- - Sunday, January 3, 2016

Some say that life is learning to live with the cards we are dealt, whatever will be, will be. But this is not the American way; we are builders, creators and innovators. Americans are painters that blend the colors of a painful past with the promise of a bright future, we are artists. We are continually inspired by visionaries like President Lincoln and dreamers like the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. who dared to paint a better society. From its inception America has struggled with race relations and what W.E.B DuBois called, “the problem of the color line.” Each year we are challenged to paint an American masterpiece where all the colors join together to make a beautiful picture. But learning to paint our own vision of a better society takes time and a lot of practice.

I grew up watching Bob Ross paint amazing works of art, live on television. I tried to follow along with him using the only tools I had, colored pencils and crayons, my artwork never quite came out like his. As I grew older and experienced life I began to see that we are all painters, the tools of our craft are time, talent, and treasure. Every January we are presented with a blank canvas, a tabula rasa of sorts, and invited to paint our own masterpiece.

Painters from impoverished countries around the world envy our freedom and abundance of resources. Other painters hear about our wasted opportunities and shake their heads in confusion when we fail to take advantage of all that’s before us. While we may not have everything we’d like, we are blessed to have more than many others around the world. As a child I did not have the same tools as Bob Ross, but it didn’t stop me from trying to paint.

Our country offers us an assortment of colors ranging from presidential politics to mind numbing reality television shows.This year we will be able to dip our brush into the paint of presidential candidates and paint what we envision for America. Which brush will you choose? A wide brush that spreads the paint with broad strokes or a fine tipped brush which spreads less paint and requires attention to detail? This year you’ll have the freedom to open new paints and to try new colors. This year you’ll have the opportunity to paint a better life for yourself and a better society for us all. Which color will you choose which brushes will you use? Will you allow your reds to mix with greens, or your blacks to share space with your whites?

You can also mix time and talent to create your favorite color, what will you paint with it? Now is the time to picture what you’d want on your canvas before others find blank spots and dare to paint their vision onto your canvas. But that’s the problem, figuring out what to paint. I find it easier to follow the steps of some other painter, because they had a vision of what to paint. Painting becomes a little more complex when I have the freedom to paint everything and the reluctance to paint anything. This reluctance to paint our own masterpiece is what causes many of us to declare whatever will be will be. But great painters are known, not because they’ve mastered the works of others but because they’ve dared to paint what they envision.

Our country ended 2015 with a canvas stained by hate-filled murders and violent terrorist attacks. Racial tensions caused rips in the canvas. Some painters attempted to limit the black and brown colors to the bottom fringes of the canvas. Beautiful black paints refusing to remain at the margins of the canvas, declared that black matters.

This year, I will be a master painter; I will paint the life and country that I envision. I will dare to mix colors together even when others protest against it. I will not allow my blues and blacks to be forced to opposite sides of the canvas; I’ll paint them side-by-side. I will continue to mix bright whites with overlooked browns because it brings balance to the painting.

As a country we stand and stare at a canvas of possibility, various brushes at our disposal and an array of colors all awaiting our American masterpiece.

Marquez Ball is an innovative leader for the 21st century and the senior pastor at Uplift Church, in Laurel, MD.

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