I covered war from the Middle East, spent years living aboard a sailboat witnessing the natural world give way to greedy developers, returned to land and found it necessary to weave my words into tales of terror, Anthrax, hate and fear. I was beginning to think there were no more dreamers in the world.

Then we drove into the city of Baltimore where I was greeted by a single word: BELIEVE.

The slender white block letters on a black background draped the tallest skyscrapers, clung to the bumpers of public vehicles until it hung in the snow-strewn air of the rapidly whitening city.

It was a unique and ethereal sort of comfort I derived after the three hour drive from New Jersey to Baltimore with my husband and children in a snowstorm as we came up Light Street and saw the Legg Mason building dissolving up into the fog as if it’s only purpose was to hold out that word of hope and empowerment.

I didn’t know thing one about Baltimore, except that my spouse was there to interview for a job. It wasn’t until leaving that I learned the word was part of a campaign aimed at reducing drug trafficking, violence and use, by both requesting and insisting in a single word that the people have faith in themselves and their neighbors to “redeem the core identity of the city.”

Some will give me a big eye-roll on this, but think about it for just a moment. How audacious. How eloquent. How wise to take a single word and clarify for people that the power is where it belongs, in their own hands and hearts.

It does not blame, cajole, frighten, enforce or heap guilt. It empowers people as individuals and a community. It both invokes and evokes faith.

It made me feel suddenly lighter, safer and younger to just see the word hung silently among the giants of the city’s architecture at various points around the landscape.

The word had such a powerful positive effect on my morale and attitude while within the city for the few days I was there I began to think this was too good an idea to keep to just one location.

We need a national BELIEVE campaign and not just to thwart drugs. If there as a billboard, or building in every city wearing that word in black and white, maybe we could “redeem the core and identity” of the country.

Remember the core? Remember when the rest of the world looked at us as something more than a place that had something rotten there?

I’m sure there are a plenty in Baltimore walking around like little Natalie Woods in the film Miracle on 34th Street repeating, “I believe. I believe” as a mantra and not believing it for a second.

On the other hand, I think it’s an infectious sort of word; one that works on you.

Maybe it’s just the sentimentality of a writer in love with the idea that the pen is still mightier than the sword, or the weapon of mass destruction.

Maybe it’s the simple fact that the aforementioned is true. Now, with the word “war” draped in black all over our thoughts, it is a critical time to BELIEVE it.
By Lisa Suhay

* Lisa Suhay is a freelance writer and author of "Tell Me a Story" and other children's books. She lives and writes in New Jersey.

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