Jun 16 2016

The Folly Boat’s Meaningful Makeover

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

But in the wake of seemingly unspeakable tragedy — the kind our nation is currently reeling from in the wake of a mass shooting at Orlando’s LGBT club Pulse — darkness lingers. It seems impossible to shake, like a heavy cloak that blankets everything and sucks the air out of every space.

What light can there be in a world where fear and hate would drive people to commit such atrocious acts against one another?

What light can there be in a world where empathy is considered a weakness, while passing judgment is prioritized?

This morning, I woke with the same sadness that has enveloped me for the last three days. Then, while idly scanning Facebook, something remarkable happened: a little girl became the light.

When 8-year-old James Island Elementary student Amelia Counts told her mother, Kate, she wanted to help spread love, they knew exactly where to start. Armed with paint and a mission, the pair headed for the Folly Boat.

Washed ashore during Hurricane Hugo, the vessel has since become an icon of our little beach town. What it once looked like long since forgotten, the boat is thick with caked-on paint — layers of birthday messages, well wishes, and memorials.

And Tuesday, a little girl used the boat to lay her heart bare and remind us all that love is love is love is love is love.

Against a white backdrop, Amelia and Kate painted the simple yet stirring words, “Spread love.” Then, in an artful row, five colorful hearts and a rainbow flag.

The painting has not gone unnoticed.

Since Kate shared her experience on the popular Facebook page, “I Love Folly Beach,” the original post has been shared over 300 times. Even before, local social media was awash with visages of Amelia’s message snapped by passersby.

Struck by Amelia’s gesture, I asked her mother if Amelia might be willing to answer a few questions. Shortly after emailing them over, Kate responded with a handwritten note — “Amelia wanted to write this on her own,” her mom explained.

“What inspired me to paint the boat was to spread the message of love and peace,” Amelia shared. “I’m tired of people getting shot and killed just because the way they are.”

According to Amelia, it took her and her mom about two hours to paint the boat (“Thank goodness my mom was there to help me”), and she has one heartrending desire for its message.

In the spirit and words of a child who refuses to let hate calcify her heart, Amelia wrote, “I hope people feel good when they pass the boat, and they pass that goodness on to others.”

If you aren’t sure where to start, this sweet soul has some words wise-beyond-her-years about that, too: “Every single day, people can smile to spread love, and give hugs.”

And just like that, a little bit of darkness has dissipated with a profound reminder from a rising third grader that we are all in this together.

Be like Amelia. Be the light.

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