made by the youth of a church community which sits at the end of a long, dusty, jolting roadway, on the skirt at the base of the Guazapa volcano. The bracelet and matching earrings were presented as gifts to the North American women who were part of a delegation sharing in the celebration of the one-year anniversary of the church building. The celebration was beautiful and the youth were beautiful, like the bracelet. But seeing it reminds me of the woman who, during the long and bumpy ride, shared the story of her life. She was a combatant during the war -- moving, hiding, fighting in the folds of the Guazapa volcano. Her children were born during the war. One arrived as bombs were falling all around her, destroying the wall next to which she was hiding. This newborn daughter suffered injuries and as an adult continues to receive constant care from her mother. The woman was a refugee, lived in a camp with her three children, and left them behind to return to the fighting. This woman is a survivor, a devoted mother, a devoted worker in the church, a devoted advocate for justice. I look at the bracelet, and I hear her voice, remember her face, and still cannot imagine living her story.
For one day, the wedding bracelet will replace the five. For one day, I will rejoice in the marriage of our daughter and pray over all of the young women in our sister church community and throughout El Salvador, that they may be blessed with loving relationships. For one day, the silver sparkles will remind me of Carolina, who heard the stories of the bracelets and asked if I would write about the new one. I promised I would.